Wish being granted

Once the Dolphins' season started spiraling downward, there was a lot of screaming about giving young players a chance down the stretch so the Dolphins could do some talent evaluation. Well, it's not always been by choice, but that's exactly what is happening now.

When the Dolphins take on San Francisco Sunday at Monster Park (great name, isn't it?), the starting lineup should include quarterback A.J. Feeley, rookie guard Rex Hadnot, rookie linebacker Derrick Pope and second-year linebacker Eddie Moore.

They are but some of the handful of young players who might figure prominently in the Dolphins' future.

Feeley, of course, is the main one, and interim coach Jim Bates did the right thing when he switched to him after the bye week.

But Bates said at the time he was doing it purely because he felt Feeley gave the Dolphins a better chance to win and he made no guarantees Feeley would start the remainder of the season.

That now appears a lock with Jay Fiedler on injured reserve because of a neck injury.

As for Hadnot, he's in the starting lineup because of the injury to free agent acquisition Jeno James. In his first start last week at Seattle, Hadnot's play was spotty, but the coaches think he will become a good player.

This extended action can only help him and it will help the Dolphins get a better gauge for his ability.

On defense, Moore's first couple of starts in place of departed veteran Junior Seau have been very encouraging.

The feeling before then was that Moore was a wash and might not be back this year. But Moore has made enough plays in his first two starts to raise hope he might turn out to be a player after all.

And that's something the Dolphins wouldn't have found out if not for the injury to Seau.

As for Pope, the thought already is that he's a talented player. The opportunity the start will only give him valuable experience.

Of course, the one young player left out of the equation for the time being is first-round pick Vernon Carey, who continues to sit behind starting right tackle John St. Clair.

We've said it before and we'll say it again. The Dolphins have maintained all along that St. Clair has been their best offensive lineman all year, and he should figure into their plans for next season, and he's going to remain at right tackle.

So does that mean that Carey is going to sit behind St. Clair again next season? The Dolphins have said they don't want to move Carey because they feel his best position is right tackle, but don't they want him on the field?

We're going with the position that Carey would be better served by getting game experience and more reps at, say, right guard than being the second-team right tackle.

Wade Smith also should be playing down the stretch because he looks like he has more upside than Damion McIntosh, who really has not been impressive.

Smith hasn't played since losing his starting job in September, and the way he's been forgotten, it's fair to ask whether the Dolphins ever will get anything out of him.

So we say, get him back in there and give him another shot. He can't do much worse than McIntosh has done all season.


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