There's reason to believe the Dolphins defense will continue to be strong in 2002, but a nasty trend developed in the preseason. And it's one that needs to stop.

The Dolphins were victimized by the long pass in each of the last two preseason games. First, Houston quarterback David Carr connected with Corey Bradford for an apparent 85-yard touchdown, but the Dolphins were bailed out when the Texans were called for holding.

Then last Thursday night, on Chicago's first play from scrimmage, Dez White broke free in the middle of the secondary, took in a pass from Jim Miller and raced 80 yards for an easy touchdown.

Yes, it was the preseason and it didn't count for anything, but the starting secondary was on the field when Carr hit Bradford, and Patrick Surtain was the only starter not on the field when White scored.

Surtain had injured his groin on the opening kickoff, and Jamar Fletcher was in the lineup in his place.

Preseason or not, those two plays are troubling.

Trying to assign blame on the two plays is difficult because the Dolphins were in zone coverage on both. From a distance, it appeared that safety Brock Marion got caught out of position on the Bradford touchdown, while safety Arturo Freeman clearly bit on a play fake on the Chicago touchdown.

Coach Dave Wannstedt pointed out that the Bears ran a pick play on their long pass, but that shouldn't be used as an excuse from the blown coverage.

Wannstedt wasn't overly concerned about the big plays because it wasn't a case of players being badly beaten.

"They were mental mistakes," he said. "(Against Chicago), we were in a blitz situation and we didn't get the pressure we wanted. We had mental a breakdown in coverage between two guys.

"We can't let that happen. But it's nothing that won't be corrected."

If the Dolphins are to live up to their high expectations, they better make sure it gets corrected.

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