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Online Dolphins Lines & Predictions - Miami Future Odds - Free NFL Betting Previews

2006 Miami Dolphins Season Preview

2006 Dolphins NFL News - August 21st, 2006
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2006 NFL Previews - By: Tony Moss For

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Welcome, Nick Saban, to the land of heightened expectations.

Better act like a resident, and not a tourist.

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You inherited one of the most talent-thin rosters in the NFL during your rookie season with the Dolphins, building the franchise immediately into a competitor in the AFC East.

You looked like a genius when Miami went from 4-12 to 9-7 seemingly overnight, winning your final six games of the year in what Fins fans hope is a predictor of greatness to come.

You're a darling among NFL observers and media, though you know in your heart that you mustn't take that "genius" tag for granted.

You know that much of your 2006 season will ride on the right arm of either Daunte Culpepper, who comes off major knee surgery, or Joey Harrington, an unqualified bust in Detroit. You're aware of the fact that Ricky Williams, a major component of your success in '05, is gone, and that second-year man Ronnie Brown will have to carry most of the load for the first time since high school. No one has to remind you that the offensive coordinator, Mike Mularkey, is new, replacing Scott Linehan, who jumped ship to take the Rams' head job. Your defensive coordinator from last year, Richard Smith, has departed as well, and you and your defensive-minded buddy Dom Capers are going to require big things from a unit that, somewhat worryingly, features a secondary boasting a bunch of new starters.

Taking a step back is not an option. An AFC East title looks to be a reasonable goal, a trip to the playoffs the bare minimum standard for success- starved fans in south Florida.

Hope you can handle it. Because surely you know that the coaching graveyard is littered with souls who, in a twist of cruel irony, became victims of the very expectations that they created through their own success.

Below we take a capsule look at the 2006 edition of the Miami Dolphins, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:

2005 RECORD: 9-7 (2nd, AFC East)

LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2001, lost to Baltimore, 20-3, in AFC Wild Card Game

COACH (RECORD): Nick Saban (9-7 in one season with Dolphins, 9-7 overall)



OFFENSIVE STAR: Chris Chambers, WR (82 receptions, 1118 yards, 11 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Jason Taylor, DE (74 tackles, 12 sacks)

OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 12th rushing, 16th passing, 16th scoring

DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 17th rushing, 20th passing, 15th scoring

FIVE KEY GAMES: at Houston (10/1), at New England (10/8), New England (12/10), N.Y. Jets (12/25), at Indianapolis (12/31)

KEY ADDITIONS: QB Daunte Culpepper (from Vikings), QB Joey Harrington (from Lions), FB Fred Beasley (from 49ers), WR/KR Kelly Campbell (from Vikings), WR Derek Hagan (3rd Round, Arizona State), TE Justin Peelle (from Chargers), TE Keith Heinrich (from Browns), G Bennie Anderson (from Bills), T L.J. Shelton (from Browns), T Mike Pearson (from Jaguars), DT Dan Wilkinson (from Lions), LB Keith Newman (from Vikings), LB Sedrick Hodge (from Saints), CB Will Allen (from Giants), CB Renaldo Hill (from Raiders), CB Andre' Goodman (from Lions), CB Michael Lehan (from Browns), S Deke Cooper (from Jaguars), DB Jason Allen (1st Round, Tennessee)

KEY DEPARTURES: QB Gus Frerotte (released), QB Sage Rosenfels (to Texans), WR Bryan Gilmore (to 49ers), TE Lorenzo Diamond (released), T Stockar McDougle (to Jaguars), LB Junior Seau (released), CB Sam Madison (released), CB Reggie Howard (released), CB Kiwaukee Thomas (to Bills), S Tebucky Jones (released), S Lance Schulters (not tendered)

QB: As this position goes, so go the Dolphins in 2006. Miami acquired Daunte Culpepper (1564 passing yards, 6 TD, 12 INT) from the Vikings in the offseason, but Culpepper comes off major knee surgery and there is some question about whether he will be ready for opening day. Plus, there is the matter of how poorly Culpepper was playing before he was injured in Minnesota, which is to say, very (17 turnovers and sacked 31 times in seven starts). He'll need to prove he's over his injury and any confidence problems, whether real or perceived. If that doesn't happen, enter former Lions starter Joey Harrington (2021 passing yards, 10 TD, 10 INT with Detroit) who wasn't always terrible in four years in the Motor City but could never figure out how to win (18-37 as a starter). The front-runner for the third QB job is Cleo Lemon, who was obtained from the Chargers in the A.J. Feeley trade last season but has never thrown an NFL pass. Lemon will have to beat out former Miami (FL) and Florida Gator Brock Berlin in order to make the roster.

RB: Serving a year-long drug-related suspension during the 2006 season will be prodigal son Ricky Williams (743 rushing yards, 6 TD, 17 receptions), who proved last season that he still had desire and ability but failed to follow through on his responsibilities in the offseason. That opens the door for 2005 No. 2 overall pick Ronnie Brown (907 rushing yards, 32 receptions, 5 TD) to carry more of the load. Brown was on the short list for Rookie of the Year candidates heading into November, but he struggled with injuries during the season's second half and fell off the pace a bit. Sammy Morris (58 rushing yards, 1 TD) and Travis Minor (17 rushing yards) both have experience carrying the football in the NFL, but neither is the difference-maker that Williams was at the position. Morris served mainly as the team's fullback last season, but with Darian Barnes and the experienced Fred Beasley (2 receptions with the 49ers) both on the roster, Morris could be used in more of a featured role.

