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-10-21-2004 #1DJRamFan Guest
[Dolphins] Dolphins get down to the nitty gritty
Jay Fiedler is respected by teammates for tough and courageous play. But consistent turnovers have weakened his job security.
BY ARMANDO SALGUERO
Taylor Whitley has more respect for Jay Fiedler than anyone he has ever shared a huddle with, and that is pretty much the sentiment of many Dolphins players.
The quarterback has flooded a reservoir of respect and good will among his coaches and teammates with his tough play, determined demeanor and 35-21 record with Miami.
But that reservoir is being drained now because Fiedler is in a drought.
He has only two touchdown passes in his 13 quarters this season while throwing six interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns. His 50 percent completion rate is the lowest of his starting career, and his quarterback rating has also hit career bottom at 51.1.
So while Fiedler is still Dave Wannstedt's choice to start for the 0-6 Dolphins on Sunday against St. Louis, he is on notice that toughness and determination might not matter that much longer.
''Not turning the ball over is the job of any quarterback, and the turnovers from that position haven't been good,'' Wannstedt said Wednesday. ``[Jay is] working hard to correct them, but you still have to recognize that it did happen.''
Wannstedt recognizes it and admits he talked with assistants about starting A.J. Feeley against the Rams. Despite not making the change, the coach said Fiedler will get 60 percent of the practice snaps while Feeley gets 40 percent -- perhaps early preparation for an eventual move.
But Wannstedt won't commit to making a change yet because Fiedler's popularity in the locker room is a factor the coach considers.
''It's part of it,'' Wannstedt said. ``But it's not the determining factor. The determining factor has been and will be the guy that gives us a chance to manage the game, and that's what's been disappointing overall.''
Fiedler knows he has played better in previous seasons but recognizes playing better this year might mean correcting many issues not all within his control.
''It's hard to pinpoint one thing,'' Fiedler said when asked why he isn't playing to previous form. ``A lot of it is the amount of turnover we've had throughout the offense from coaches to players all the way down.
``We feel we've progressed and gotten better with it, but we don't feel like it's where it needs to be yet.''
NOT IN DENIAL
And Fiedler is aware his play has to get ''where it needs to be'' because his starting status is at stake. He knows this because he's asked about it regularly, much to his displeasure.
''That's something you'll have to ask coach about,'' he said. ``I'm not going to speculate about what his thought process is going to be.''
Wannstedt's thoughts will include the feelings of his other players, some of whom prefer Fiedler to start ahead of Feeley because they know, trust and respect Fiedler and don't have that kind of history with Feeley.
''I have more respect for Jay than almost any other football player I've ever played with in my life,'' Whitley said. ``He was taking a lot of heat when he fumbled against the Patriots. The guy's got broken ribs and he's trying to squeeze an extra inch on a scramble. How can you not have respect for a guy like that?''
Fiedler enjoys that respect throughout the locker room -- from defensive and offensive players.
''Some guys in this league are a lot softer than others,'' defensive end Jason Taylor said. ``Some guys get a hangnail and they don't want to play. Jay's not like that, and you have to respect that, and we do.''
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