The Dolphin Report

By Ron Poltorack


Imagine this: Before the game you learn that the Fins will win the turnover war 3-0, Donovan McNabb will get knocked out of the game, A.J. Feeley will finish out the game, Ted Ginn will score a touchdown on a punt return, and John Beck will not get sacked or turn over the ball. You’d bet the house that the Fins would get their first win of the season, right?

You would think that would be a no-brainer, wouldn’t you? But in this upside down season, it doesn’t work that way. You would be homeless. And so the Fins are 0-10 in this still imperfect season, a season where they can find a way to lose in situations where other teams would be victorious. Really, how easy is it to lose when you get 3 interceptions, a special teams’ touchdown and never turn the ball over? This is what the Dolphins “accomplished” against the Eagles on Sunday.

The real story of this week is about John Beck who made his first start, after having not played a single regular season down in this his rookie season. He didn’t make some typical rookie mistakes (i.e. turnovers), but he made some others (i.e. anxious, erratic throws). He was 9 of 22 (40.9%) for 109 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He should have had a touchdown, however, as another rookie (Aaron Halterman, who’s he?) missed a catchable pass in the end zone. In fact, had he made that catch, the game could have been interesting. Heck, it could have turned out to be their sixth 3-point loss of the season, instead of the 17-7 final score up on the board at game’s end.

Beck’s performance must be measured by the fact that this was his first real game action. He was better than Hall of Famer John Elway who was only 1 of 8 for 14 yards in his first game. This doesn’t mean that Beck is destined to break Elway’s records, it just means that not too much can be taken from a quarterback’s first game.

Rookies at all positions are typically in awe of how much faster the NFL game is than the college game they were used to playing. It’s especially tough for a QB because of the nature of the position. So when it comes to Beck, you really can’t take too much away from this game.

It is nice hearing his offensive teammates say he was in control and displayed good leadership qualities. Another positive sign is that he was not nervous and that he felt comfortable on the field. These are good signs for the future. While we will certainly get more clues about the future over the remaining 6 games of this season, all we will likely find out is whether there is promise for the future.

Beck’s development—assuming he has the talent in the first place—will take more than the 7 games Coach Cam was willing to throw his way this desperate season. So for the balance of this season, Dolfans should hope that Beck stays healthy and shows progress. If he shows he has the talent to ultimately develop into a good starting NFL quarterback, Dolfans will see more positive signs as this year progresses. They should see even more next season when he not only has had close to half a season as a starter under his belt, but he has had an off-season to digest it all and a pre-season in which he is the clear-cut starter whose only job is to get ready for the regular season. (But let’s not get ahead of ourselves for if this team keeps its imperfect season in tact and “earns” the first pick in the draft, it would be very hard not to draft a true head-turning QB.)

Enough about Beck, let’s chat about Ted Ginn, who the Fins selected in a controversial pick before they selected Beck. The word of the day this Sunday for Ginn was “finally.” After having 3 long kick returns (2 of which he ran back all the way) nullified by penalties, Ginn returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown on Sunday that finally counted. Rather fittingly, Ginn looking over his shoulder for any sings of yellow on the ground even before he crossed the goal line. That return wasn’t all Ginn had to show for the day as he also had 4 receptions for 52 yards. While he is certainly catching the eye of all opposing special teams’ coaches, the Fins also need him to make a name for himself as a receiver. Hopefully, with his 4 catches on Sunday, he will start putting some fear into the minds of opposing defensive coordinators, too.

And yet another story is Jason Allen who is starting to turn some heads after spending a great deal of time turning stomachs. As hard as it would have been to imagine earlier this season when the coaching staff wouldn’t even let him on the field, Jason is now making plays. His contributions on Sunday included 2 interceptions when the Eagles were in the red zone.

Meanwhile, while the offense sputtered, the defense kept the Fins in the game. For the third consecutive week, the defense surrendered 17 or fewer points. However, the defense could not stop Brian Westbrook, particularly in the second half when he rushed for 80 of his 148 yards on the day. This helped former Dolphin A.J. Feeley to lead the Eagles to 2 second-half touchdowns for the win, thus enabling him to become the second former Fins’ QB to beat them this season (the other being Dante Culpepper who contributed 5 TDs to lead the Raiders over the Fins on September 30).

For now, the Fins remain a work in progress and at 0-10, the job remains in its very primitive stages. After all, they are still winless after all these games.

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