LUCAS READY FOR CHALLENGE

Ray Lucas lit it up in the preseason, so much that some were suggesting he should supplant Jay Fiedler as the Dolphins' starting quarterback. Now, he gets to run the Dolphins offense in games that count.

If you know Ray Lucas, you know there is no lack of confidence in him. As Dedric Ward points out, Lucas is from New Jersey, which almost automatically makes him confident.

Lucas has also the track record to back that feeling. Just think back to the 1999 season when he subbed for Vinny Testaverde for nine games and led the Jets to a 6-3 record in those games.

Two of those victories came against the Dolphins, so they obviously know what he can do as a starter.

If anything, Lucas is even more prepared for this opportunity.

"Definitely because I was a young pup back (in 1999)," Lucas said Monday. "I still was in diapers at the time. Now I'm a lot older. I went through the whole preseason, got a lot of reps, and it's business as usual, basically."

It certainly is as far as the Dolphins are concerned.

Coach Dave Wannstedt said Monday the game plan would not change one bit with Lucas in at quarterback.

And why should it? Lucas and Fiedler are similar quarterbacks, and the offense was productive with Fiedler leading it.

Looking for differences with Lucas at quarterback? On the positive side, Lucas throws a much better deep ball than Fiedler, so the Dolphins might have more success at hitting the deep ball.

On the flip side, Fiedler generally is more accurate than Lucas (despite what Fiedler's many critics would tell you) and that might make the difference on some third-down throws.

The bottom line, though, is that the Dolphins don't expect to skip a beat on offense with Lucas at quarterback.

"He's as much aware as anybody we've got on this team," Wannstedt said. "You don't have to worry about Ray being ready to play. Ray's going to play good, there's no question in my mind."

But what happens if Lucas plays not good, but great? What happens when Fiedler is ready to return?

In Lucas' mind, that answer is simple.

"The quarterback never loses his starting job because he gets hurt," he said. "The guy is playing fantastic football right now; we're 5-1. I hope I can measure up to what he's done."


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