WR/TE: In 2005 came the long-awaited breakout season of wideout Chris Chambers (82 receptions, 11 TD), who recorded his first 1,000-yard year and made the Pro Bowl for the initial time in his career. With Culpepper and Harrington now in the picture, Chambers will be working with his sixth and perhaps seventh starting quarterback since 2003 (Jay Fiedler, Brian Griese, A.J. Feeley, Sage Rosenfels, Gus Frerotte), and will have to prove that he can make the adjustment. Penciled in on the opposite side once again is the hit-or-miss Marty Booker (39 receptions, 3 TD), who commands some attention but needs to be more consistent. Pushing Booker will be the versatile Wes Welker (29 receptions), former Vikings starter Kelly Campbell, and third-round draft pick Derek Hagan (Arizona State). Taking much of the pressure off of Chambers once again will be tight end Randy McMichael (60 receptions, 5 TD), who still represents a major presence over the middle of the field. Justin Peelle (11 receptions, 1 TD with Chargers) is the top candidate to back McMichael.

OL: Perhaps the greatest triumph of Nick Saban's first year in Miami was the improved play of an offensive line that was in a laughable state by the end of the Dave Wannstedt regime. O-line coach Hudson Houck was due much of the credit, as he molded players like Damion McIntosh, Vernon Carey, Seth McKinney, and Rex Hadnot into credible NFL starters. The unit hasn't received much of an upgrade, so Houck will have to work wonders with many of the same spare parts. McKinney, Hadnot, and Carey are again penciled in at the center, right guard, and right tackle slots, and the steady Jeno James should again be solid at left guard. Expected to battle McIntosh for left tackle duties is former Cardinal and Brown L.J. Shelton, who has endured questions about his attitude and work habits during his NFL career. The loser of that competition will provide depth along with newcomers in guard Bennie Anderson (from Bills), tackle Mike Pearson (from Jaguars), and former starting tackle Wade Smith, who missed all of last year with a forearm injury.

DL: Though it was expected that Nick Saban would eventually shift to a permanent 3-4 defensive paradigm, that transition has not totally taken place, mainly due to the efforts of right end Jason Taylor (74 tackles, 12 sacks). Taylor posted double-digit sacks for the third time in four years last season, and Saban is unlikely to tinker much with those results. On the opposite side is Kevin Carter (52 tackles, 6 sacks), who didn't stand out in 2005 but played reasonably well in his first year as a Dolphin. The three-man tackle rotation of Vonnie Holliday (51 tackles, 5 sacks), Keith Traylor (31 tackles, 2 sacks) and Jeff Zgonina (43 tackles, 2 sacks) held up pretty well last year, and veteran Dan Wilkinson (26 tackles, 3 sacks with the Lions) has been added to their ranks as well. Other reserves on the d-line include end David Bowens (24 tackles, 6 sacks) as well as '05 second-round draft pick Matt Roth (20 tackles, 1 sack), who should push for an expanded role this season.

LB: Still the man in the middle is Zach Thomas (158 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT), a tackling machine even as he approaches his 33rd birthday. Also returning to a starting spot is second-year man Channing Crowder (84 tackles), who made a serious impact as a rookie and will man the weak side. Following Junior Seau's release and subsequent retirement, the other outside position should be a competition among holdovers Donnie Spragan (53 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) and Derrick Pope (28 tackles), former Saint Sedrick Hodge (51 tackles with New Orleans), and former Viking Keith Newman (42 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT). Whoever loses out will provide key depth to the unit.

DB: Saban made no secret of the fact that he was displeased with the play of the secondary last season, so the changes he made to that group in the offseason came as no major surprise. Gone are cornerbacks Sam Madison (55 tackles, 2 INT) and Reggie Howard (48 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT), as well as safeties Tebucky Jones (39 tackles, 2 sacks) and Lance Schulters (77 tackles, 4 INT, 2 sacks), and in are cornerbacks Will Allen (72 tackles with Giants), Renaldo Hill (89 tackles, 1 INT with Raiders), Andre' Goodman (47 tackles, 3 INT with Lions), and safeties Deke Cooper (58 tackles, 1 INT with Jaguars) and Jason Allen (1st Round, Tennessee). The best guess at an opening day lineup, should everything go according to plan, looks like this: Will Allen and second-year man Travis Daniels (61 tackles, 1 INT) at the corners, Jason Allen at free safety, holdover Travares Tillman (59 tackles, 3 INT) at strong safety. Also battling for jobs will be former Browns corner Michael Lehan (10 tackles with Cleveland) and Will Poole, who missed all of 2005 with a torn ACL.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Miami is steady in the kicking game, with Olindo Mare (25-30 FG) still reliable on placements and Donnie Jones (43.5 avg.) emerging last season as a strong punter. Wes Welker (9.1 punt return avg., 22.6 avg.) is a solid return man, though offseason acquisition Kelly Campbell has experience as a kickoff returner and could push Welker. John Denney won the starting long-snapping job as a rookie free agent last season, and held down those duties effectively for the entire season.

PROGNOSIS: The AFC East looks to be a two-horse race in 2006, with the Patriots and Dolphins battling for the division crown and the Bills and Jets just watching. There is reason to believe that the Fins have what it takes to assume the championship mantle from New England, but there is just as much reason to question whether the expectations are all too much, too soon. No one knows whether Culpepper is going to be the Pro Bowler of old, whether Brown can hold up over the course of the season, or whether the still-patchwork offensive line or overhauled secondary will be able to get it done. Still, there is something about Saban and the discipline he has instilled in this organization that suggests his team will play hard every week, and will win more than it loses for that reason. Somewhere between 9-to-11 wins seems to be the reasonable standard. Nine probably won't be enough to make the playoffs, 10 or 11 likely will. Either way, pro football in Miami is going to be much more fun to watch than it has been in some time.

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