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Rams-Dolphins: 5 Things To Watch

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  • Rams-Dolphins: 5 Things To Watch

    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Strength against strength

    You've got to love this matchup: One of the NFL's top cornerback tandems in Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain of Miami against arguably the NFL's top receiving tandem in Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt of the Rams.

    Bruce and Holt have 17 years of experience and seven Pro Bowls between them; Surtain and Madison have 15 years of NFL experience and six Pro Bowls between them.

    "They're good cover guys," Bruce said. "They stick and stay. And they can run with receivers down the field, which is important in this league. They have really good change of direction. So it's going to be a challenge."

    Especially since Madison and Surtain play press coverage on almost every snap, trying to jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage. "They'll be up in our face," Bruce said.

    Surtain and Madison started at cornerback three years ago for Miami when the teams met in St. Louis. Bruce had a modest three catches for 36 yards. But Holt had four grabs for 111 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown.

    Surtain usually moves inside to cover the slot receiver in the nickel, so he won't be on Holt or Bruce the entire game. Some observers will tell you that Surtain and Madison have both lost a step. We'll see Sunday.

    Miami's QB quandary

    The Dolphins just may be the worst downfield passing team in the league. With starter Jay Fiedler, it's more a lack of accuracy than lack of arm strength. Fiedler has been playing with a cracked rib, and not playing well. He will be on a short leash Sunday, and if he struggles against the Rams, look for A.J. Feeley out of the bullpen. They've basically been splitting time in practice the past couple of weeks.

    Both QBs have been turnover machines. Fiedler has thrown six interceptions and lost three fumbles. Two of those INTs have been returned for touchdowns in the Dolphins' last three games. (Aeneas Williams, that's your cue.) Feeley has committed six turnovers in just 10 quarters of football.

    Fiedler does have some mobility, however, and as Rams DT Ryan Pickett points out: "We've had trouble playing mobile quarterbacks this year. He's not a real runner, but he gets away from a lot of sacks."

    Beware the receivers

    As inept as the Dolphins have been offensively, there are worse wide receiver tandems than Marty Booker and Chris Chambers. The Rams can't go to sleep on these guys, or they'll get burned if Fiedler - or Feeley - can get anything going. Booker had two 1,000-yard seasons as a Chicago Bear. Chambers is more of a speed threat and had 11 TD catches a year ago.

    The Rams have had trouble covering tight ends, and the Dolphins have one the league's best young players at that position in Randy McMichael. He leads the Dolphins in receptions (31) and reception yards (370), and has caught at least three passes in every game this season.

    Running on empty

    No Ricky Williams equals no running game. It's as simple as that for the Dolphins, who are averaging a measly 3.0 yards per carry on the ground.

    The starter by default is Sammy Morris, a converted fullback who has played with a nagging ankle sprain since the Dolphins' season opener. He has some size (220 pounds), runs with toughness, and is most effective between the tackles. He rushed for 91 yards last week against Buffalo, but we're not talking Ricky Williams here.

    Opening-day starter Travis Minor, who has more of an outside burst, could return to the running back rotation after missing the last five games with an ankle injury. Otherwise, the Rams could see Leonard Henry or Brock Forsey. In short, this is the most nondescript running-back corps in the NFL.

    One of the problems with the lack of a running game has been the lack of an offensive line. Or at least a good one. One of the team's big free-agent acquisitions, left guard Jeno James, is struggling. Former Ram John St. Clair returns after missing the past two games with knee and ankle injuries. This may come as a shock to Rams fans who watched him struggle as a starter in 2002, but St. Clair has been the Dolphins' best offensive lineman when healthy. He'll be matched up against Rams DE Leonard Little on Sunday.

    Special concerns

    It's all but a certainty that Jeff Chandler will handle place-kicking chores for the Rams in place of the injured Jeff Wilkins. Chandler hasn't kicked in a regular-season game since September 2003, so he's hardly a sure thing. He's 10 of 10 in his brief NFL career on field goals of less than 40 yards, but only four of nine from 40 yards and beyond. So the Rams may be less likely to try longer field goals Sunday.

    Coach Mike Martz is none too pleased that Wilkins injured his ankle making a touchdown-saving tackle on Tampa Bay's first kickoff return of the night Monday. Wilkins later saved another TD, bum ankle and all.

    "The bad news about that is your kicker is the leading tackler on the kickoff team," Martz said. "That's not very good. That obviously is a big issue this week. . . . We're going to get the right people out there, who want to get down there and blow somebody up and get the ballcarrier."

    Dwight Anderson, Trev Faulk, Erik Flowers and Anthony Hargrove have been the Rams' most consistent performers on kickoff coverage. But Faulk is expected to miss his second successive game - and fourth overall this season - because of hamstring problems.

Related Topics


  • RamDez
    Rams' receivers will test Dolphins secondary
    by RamDez
    Rams' receivers will test Dolphins secondary


    Isaac Bruce has the reputation of being the calmer of the two St. Louis Rams wide receivers.

    But you wouldn't know it from talking to Rams coach Mike Martz.

