Big concerns up front

Forget all the talk about the turnovers, the shaky quarterback situation, the lack of a stud running back. For those who want to blame everything on Coach Dave Wannstedt, forget about that, too. The Dolphins have a bigger concern, and it's one that's going to be a major problem down the stretch.

The biggest problem the Dolphins have right now -- and it was badly exposed by the Jets -- is on both lines.

We have known for a long time the Dolphins offensive line was bad, and that hasn't changed. And it's probably not going to change for a while.

On Monday night, guard Taylor Whitley was badly abused by Jets tackle Jason Ferguson and he admitted as much after the game.

On Tuesday, Wannstedt was asked whether he would consider putting somebody else in there and his answer basically was that there was nobody else because Rex Hadnot is a rookie and not ready, Vernon Carey is better off at tackle and Greg Jerman ... well, he didn't address Jerman, but it's pretty obvious the Dolphins don't think much of him.

Wannstedt also said he didn't want to move Seth McKinney from center to right guard and insert Hadnot at center because McKinney is just starting to get comfortable at center.

But unless the view from the press box is lying, McKinney isn't exactly playing lights-out football at center.

And such is the state of the offensive line.

But the defensive line also has become a major problem, and injuries have been the big culprit here.

The Dolphins have lost both of their starting defensive tackles, Larry Chester and Tim Bowens, and have replaced them with Bryan Robinson and Jeff Zgonina.

Now, both Robinson and Zgonina are solid veterans, but they don't have the bulk of Chester and Bowens.

And this defense is designed specifically for the two defensive tackles to clog the middle of the defensive line and allow the linebackers to run loose.

Chester and Bowens do that on a consistent basis; Robinson and Zgonina don't.

That's why you saw Zach Thomas getting blocked quite often by the Jets. That's why there's reason for major concern the Dolphins run defense will be a sore spot the rest of the way.

That, in turn, is making life difficult on Jason Taylor because opponents aren't very often in third-and-long situations. In addition, Taylor really isn't getting that much help from left defensive end David Bowens -- certainly not as much as he got the last two seasons from Adewale Ogunleye.

So the pass rush has suffered. In turn, the turnovers are harder to come by. The Dolphins have only six in eight games, putting them on pace for a franchise record-low 12.

The Dolphins sit at 1-7 right now and given the condition of both their offensive and defensive lines, it's going to be difficult to win many more games in 2004.


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