|With modest expectations, Dolphins look to `shock people'|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 06 September 2007 07:40|
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) -South Florida billionaire Wayne Huizenga started a hockey team that went to the Stanley Cup finals in its third season, and he founded a baseball team that won the World Series less than five years after its first game.|
But the sport Huizenga loves best is football, and his Miami Dolphins haven't been to the AFC championship game since he became sole owner in 1994. They've failed to even make the playoffs the past five years.
``It seems like 50 years,'' Huizenga says. ``I'm tired of not being in the playoffs.''
The drought is the longest in franchise history, and prognosticators say it's unlikely to end this season under new coach Cam Cameron. The consensus is the Dolphins will go 7-9 or 8-8, and few figure they'll contend with New England for the AFC East title.
Miami will play out the season anyway, beginning Sunday at Washington.
``People aren't really counting on us or looking for us to be a good team,'' defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday says. ``When that happens, a lot of times people underestimate you. I think we still have the talent to make a run. We have an opportunity here to shock a lot of people because we are the underdogs.''
The Dolphins had high expectations last year - some forecasters picked them to win the Super Bowl - and after finishing 6-10, they underwent substantial changes. Coach Nick Saban bolted for Alabama and was replaced by Cameron, who spent the past five years as Marty Schottenheimer's offensive coordinator in San Diego. Cameron brought in Trent Green as quarterback and released Daunte Culpepper, signed three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter and acquired 11 rookies who made the final roster, Miami's biggest influx of first-year players since 1997.
Such heavy turnover makes the Dolphins an unknown quantity, and Cameron declines to say how competitive he expects them to be.
there. I think that is how you measure it.''
On offense, where there's plenty of room to improve, the Dolphins have only three players starting at the same position as last year - receivers Chris Chambers and Marty Booker, and running back Ronnie Brown. There's more continuity on defense, where nine starters return on a unit that ranked fourth in the NFL in yards allowed in 2006.
``Our defense is tops in the league,'' Chambers says. ``And we've got a growing offense. I think we can really take some big strides this year.''
A quick getaway would help. The Dolphins started 1-6 last year, 3-7 in 2005 and 1-9 in 2004.
Linebacker Channing Crowder says the Dolphins head into the season fresher than in recent years because Cameron ran a less grueling training camp than Saban.
``He kind of saved our legs,'' Crowder says. ``Saban was a beat-you-up type guy. Guys weren't really 100 percent going into the first couple of games the last two years with Saban's camp.''
Miami should benefit from a favorable early schedule, including consecutive games against Oakland, Houston and Cleveland.
But to linebacker Zach Thomas, expectations - high or low - don't matter. He has experienced both, and in his 11 seasons the Dolphins' postseason record is 3-5.
``We had high expectations early in my career and always flopped,'' Thomas says. ``So I don't buy into that stuff. I'm just happy we're getting started.
``They changed a lot of guys on this team, and we're trying to find how we can get over the hump. It has been tough.''
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