    "If I could identify anything except his God-given ability, I would say he's the most intense player I've ever been around in any sport," Martz said. "I can't describe it. He's like a caged tiger. He's back and forth. He can't wait to play the game.

    "We played the Super Bowl -- the last one -- and he fractured a couple of ribs in the first series and I didn't know about it until almost two weeks after the game. You know, those things happen with him. He competes so hard. He's just the consummate professional."

    Teaming with Torry Holt, Bruce is part of one of the most dangerous wide receiver combinations in the NFL. And that's what makes their trip to Pro Player Stadium on Sunday so intriguing.

    The Miami Dolphins may be 0-6, but they've got the NFL's No. 1 ranked pass defense and a couple of Pro Bowl caliber cornerbacks in Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison that are also considered two of the best at what they do.

    And come Sunday, it's every man-on-man coverage for himself.

    I'm really good friends with Sam. I'm really good friends with Pat," Rams running back Marshall Faulk said. "But I gotta go with my guys. The last time they played, I had to go with my guys and I think they had a pretty decent day against them. It's kind of hard for guys who don't play against these guys to understand just how good they are."

    Sunday's game will be the first since the Rams blew out Miami 42-10 in 2001 at the Edward Jones Dome.

    Of the two receivers, Holt had the best day, catching four passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. Bruce had three catches for 36 yards.

    Since that time, Bruce has steadily moved up the charts of receiving leaders, passing Terance Mathis, Gary Clark and Keenan McCardell to move into 18th place all time with 727 receptions. He also moved into 13th place in all-time receiving yards and needs just two to reach 11,003.

    He also became the first player since Charley Hannigan in 1963 to start the season with four consecutive 100-yard receiving games. Through six games, Bruce is No. 3 in the NFL in receptions (39) and yardage (537).

    Holt, meanwhile, is coming off his best game of the season -- a six-catch, 124-yard, two touchdown performance against Tampa Bay. He is eighth in the NFL with 36 receptions and sixth in yardage with 487.

    Both guys are fast and can produce the acrobatic catch, making them a tough matchup for any cornerbacks, even two as talented as Madison and Surtain.

    "Yeah, you take it very seriously and you can't take it lightly
    -10-23-2004, 02:50 AM
  • RamDez
    Miami at a Glance
    by RamDez
    Miami at a Glance
    Friday, October 22, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    After a tumultuous offseason in which its best player suddenly retired, Miami has clearly been reeling from the effects.

    The Dolphins are off to a 0-6 start, worst in the league and appear poised to live the dream of the undefeated 1972 team in reverse, only this would be much more of a nightmare than a dream.

    Miami has struggled to create any kind of offensive cohesiveness in spite of solid defensive performances. It seems there is a new player starting at running back every week and the quarterback tandem in place has struggled to make any big plays.

    The offseason gave many fans in Miami hope that there could be improvements, but then running back Ricky Williams retired to go on tour with Lenny Kravitz and offseason acquisition David Boston went out for the season with an injury. The defense continues to be a mainstay, but without much offensive production, the Dolphins will continue to struggle and coach Dave Wannstedtís seat will only get hotter.

    COACHING: Wannstedt is in his fifth season as Miamiís coach, making him the second-longest tenured coach in Dolphinsí history behind the legendary Don Shula. He is 3-3 in his career against the Rams and 0-1 against St. Louis with the Dolphins.

    Wannstedtís teams have always played hard, but without the talent in place, it has been hard for Miami to generate any kind of momentum. Wannstedt could be in his final season with the Dolphins, barring a dramatic turnaround that would probably involve Miami somehow winning out. Wannstedt isnít really to blame for the awful start this season, after all, it wasnít his fault that Williams bailed on his teammates, Boston got hurt and the team made some poor decisions in the trade and free agency market.

    OFFENSE: This is clearly Miamiís biggest problem area. It isnít just struggling to run the ball in Williamsí place or throw it without Boston, but the offense in general. The Dolphins are putting up just 243 yards per game and has scored just four touchdowns.

    Jay Fiedler starts at quarterback, but has fought off A.J. Feeley most of the season. Fiedler has an anemic passer rating of 51.1 with two touchdowns and six interceptions. Feeley wasnít much better with a 57.2 rating, two touchdowns and five interceptions. That combination simply isnít getting the job done and it will be difficult to improve with a depleted receiving corps and inexperienced offensive line.

    The running game has been the only area of the offense worse than the pass. The Dolphins have put up only 69.5 yards per game on the ground using a rotating door at running back. So far this season, former Ram Lamar Gordon, Travis Minor, Brock Forsey, Leonard Henry and Sammy Morris have gotten the bulk of the carries at various times. Henry leads the team in rushing with 136 yards,...
    -10-23-2004, 02:51 AM
  • Milan
    A Look at the Opponent - Miami
    by Milan
    By Duane Lewis

    The Miami Dolphins enter the 2006 season as one of the hottest teams in football, and potentially primed to battle for the division title in the AFC East.

    The Dolphins ended 2005 on a six-game winning streak and posted a 9-7 record under first-year coach Nick Saban. While they have lost several key pieces from that squad, including Rams' head coach Scott Linehan (former offensive coordinator), QB Gus Frerotte (who started for the Dolphins last year) and CB Sam Madison, the Dolphins have reloaded and retooled their lineup.

