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New Uniform, Same Team

This has been a rough season for the Dolphins. The team sits at 6-4 following a bounce-back win at home against the Ravens. Now, 6-4 is OK and right at last season's pace, but that's not good enough. Last season, you'll remember, they lost in New England the final week, barely missing the playoffs. Over the summer, talk revolved around improvement, getting more talent, and making this year different.

The team now boasts nine Pro Bowlers on defense. It also picked up a free-agent quarterback with Miami bloodlines from Denver. And with all this, they sit exactly where they did a year ago.

So what gives?


The Dolphins take on the Washington Redskins

Pro Player Stadium, 2269 Dan Marino Blvd., Miami

At 8:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $22 to $175. Call 305-623-6100.

The quarterback position has been a question mark all season. Jay Fiedler's sprained knee has hobbled him, and newcomer Brian Griese has struggled to fill Fiedler's shoes.

In the running game, Ricky Williams is about 1,000 yards behind his league-leading pace of 1,853 a season ago. His offensive line is a tattered mess. Jamie Nails is still recovering from last year's ruptured achilles. Mark Dixon hasn't played one down this year, and in his place on the left side is rookie Wade Smith.

Fullback Rob Konrad summed up the team's problems on offense: "We're not playing that well... We've had trouble getting the ball down the field this year, and teams are stacking the line against us, hitting the gaps and daring us to throw the ball downfield. Those two things combined don't make for a real good running game." Exactly.

On defense, the team ranks near the bottom against the pass, allowing opposing quarterbacks 234 yards per game on a 62 percent completion rate. The unit lacks a singular voice, with too many mouths trying to talk the loudest. But it has come up big against the run, last week holding league-leading rusher Jamal Lewis to 88 yards while allowing Baltimore only six points (though the offense mustered only nine).

Doubt and bickering are beginning to creep in. A cloud of controversy covers the locker room, and gossip is as common as game-planning. The team has now adopted a stance against the media, suggesting reporters are the ones responsible for the turmoil.

"Everyone's a little frustrated and upset with where we're at... We gotta stick together, and there's people in the media trying to create some division within the team... It's a shame and disappointing to see." That was Jason Taylor echoing his coach's comments that, other than the media's interference, the team is solidly together.

Dolfans can only hope the orange jerseys debuting against the Redskins on Sunday night for ESPN's national telecast will somehow change the familiar direction this team is headed. If not, wholesale changes could be in the works, and the club's face might be totally different next year.


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