No more excuses for Miami
If Ricky Williams can anchor the offense, the Dolphins might avoid sinking early this season.
By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 6, 2002
They are at it again in Miami, where hope springs eternal (at least during the preseason).
The Dolphins are thinking big this season, just as they did last season and the season before, only to be disappointed long before the Super Bowl. But this year, they insist, is going to be different.
"We have everything intact," said linebacker Zach Thomas, who has been the most vocal about the team's past failures. "But I'm just tired of having excuses at the end of the year. We just have to prove ourselves. The biggest key is no excuses. I don't care about injuries or anything."
The biggest reasons for Dolphins optimism are the additions of star running back Ricky Williams and offensive coordinator Norv Turner. The Dolphins believe Williams, acquired through free-agency this offseason, finally gives them the consistent runner they have craved for years.
Williams is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with the Saints, and is expected to be the anchor of a Miami offense that figures to rely heavily on the run to take pressure off quarterback Jay Fiedler.
Williams only looked average during the preseason, but the Dolphins promise that with more carries, he'll gain more of a rhythm and wear down defenses in the late stages of games when the Dolphins traditionally have had difficulty closing out opponents.
In fact, coach Dave Wannstedt said he expects to run Williams right into the team's record books. He said Williams should get enough carries to surpass Delvin Williams' single-season team record of 1,258 yards.
Williams, whose off-the-field troubles and erratic personality are well chronicled, said he never has felt better going into a season and expects big things out of himself.
"I can really see the light," he said. "I just really feel like this is my time."
Turner is arguably the best offensive mind the team has had as offensive coordinator. As offensive coordinator in Dallas, he helped the Cowboys win two Super Bowls in the early 1990s.
More important to Miami fans, he bolstered the Cowboys offense, which was one of the league's worst when he arrived, elevating it from 28th the season before he showed up to ninth in 1991 and fourth in 1992 and 1993.
He also seems the perfect fit for Miami's new run-oriented approach. Turner's offenses have traditionally produced big numbers from their rushers, from Emmitt Smith in Dallas to Stephen Davis in Washington to rookie LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego last season.
"Everybody who has played in his offense has done well at the running back position," Williams said.
Miami is counting on Turner getting the most out of all its talent -- particularly receivers Chris Chambers and Oronde Gadsden, and using Williams as a receiver out of the backfield -- with his creative offensive schemes.
ESPN analyst and former quarterback Sean Salisbury called Turner's arrival in Miami "one of the great offseason moves." And Wannstedt said, "There's not a better play-caller in the NFL."
If Turner gets the offense clicking, the Dolphins should have few worries on defense, which typically has been one of the team's strengths. Last season's unit, which was one of the best in the AFC, returns mostly intact.
The question marks are along the defensive line where the Dolphins lost key contributors Daryl Gardener, Kenny Mixon and Lorenzo Bromell. Fortunately for Miami, it still has Tim Bowens and has added defensive tackle Larry Chester and defensive end Rob Burnett.
Perhaps the key to Miami finally reaching the promised land (the Dolphins haven't been to the Super Bowl since January, 1985) will be its offensive line, where only one player -- guard Todd Perry -- started every game.
Mark Dixon's surgically-repaired right ankle seems solid and he has been moved to left tackle. Perry and tackle Todd Wade are solid on the right side with veteran Tim Ruddy at center.
Plus, this season there's plenty of size with the additions of veteran Leon Searcy and 350-pound Jamie Nails.
If the line can open holes for Williams and protect Fiedler, Miami could own the AFC, which would be fitting considering this is the 30th anniversary of its famed perfect Super Bowl season.
"If you go into the season saying you just hope to make the playoffs; you just want to be good, you're selling yourself and your team short," safety Brock Marion said. "As a team, our goal is to win the Super Bowl. That's the bottom line."
Back to Sports
© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111
From the Times sports desk
U.S. Open Tennis
Sampras whips the kid
First Hewitt-Agassi match was a stunner
Davenport and Mauresmo up against Williams wall
On the Net
Tennis sites top NFL in searches
'Canes' DBs face big test
State practice reports
Silence isn't golden for DTs
Loss leads to better days
Beavers cruise to victory
Around the Nation
AL: A-Rod reaches 50 HRs in rout
NL: Four-run first helps Schilling get 22nd win
Streak is nice, but A's want division
Stewart nips Harvick for rare Truck victory
49ers win season opener
Around the NFC
Around the AFC
Sports on TV, Radio
Fox trio of announcers paving way to top spot
Mitchell promotes JV coach
Bears open with victory
New Chiefs, same dreams
Why run when they can fly?
