> After formerChargers offensive coordinator Cam Cameron replaced Nick Saban as Dolphinscoach last January, one of the priorities was to create a more open andcollegial environment--starting with the locker room at the team's Davie, Fla.,practice facility. Before this summer, a maze of walls and locker stallssegregated players by position, like office clones in (somewhat smelly)cubicles. Now the walls are gone, the positions are intermingled, and couches,chairs and flat-screen TVs in the center of the room see regular use. Therenovations made for a more welcoming atmosphere, just in time for the arrivalsof quarterback Trent Green, a Chiefs castoff; free-agent linebacker JoeyPorter, late of the Steelers; and rookie wideout Ted Ginn¬†Jr., theNo.¬†9 pick, out of Ohio State. But don't think the new approach meansCameron is soft. "When we first reported," says receiver Marty Booker,"he gave us a test where we had to know running plays, protections, passplays--all that¬†stuff."
Versatility will beespecially important on defense, as the Dolphins continue to work in a hybrid3-4/4-3 scheme meant to take advantage of athletic front-seven players such asPorter and All-Pro end Jason Taylor, who drops into coverage as effortlessly ashe rushes the passer. What's more, Taylor's cameo in a pass-catching drill thatalso included second-year defensive back Will Allen indicates that Cameronmight play around with personnel combinations on both sides of the ball. Ginnas a cornerback? Booker at QB? "Everybody," says Booker, "has toknow everything."
>Miami'swillingness to experiment is borne of necessity, and nowhere is the needgreater than on the offensive line. That the Week¬†1 unit could featurerookies Samson Satele (Hawaii) at center and Drew Mormino (Central Michigan) atright guard doesn't bode well for the 37-year-old Green, who missed eight gameswith a concussion caused by a devastating hit in last year's season opener. Butit's worth noting that Cameron's line in San Diego was similarly inexperiencedbefore coalescing into one of the league's most impregnable units. TheDolphins' blockers have to do likewise--only more¬†quickly.
The first coach inMiami history whose expertise is on offense, Cameron, who'll pull double dutyas offensive coordinator and play-caller, brings a Don Coryell-style downfieldpassing attack from San Diego in hopes of sparking an offense that rankedfourth to last in scoring in the NFL last year. Green, who was acquired in aJune trade with Kansas City, already has considerable experience in the system;he learned it in Washington, where Cameron was his position coach, and excelledin it in St. Louis and K.C. The only major adjustment will be new terminology."In Kansas City we'd call a 50¬†Bob; here it's a 50¬†Slant,"says Green. "[Otherwise] it's the same exact concept."
Like the Chiefs'Tony Gonzalez and the Chargers' Antonio Gates, Pro Bowl tight ends who havethrived in the system, the Dolphins' David Martin should become a primarytarget. The free-agent pickup from Green Bay is big (6' 4", 265 pounds) andnimble--and like the other two, was once more interested in basketball. InMartin's case his high school hoops coach insisted that all his players take upanother sport in the off-season. After a breathless stint on the cross-countryteam as a sophomore, Martin switched to football in his junior year, figuringhe'd "sit on the bench and get through it until basketball season."
Instead hedeveloped into one of the most sought-after receiver prospects in the nation,signing with Tennessee and starring at wideout. After being drafted in thesixth round by the Packers in 2001, Martin was plagued by an assortment ofinjuries, which prevented him from unseating Bubba Franks as the starter. Whenhe was healthy, Martin proved adept in the Packers' West Coast scheme; when hewas hurt, he spent a lot of time studying Franks's blocking technique."That was the one part of Gonzalez's game where he improved," saysGreen, "but David is a lot more comfortable with it."
And if Cameronwants players who can do it all, Martin's eager to fulfill the coach's wish."A lot people wonder, Is he a blocking tight end or is he a receiver?"the 28-year-old Martin says. "I don't want to be the guy they take out atthe goal line when it's time to block, or the guy they take out on third downwhen it's time to pass. I want to be the whole package."
He'll have plentyof opportunity to make his case to Green, especially now that their lockersadjoin. And while even a prolific effort from Martin isn't likely to elevatethe Dolphins much above last year's 6-10 record (they're tied for the league'seighth-toughest schedule), the changes on and off the field should set them upwell for the future.
COACH CAM CAMERON(0-0 in NFL), first season with Dolphins
TRENT GREEN (NEWACQUISITION)
CORY SCHLESINGER(NEW ACQUISITION)
HT 6' 5"
DREW MORMINO (R)(NEW ACQUISITION)
HT 6' 3"
SAMSON SATELE (R)(NEW ACQUISITION)
HT 6' 2"
CHRIS LIWIENSKI(NEW ACQUISITION)
HT 6' 5"
HT 6' 5"
DAVID MARTIN (NEWACQUISITION)
SACKS 3 1/2
SACKS 13 1/2
JOEY PORTER (NEWACQUISITION)
JAY FEELY (NEWACQUISITION)
BRANDON FIELDS (R)(NEW ACQUISITION)
NEW ACQUISITION(R) Rookie (college statistics)
> 2006 RECORD6-10 NFL RANK (Rush/Pass/Total): OFFENSE 22/13/20 DEFENSE 8/5/4
9 at Washington
23 at N.Y. Jets
7 at Houston
14 at Cleveland
21 NEW ENGLAND
28 vs. N.Y. Giants
18 at Philadelphia
26 at Pittsburgh (M)
2 N.Y. JETS
9 at Buffalo
23 at New England
NFL rank ... T8
Opponents' 2006 winning percentage ...¬†.512
Games against playoff teams ... 8
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AN OPPOSING TEAM'S SCOUT SIZES UP THE DOLPHINS
> Zach Thomas's play is declining, which is sad tosee. He can't run sideline to sideline the way he used to. . . . What'ssurprising when you play against Jason Taylor is what a complete player he is.You'd think with that lean body, he'd be basically a rusher who stays out ofthe way against the run, but he holds up O.K. in the run game and never givesan inch. . . . Chris Chambers is one of those receivers who should have been agreat player but just got stuck with some bad quarterbacks. Cam Cameron mightstill be able to make him a 90-catch guy--if the Dolphins can just get a goodyear or two out of Trent Green. . . . For Green to succeed, he'd better getgood protection. And I don't think he will. The line is too leaky, toounathletic. If he gets even a little time, he can keep the chains moving.
THE KING 500
His seven sacks last year were a big boost over thegoose egg he put up in '05, helped by a move from a 4-3 scheme in K.C. to ahybrid 3-4/4-3 in Miami. Now he'll benefit as well from coordinator DomCapers's unfettered play-calling. "When [Nick] Saban was here," saysHolliday, clearing his throat tellingly, "he was very involved in ourdefense. But once you learn it, you can let your athletic ability takeover."
RICHARD C. LEWIS/ICON SMI
FAMILIAR FEElThough 37, Green should produce in a system he knows well.