Sparano: Dolphins Ready to Make a Run

After a practice before his team's third game of the preseason, Miami Dolphins coach Tony Sparano was asked the kind of question that coaches love to ignore. It went something like this: After consecutive 7-9 seasons, what gives you faith that this season will be different -- that your team can be a factor in the AFC East?

Sparano started his answer the way many in his position would.

"Well, I don't have a crystal ball," he said.

He could have stopped there, avoided the question and been done with it. Instead, Sparano continued.

"I can't tell you how this thing is going to turn out one way or the other," he said. "But I can tell you that the way this team works, the attitude that I see, the ingredients that we have right now all show me that this team is poised and ready to go here to make a run at this thing."

It was a bold statement from a man not necessarily known for his boldness -- at least not in public.

But Sparano wasn't done.

"We aren't going to back down from anybody in this division," he said. "I don't care who they are and who's out there ... But I think we're one of the good teams in this division and I think anybody that doesn't believe that probably going to make a big mistake."

The Dolphins would be easy enough to overlook entering the season. Defensively they should at least be as strong as they were a season ago.

But the same old questions surround quarterback Chad Henne.

The difference, though, is that Henne is surrounded not by the old, but the new -- and quite possibly improved.

There's a new offense that first-year coordinator Brian Daboll has installed. There are new weapons, from the newly-acquired Reggie Bush to rookie receiver Clyde Gates, one of the fastest receivers selected in the draft in April.

Even Brandon Marshall, Henne's top receiving target, has vowed to take a new approach. He is seeking treatment for borderline personality disorder and is making an effort, he says, to become a better communicator. And indeed, Henne and Marshall have clicked this preseason like they never have before.

And then there's Henne himself. He has seemed more poised leading into this season -- more confident.

"You don't want to do what you did in the past," he said. "You want to fix your mistakes and move forward but each and every year you want to keep on improving and if I feel myself keep improving each and every year I should be where I want to be."

The Dolphins have become faster and more aggressively on offense and, if the offensive line comes together, this is a team that could experience something else new: A winning record.

The Dolphins haven't had one since 2008. The defense, which features plenty of playmakers from Paul Soliai up front to Vontae Davis in the secondary, will be good. If Miami's offense comes around -- if Henne is as productive as he has been during the preseason -- the Dolphins could be a pleasant surprise.

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