COMPARING ROSTERS

Now that they have gotten down to the 53-man roster, the Dolphins are ready to go into the regular season. And while the team has its share of concerns, the roster clearly is better than the one that opened the 2001 season.

The biggest difference, of course, is running back Ricky Williams, who represents a major upgrade over Lamar Smith.

But the Dolphins are also better at several other positions, while they appear weaker at only a few spots.

Here's a position-by-position look comparing the roster for the opener at Tennessee last year to the one the Dolphins will bring into Sunday's game against Detroit (unless they make more moves, which certainly is possible).

In this installment, we'll look at the offense.

QUARTERBACK

2002 — Starter: Jay Fiedler; backups: Ray Lucas, Sage Rosenfels.

2001 — Starter: Jay Fiedler; backups: Ray Lucas, Cade McNown.

Analysis: McNown was a bust, while Rosenfels showed in his one preseason appearance with the Dolphins that he has definite potential. And we're not even factoring that both Fiedler and Lucas are better quarterbacks than they were last year.

Verdict: Upgrade.

HALFBACK

2002 — Starter: Ricky Williams; backups: Robert Edwards, Travis Minor.

2001 — Starter: Lamar Smith; backups: J.J. Johnson, Travis Minor.

Analysis: Pretty obvious stuff here, and not just with Williams. Edwards also is a much better running back than J.J. Johnson.

Verdict: Major upgrade.

FULLBACK

2002 — Starter: Rob Konrad; backup: Deon Dyer.

2001 — Starter: Rob Konrad; backup: Deon Dyer.

Analysis: Same old, same old.

Verdict: Same.

WIDE RECEIVER

2002 — Starters: Oronde Gadsden, Chris Chambers; backups — Dedric Ward, James McKnight, Albert Johnson.

2001 — Starters: Oronde Gadsden, James McKnight; backups: Chris Chambers, Dedric Ward, Jeff Ogden.

Analysis: The only difference here is Johnson instead of Ogden. The Dolphins might gain here when it comes to kick returns, but they will lose if they have to use a fifth wide receiver at some point.

Verdict: A wash.

TIGHT END

2002 — Starter: Randy McMichael; backups: Jed Weaver, Ed Perry, Desmond Clark.

2001 — Starter: Hunter Goodwin; backups: Jed Weaver, Ed Perry, Shawn Draper.

Analysis: This might not be a fair analysis because the offensive systems are totally different, but McMichael is certainly a bigger weapon than Goodwin and Clark is a pretty good tight once he becomes healthy.

Verdict: Big upgrade.

TACKLE

2002 — Starters: Mark Dixon, Todd Wade; backup: Marcus Spriggs.

2001 — Starters: Marcus Spriggs, Todd Wade; backup: Spencer Folau.

Analysis: The bottom line is that you've traded Folau for Dixon, who's only the best offensive lineman on the team.

Verdict: Upgrade.

GUARD

2002 — Starters: Jamie Nails, Todd Perry; backup: Troy Andrew.

2001 — Starters: Mark Dixon, Todd Perry; backup: Heath Irwin.

Analysis: In terms of personnel, this is a tough one to call. If Nails plays in the regular season the way he did this summer, he could be just as efficient as Dixon. Irwin didn't play well at all during his time with the Dolphins, while Andrew probably wouldn't be on this team had it not been for Leon Searcy's injury.

Verdict: A wash.

CENTER

2002 — Starter: Tim Ruddy; backup: Seth McKinney.

2001 — Starter: Tim Ruddy; backup: Troy Andrew.

Analysis: McKinney is a future starter in this league; that makes him a clearly better option as the backup to Ruddy.

Verdict: Upgrade.


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