UT ready to honor its best
Daily fishing report
NFL Football preview 2002
Light up the cannons and hold your ears
Gruden's path littered with historic hurdles
League site gives fans what they want
Bucs by the numbers
Kiffin's in charge of the defense, as always
What to bring and what to leave home
Dilger site knocked off-line by Sept. 11
NFC South capsules
Confidence still strong despite loss of talent
So fast, they're scary
Buccaneers defensive capsules
Buccaneers offensive capsules
The Florida Keys
'I am making a guarantee'
Buccaneers at a glance
Bucs: High Hopes
On the road with the Bucs
Team by team breakdown
Dolphins: For the fans
No more excuses for Miami
New NFL stadiums
Jacksonville looking dim without its stars
Jaguars: For the fans
NFL: By the numbers
What they're saying about the Bucs
What they're saying about the Dolphins
What they're saying about the Dolphins
What's past is past for Panthers, unless you hang on for motivation
Panthers: Special teams must keep scoring points
Prep football preview 2002
4A-6 DISTRICT PREVIEW: Defending champ faces tough road
Losing season doesn't sit well with Hawks
Team's continued rise depends on cohesion
Graduation forces Spongers to ''reload''
Barons look forward to tough schedule
New-look Warhawks boast lofty goals
New Pats coach plans plenty of changes
Devils welcome fresh cast of characters
'Canes in playoffs? Not that far-fetched
Explosive Felton to carry Warriors' load
Small Mustangs must rely on experience
Harris looks to measure up in win column
Packers boast new weapon at quarterback
Loaded Spartans have talent to dominate
Crusaders hope to make success a habit
Numbers to give Eagles breathing room
Gladiators trying to stay more grounded
Eagles likely to finally get off the ground
Seniors have Falcons thinking playoffs
Rebels pinning hopes on healthy veterans
Cougars must surmount rugged district
Healthy Marauders pose playoff threat
Nucleus has Tornadoes primed to rebound
Pirates hope confidence is the difference
New coach looking to stretch the field
Big dreams without big heads
You've come a long way baby!
The small things come first for county's newest teams
Hillsborough distric outlook
From the editor:
Team's character, offense are focus
West Preview: Could this be the season the west finally fights back?
Veteran leadership strength of Cougars
This Cowboys coach promises to stay put
Don't be surprised by Indians this time
It's now or never for the Dragons
Potential for title run has Lions' attention
One loss motivates Tigers to improve
Leto's new offense, season hold promise
Reaves ready to put Panthers in spotlight
Rebuilding Raiders must grow up fast
It's Hicks' turn to carry load for Knights
New-look Titans plan to pass first
Too many veterans not to be optimistic
Crusaders continue rebuilding project
Wildcats begin to whisper about playoffs
Last season's woes strengthen Eagles
Ravens' growth will determine success
Last season's stars are tough to replace
Bucs want early wins then trip to playoffs
Nine-game skid shakes team's foundation
Bulls out to end trend of one-win seasons
Depth in trenches crucial for Eagles
Pasco County: For the fans
Playoff losses big motivation for Gators
The word little's a big deal for Mustangs
If Pirates can remain healthy, watch out
This season's schedule bound to have more surprises
New coach, offense give Rams new hope
Juniors out to resurrect Knights' success
Wildcats prepare for tougher challenges
Bulldogs are lacking in numbers, as usual
10 Games to Watch: A week-by-week county primer
10 Questions: Setting the record straight for 2002 ... sort of
Gators begin making big waves
National Signing Day will be a big deal this time around
Bucs sport a new look called the Spread-I
Conference race has new meaning
Offense has promise, defense a concern
Weightman to test reloading Hudson
New Bears coach is all about approach
Hernando: For the Fans
On the Net
Castillo, Leopards ready to break into open
Eagles to take field with winning feeling
Hernando County's college players to watch
Eagles in for rocky start, strong finish
Springstead ready to push Central
Scheme stays same but faces change
Panthers standout isn't very hard to find on field
Pirates bent on dismissing doubters, foes
Panthers have tasted success, want more
Buoyed by experience, athleticism
Tigers have playoff potential if they unite
A whole new offensive ballgame
Citrus County football from A to Z
RaysRays, Kennedy get swept away
Naimoli says deal should help sport
Nash to get out of jail
Up next: Rangers
BucsProductive Saints QB still looking for respect
Lightning forces players into garage
From the wire
From the state sports wire Jacksonville's Spicer placed on IR after leg surgery
FIU-Western Kentucky game postponed because of Jeanne
Brown anxious to face old team for first time
Dolphins' desperate defense readies for Roethlisberger
Former Sarasota lineman sheds tough-guy image with Michigan
Rothstein rejoins Heat as assistant
No. 16 Florida has history on its side against Kentucky
FSU and Clemson QBs both off to slow starts