    Perhaps the primary reason for the optimism surrounding the Dolphins was keyed by the acquisition of QB Daunte Culpepper via trade from the Minnesota Vikings. The three-time Pro Bowl signal-caller is coming off a major knee injury in 2005, but has looked sharp in the 2006 preseason and appears ready to start the Dolphins' opener at Pittsburgh next Thursday night.

    At running back, Ronnie Brown, Miami's first-round draft pick out of Auburn from last season, is the unquestioned lead back after the suspension of RB Ricky Williams. Despite sharing time with Williams, Brown rushed for 907 yards and four touchdowns last season. The Dolphins' rushing attack should also be bolstered by another former Auburn player, bruising fullback Fred Beasley, signed as an unrestricted free agent from San Francisco.

    On the outside, WR Chris Chambers earned his first Pro Bowl invitation in 2005 after posting career highs in receptions (82) receiving yards (1,118) and tying a career-high in touchdowns (11). On the other side, veteran Marty Booker averaged 17.6 yards per catch last season. TE Randy McMichael is the Dolphins' all-time leader for in receiving yards by a tight end and caught 60 passes for 582 yards and five touchdowns last season.

    Manning the offensive line are three players who made a combined 46 starts up front. LG Jeno James and C Rex Hadnot started all 16 games on the Dolphins' offensive line, key cogs in a unit that yielded only 26 sacks in 2005, the fourth-lowest total in the league. RT Vernon Carey started 14 games anchoring the outside of the line.

    L.J. Shelton was acquired in the offseason from the Arizona Cardinals where he started 93 of 98 games at both tackle positions, and is currently the starter at left tackle for the Dolphins. St. Louis native Bennie Anderson, also acquired in the offseason by the Dolphins, is the starter at right tackle.

    The defensive line is arguably the strongest unit of the Dolphins' defense, anchored by four-time Pro Bowl DE Jason Taylor. His 76.0 sacks since 2000 ranks second in the NFL over that time. Commanding the other end spot is former Ram Kevin Carter. He was tied for second on the team in sacks, and has played in 176 consecutive games, fifth-longest active streak in the NFL.

    Inside, nose tackle Keith Traylor and defensive tackle...
    -08-31-2006, 07:58 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams blitzed by 1-6 Miami
    by RamWraith
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Oct. 24 2004

    MIAMI -- With the score tied 7-7 and half a minute to go in the first half
    Sunday, the Miami Dolphins faced a third-and-28 dilemma from the Rams' 42.

    Rams defensive coordinator Larry Marmie planned to play a soft Cover 2. Keep
    the receivers in front of you, prevent the big play, and the worst thing that
    happens is a moderate gain and a field goal.

    But coach Mike Martz asked Marmie to blitz.

    ``I said, `Just go after them,' '' Martz recalled later. ``That was the only
    defense I've called as a head coach, and we gave up a touchdown. How do you
    like that?''

    The blitz never got there. Miami quarterback Jay Fiedler found Randy McMichael
    open over the middle, and with Rams defenders slipping all around him on the
    grass surface at Pro Player Stadium, McMichael had an easy journey to the end
    zone. His touchdown gave Miami a 14-7 lead with just 22 seconds remaining until

    It was that kind of day for the Rams in a numbing 31-14 loss to the previously
    winless and offensively inept Dolphins. For the Rams, whatever could go wrong
    did. At 4-3, they remain atop the NFC West only because Seattle lost to Arizona

    The Rams dropped passes and muffed interceptions. They committed several costly
    penalties. They got fooled on one trick play after another. And they somehow
    made one of the league's most feeble offenses look potent.

    ``It was just a comedy of errors,'' Martz said.

    Except no one in Rams Nation is laughing.

    ``Obviously, we're upset,'' Martz said. ``This is not what we wanted. It is
    what it is.''

    What it is is the type of game that teams with serious playoff aspirations
    shouldn't have. Especially against a downtrodden team such as Miami.

    So what happened? There were no easy answers in the locker room.

    ``You got me,'' offensive guard Adam Timmerman said. ``I don't know. We made so
    many mistakes -- everywhere.''

    ``They were more hungry than us, or something,'' defensive tackle Ryan Pickett
    said. ``We just got outplayed.''

    Why? ``I have no idea,'' Pickett said. ``I couldn't give you an explanation of

    Booed loudly in pregame introductions, Fielder played more like Dan Marino than
    the NFL's lowest-rated passer entering Sunday's play.

    ``We played the run real well and broke down in other areas,'' Pickett said.
    ``We gave them too many big plays. Too many big passing plays. And we had
    missed tackles. It's just disappointing.''

    Nearly two-third of Miami's passing yardage came on three big plays:

    * Wide receiver...
    -10-25-2004, 05:12 AM
  • DJRamFan
    [Dolphins] Dolphins get down to the nitty gritty
    by DJRamFan
    Jay Fiedler is respected by teammates for tough and courageous play. But consistent turnovers have weakened his job security.


    [email protected]

    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.''


    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...
    -10-21-2004, 03:16 PM