DEFENSE NOW THE CONCERN

It used to be that the Dolphins had a Super Bowl-caliber defense but couldn't get close to the big game because their offense simply wasn't good enough. Is it going to turn out that this year it's the opposite?

Even though it's silly to overreact to one loss, what happened Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium certainly is enough to question whether this year's Dolphins defense is going to be good enough.

Let's the face it, this isn't as good a defense as the Dolphins have had in recent years, simply because the Dolphins are lacking a proven third cornerback and the pass rush still hasn't found anyone to replace Trace Armstrong.

The biggest problem clearly is the third cornerback spot. Jamar Fletcher may in time turn into a good NFL player, but it's obvious he's not there yet and he's playing too important a role for someone experiencing growing pains.

Now that we're picking on Fletcher for what happened against Kansas City on Sunday because no one covered well, and that includes Sam Madison.

Actually, the most disappointing aspect of Sunday's loss defensively was the performance of safety Arturo Freeman, who looked like he didn't belong in the starting lineup.

He had played well in the first three games, but Sunday made everyone wish Brian Walker was back at strong safety.

Of course, the secondary's job was made much tougher by the lack of a pass rush. Not only did the Dolphins not sack Trent Green, they usually never even got decent pressure on him.

When the Dolphins defense was at its best two years ago, it seemed opposing quarterbacks rarely could get comfortable in the pocket.

Defensive coordinator Jim Bates faces a difficult task in trying to finding ways to create pressure without exposing the secondary.

But he needs to come up with something. The Dolphins' Super Bowl hopes may depend on it.


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