BETTER BUT NOT THERE YET

The Dolphins absolutely needed Sunday's victory over the New York Jets and they should be commended for getting a big win on the road. But it's also pretty obvious the Dolphins are still a work in progress.

Let's face it, this is not a great New York Jets team the Dolphins just beat.

Forget the fact that New York is without starting quarterback Chad Pennington. The Jets also is a troubled team because they lost some important members of their offensive line and haven't been able to replace them.

But let's focus on the Dolphins here.

The first-half performance on offense was very, very impressive, but the Dolphins did nothing offensively in the second half. They got into Jets territory only once, but didn't even cross the 40-yard line on that one.

And don't hassle us with the idea that the Dolphins got conservative. Sorry, that ain't it.

The play-calling was fine, as it usually is despite what all the critics and complainers will say.

For example, when the Dolphins ran a draw play with Ricky Williams on third-and-16 in the first half, it became a great call because Williams gained 18 yards. But, of course, it would have been a horrible call had he been stuffed for little or no gain.

But that's another story.

The Dolphins didn't do anything in the second half because Jay Fiedler made a couple of costly mistakes, a bad throw to Derrius Thompson on third down and a fumble when he was scrambling in the open field.

Fiedler made some plays in the first half, but he was far from perfect against the Jets and he needs to get better.

The bigger concern, though, was the pass defense, which got shredded by Vinny Testaverde.

The Dolphins have been using a lot more zone defense this season with the idea of being less predictable, but the result has been big cushions for opposing receivers and big plays when the Dolphins have been sloppy with their tackling.

Patrick Surtain missed the preseason after undergoing knee surgery and he's not looked like himself so far. He missed a tackle on Santana Moss on Sunday, and the result was a 61-yard gain.

Sam Madison, for his part, was caught looking into the backfield and let Moss get behind him for a 32-yard touchdown.

Both those guys need to play better. The pass rush has produced one sack in two games, and that also needs to improve.

Fact is, the Dolphins have looked nothing like a Super Bowl contender so far this season.

That's the bad news. The good news is the Dolphins have always peaked too early in recent years and maybe this year they will just progressively get better and wind up playing their best football at the end of the season.


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