Nowhere to go but up for Dolphins Print
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Thursday, 21 August 2008 10:34
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 MIAMI (AP) -If a 1-15 season can produce a hero, Greg Camarillo earned that title in 2007 for the Miami Dolphins.
The third-string receiver scored on a 64-yard reception in overtime in the 14th game of the year, allowing the Dolphins to avoid the NFL's first 0-16 season.
``I get a lot of love for it,'' Camarillo said. ``I get a lot of praise for keeping the terrible season away. I mean, it was a terrible season, but keeping the worst season ever away.''
Terrible is an accurate description. If the Dolphins are worse in 2008, they might get shut out in every game. They might be sent back to the AFL. New boss Bill Parcells might throw up his hands in frustration and declare the situation hopeless.
It's more likely the Dolphins will show at least a little improvement this year. But that's not saying much, given that they had the worst record in franchise history in 2007.
``We have to let that go,'' linebacker Channing Crowder said. ``We don't even think about it anymore. We're just going to get better. We're just going to win the AFC East, go to the playoffs and go as far as we can and be a great team - go back to the old Dolphins way.''
No one takes Crowder's prediction seriously, because even the new regime led by Parcells concedes the Dolphins' rebuilding project will take at least a couple of years.
A complete makeover was needed after Miami missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year, a franchise record. More than half the roster has turned over since last season, and it's likely to remain in flux for some time.
The Dolphins are unsettled at receiver and in the offensive line. The secondary has been a problem for years, and the front seven must be revamped following the offseason departures of Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas, the anchors of the defense for the past decade.
As a result, the new regime is looking under every rock for help.
``We're just going to keep turning over stones and bringing in a lot of people,'' new coach Tony Sparano said. ``It probably won't change for two to three years. We need to make sure we're doing our due diligence on players that are available.''
Parcells, who took over losing teams with the Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys and transformed them into winners, is back in the NFL for the first time since he quit coaching after the 2006 season with Dallas.
He worked there with Sparano, the Cowboys' offensive line coach, and new Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland.
With no star players to promote, the trio is pictured on highway billboards in South Florida advertising the upcoming season as ``A New Beginning.''
``We must not have a lot of talent if we have the GM and the head coach on a billboard,'' Crowder said with a laugh. ``Nah, the whole 'New Beginning' thing is a good slogan, I think. Coming from 1-15, you have to start somewhere. You have to end something to start something.''
Sparano is Miami's fifth head coach since 2004, and he has won praise from players for his straightforward approach. He inherits a team that made a ton of mistakes last year, and hopes to reduce them by encouraging players to take responsibility.
``No excuses,'' Sparano said. ``We need to make the right decision. You have to run the right route. We have to block the right guy. No excuses, OK? You make the mistake, take ownership of the mistake. That's the way it is.''
There are promising signs the new regime is getting a handle on the line deficiencies that have been at the heart of Miami's offensive woes in recent years. The Dolphins took Michigan's Jake Long with the No. 1 pick in the April draft, and he'll line up at left tackle in the season opener Sept. 7.
The Dolphins signed veteran quarterback Chad Pennington on Aug. 8 after he was cut by the New York Jets when they acquired Brett Favre.
The running game could actually be a strength. Ronnie Brown totaled 991 yards rushing and receiving in only seven games last year, and his backup is Ricky Williams, the mercurial 2002 NFL rushing champion.
Brown has not fully recovered from knee surgery last November, and Williams has played in only 13 games since 2003, but they could provide a formidable one-two punch.
``It will be a challenge to get out there and compete,'' Williams said. ``When the dust settles, hopefully people will be pleasantly surprised.''
Given the recent sorry state of the franchise, five or six wins might be enough to pleasantly surprise Dolphins fans.

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