DEEP THOUGHTS

The Dolphins have had just about every problem imaginable on offense in their last three weeks, and one of them certainly has been the inability to produce big plays.

The Dolphins' longest play from scrimmage in the three games since Ray Lucas took over at quarterback was a 27-yard completion to James McKnight in last Sunday night's loss against the Jets.

By comparison, the Dolphins had seven plays or 30 yards or longer in their first six games when Jay Fiedler started at quarterback.

With the Dolphins slumping, it's pretty obvious that a big play, particularly early in the game, could provide a much-needed confidence boost.

"We've got to have a big play," said tackle Mark Dixon. "In this league, if you can go 50, 70 or 80 yards in one play, it's huge. It's hard in this league to grind it out 80 yards. We need to block up front and give them time and then let our playmakers go make a gigantic play."

Of course, any big pass play will have to involve Lucas, who has struggled badly with his passing since taking over against Buffalo.

The Dolphins haven't taken many shots downfield with Lucas running the offense, but Coach Dave Wannstedt pointed out that they have called deep passes in recent weeks.

When asked about the lack of passes downfield in the loss to the Jets, Wannstedt replied: "We were trying, just like the Green Bay game. We dialed up five deep balls (against Grene Bay) and one got thrown. One was the one that rolled out of (Lucas') hand and two of them he was nervous and threw to the ckeck-downs because the guys were covered. We had some shots where we were trying to get guys down the field.

"Obviously, you have to have the protection, you have to have time to throw it and then the quarterback has to feel good about the throw. We need to continue to take shots down the field every week."

That certainly would be good news for wide receiver Chris Chambers, who is averaging only 12.7 yards per catch this season after topping the 18-yard mark as a rookie in 2001.

Chambers admits to experiencing some frustration this season.

"It was (frustrating) at first, but I just go along with the game plan and what the defense is giving me," he said. "If they are going to let me catch balls underneath, I have to make the most of it. I would like to go a little bit deeper just to help my route running a little bit. It would help me to run my routes a little bit better. We'll try it again this week."

Chambers is one obvious candidate if the Dolphins do decide to throw deep. The other is McKnight, who is back in the starting lineup during Cris Carter's absence.

Like Chambers, McKnight would love nothing more than to go deep, but that's not the first priority.

"Sure, but not so much if it's going to take us out of the comfort zone of our offense," McKnight said of the prospect of catching long balls. "I'd rather have a win and catch 5-yard passes than to have shots down the field and continue to go on this downslide. We just need to get a W; I don't care how we get it."


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