The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack


Don’t let the headline fool you. This writer is not about to start complaining about a win, especially a road win without Zach and Junior. It’s nice to see a win, really, it is. But it has no meaning when it takes you (and your opponent) to 4-7. And that’s a simple fact, not a complaint.

It’s true, Sunday’s game against the Raiders was easier to take. Heck, seven sacks and two interceptions were exciting to watch. The one-two running back punch seemed to work. Ronnie got the yards earlier, softening up the Raiders’ defense for Ricky’s 62-yards in the fourth quarter, capped by his 34-yard game-clinching touchdown run with 3:50 left.

Even Gus looked better, throwing for two touchdowns and completing more than 50% of his passes for a change. His lone interception didn’t hurt too much in the final analysis, even coming as it did in the Raiders’ end zone when the Dolphins’ lead was only 7-0.

Chris Chambers had his first hundred yard game of the season, catching 6 passes for 101-yards. Still, he had a couple of drops as well.

The Dolphins even turned around their offensive third down problems, converting 7 of 14 on the day. On the other hand, defensively they still allowed the opposition to convert on 7 of 13 third downs.

The bottom line is that the Fins did some good things and came out with a road win. But it came against the Raiders who were a losing team coming into the game. It also came when the Dolphins were effectively out of the playoff race. So, it was a meaningless win (which figures to hurt the Fins’ position on draft day).

So, if the win was meaningless, then what does matter? Well, what matters are the Dolphins’ bright spots this season. Yea, yea, we all know that Zach and Jason are great players who never give up, but that’s not what this is about. After all, by the time Saban gets this ship turned around, Zach and Jason will be on the down side of their careers (which in the salary cap days of the NFL experience means they will likely become contractual casualties, just as Junior was in San Diego two seasons ago).

The bright spots for the Dolphins’ future are the new core of players whose careers are just beginning and who show much promise. The new stars are Ronnie Brown and Channing Crowder. Another bright spot is punter Donnie Jones.

No doubt, Ronnie is the real deal at running back and he is going to make a lot of people forget that Patrick Surtain ever wore number 23 real quickly. He is still learning, but he has shown good instincts, raw power, good vision, excellent cutting ability, and sheer determination. He is the Dolphins’ running back of the future. And, thankfully, he is no T.O.! He appears to be both low-key and humble.

Channing Crowder may not make people forget Zach Thomas any time soon, but he looks like the rare talent that will be able to fill the shoes of the incumbent star when time (or the salary cap) inevitably dictates that those shoes need filling. While Channing Crowder is not Zach Thomas, the converse will also be seen in time. Dolfans will always remember Zach fondly when his time comes, but they won’t be looking upon Channing as Jay Fiedler, A.J. Feeley or even Gus Frerotte. Channing will take over where Zach left off. Hopefully for Channing, he’ll have a better team around him and have a chance at a ring.

Unheralded Donnie Jones has taken advantage of the fact that he owes his job entirely to a training camp injury sustained by Matt Turk. All Donnie has done is quietly come in and threaten to lead the NFL in the only punting statistic that truly matters, net punting average. And he still has a chance to hit a net of 40 yards for the season which has never been accomplished.

As time goes on Saban should be able to bring in more and more talent. At least, let’s hope so. For unless he does, wins will continue to be meaningless ones.

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