What Exactly Is The Problem?

Can the Dolphins really be the worst team in the NFL? That's what the records say, as Miami is tied with Arizona and Detroit for the worst mark at 1-6. After their bye, it's more than likely the Dolphins will go to 1-7 because they face the Bears -- at Chicago no less. It is indeed a sobering reality for Dolphins fans, especially those who wanted to believe the Sports Illustrated projection.

Not that we haven't said that before, but it's time to start looking beyond the tired "poor execution" as the reason for this disaster. It's time to question just how talent-deficient the Dolphins really are.

Really, go position by position, and you'll come to the conclusion to the reason the Dolphins are 1-6 is simply that this is a team that just doesn't have great talent.

Quarterback: It's fine with a Daunte Culpepper at 100 percent, not fine with him on the bench and Joey Harrington starting. Harrington has some ability, but he makes too many mistakes and would have to rank among the bottom third of starting quarterbacks right now.

Running back: Ronnie Brown is a solid starter, but he's not a special back and you can easily find about 15 starters better than him. Come on, start rolling them off: Corey Dillon, Willis McGahee, Rudi Johnson, Fred Taylor, LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson, Tiki Barber, Brian Westbrook, Clinton Portis, Kevin Jones, Deuce McAllister, Warrick Dunn, Steven Jackson, Shaun Alexander, Frank Gore.

That's 15 right there. Any disagreements? And we left out guys like Willie Parker, Travis Henry, Julius Jones, guys who you could argue are better than Brown.

Receivers: This is where we just might have severely overestimated the Dolphins' ability. Chris Chambers did make the Pro Bowl in 2005, but does anyone really think of him as a top 5 receiver in the league, top 10, top 15?

Again, think of other wideouts in the NFL,

Lee Evans, Chad Johnson, Hines Ward, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson, Javon Walker, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Terry Glenn, Plaxico Burress, Santana Moss, Roy Williams, Steve Smith, Joey Galloway, Joe Horn, Torry Holt, Darrell Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin.

That's 21 guys right there. How many of those would you take over Chris Chambers. Be honest. Pretty much all of them, right?

Tight end: Randy McMichael shows flashes from time to time of being a stud receiver, but he also makes too many mistakes, whether they be dropped passes or bad penalties.

Still, you could make a case for him being a top 10 tight end in the NFL, which might be the best you can say for any Dolphins player at this time.

Offensive line: Do we really need to discuss this? At its best, this unit is mediocre.

Defensive line: OK, this might be the best unit on the team, and it actually might be among the top half-dozen groups in the league.

Linebacker: This is another spot where the Dolphins might be overrated. Zach Thomas has had a brilliant career, but he's not having a very good season and he's not a dominant player. Channing Crowder, by all accounts, has a great future, but the truth is he hasn't made a major impact at all this season. And Donnie Spragan is a journeyman. Really, think of other 3-4 defenses, and think about how dominant their linebackers have been or currently are. The Dolphins don't have that.

Secondary: Again, do we really need to talk about this? It's simply one of the worst groups in the NFL.

Special teams: Now that Olindo Mare is missing a lot of field goals, albeit in tough circumstances, there's really nothing special about the special teams. They're solid, nothing more. Wes Welker is a good returner, but he's not a scare-the-other-team type.

Look up and down the entire roster, and try to come up with true difference-makers on this team.

First, let's start with the other teams in the league.

Buffalo has Willis McGahee and Takeo Spikes, and you might even make an argument for Nate Clements. New England has Tom Brady and Richard Seymour. The Jets have maybe Jonathan Vilma.

In the AFC North, Cincinnati has Carson Palmer, Chad Johnson and Rudi Johnson; Pittsburgh has Ben Roethlisberger, Joey Porter and Troy Polamalu; Baltimore has Ray Lewis and Ed Reed; Cleveland has ... well, it's the Browns.

In the AFC South, Indy has Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison and Dwight Freeney; Jacksonville has John Henderson and Marcus Stroud; Tennessee and Houston don't have any who comes to mind.

The AFC West has LT and Shawne Merriman in San Diego; Champ Bailey in Denver; Tony Gonzalez and Larry Johnson in Kansas City; and Randy Moss in Oakland.

Going more quickly in the NFC, the list includes Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and Brian Dawkins in Philly; Terrell Owens (Iike him or not) and Roy Williams in Dallas; Tiki Barber and Michael Strahan with the Giants; Santana Moss and Clinton Portis in Washington; Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris and Mike Brown in Chicago; Roy Williams and Shaun Rogers in Detroit; Deuce McAllister in New Orleans; Steve Smith, Julius Peppers and Kris Jenkins in Carolina; Ronde Barber in Tampa Bay; John Abraham in Atlanta; Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle; Torry Holt, Steven Jackson in St. Louis; Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin in Arizona.

Wow, that's a long list. Now, anybody on the Dolphins strike you as belonging at that level.

Think long and hard about that.

The closest we can think of is Jason Taylor. After that ... well, there's ... hmm ... nope ... that's it.

You combine that lack of star quality with a couple of really sub-par position (O-line, secondary) and you have a team that's good enough to be 1-6.


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