Dolphins Put Trust in Fiedler

The Miami Dolphins appear to be set going into this season with Jay Fiedler as their starting quarterback.

The Miami Dolphins appear to be set going into this season with Jay Fiedler as their starting quarterback.

Of course, there is still plenty of preseason action remaining, but all signs point toward Fiedler being the man when the Dolphins open the regular season on Sept. 9 at Tennessee. He is also expected to start on Aug. 25, when the Dolphins battle the Packers at Lambeau Field in their fourth of five preseason games.

While Fiedler was an after-thought backup in Minnesota not too long ago and played poorly in the Dolphins' losses a year ago, head coach Dave Wannstedt's road to the Super Bowl will be paved by a strong defense and running back Lamar Smith. The Dolphins chose not to sign one of the big-name free agents quarterbacks this off-season and believe Fiedler can manage his game much like Trent Dilfer did with the Baltimore Ravens a year ago, leading them to a Super Bowl Championship.

Ex-Jets quarterback Ray Lucas and sixth-round draft pick Josh Heupel were brought in to compete with Fiedler, but neither has done anything yet to snatch the starting spot. The Dolphins recently traded for Bears' backup quarterback Cade McNown. Time will tell, however, who will play behind Fiedler. The Dolphins also have fifth-year quarterback Mike Quinn on their roster.

Fiedler surprised just about everyone last season in his first as a starter, when he led the Dolphins to an 11-5 record and an AFC East title. Though his quarterback rating was just 74.5, he showed determination, and the Dolphins won when he played mistake-free football. He does not have the following or flair of some of the league's top quarterbacks, but appears to suit Wannstedt's system well.

Helping Fiedler should be the effort the Dolphins made to overhaul their receiving corps, which was unproductive last year. Gone are Bert Emanuel and Tony Martin and in are speedsters James McKnight and Dedric Ward. The Dolphins also have Oronde Gadsden back, who led the team with 56 catches and six touchdowns in 2000.

Wisconsin homecoming: Saturday night's preseason game against the Packers will be a homecoming of sorts for Dolphins' rookies Jamar Fletcher and Chris Chambers. Both starred at the University of Wisconsin last year and are intriguing prospects headed into their first NFL season.

Fletcher was selected in the first round at the 26th selection overall in this year's draft and Chambers was selected in the second round at No. 52 overall. The Packers almost selected Chambers in the second round before deciding instead to select receiver Robert Ferguson out of Texas A&M.

Thus far in the preseason, Fletcher and Chambers are involved in heated competitions for backup positions. Fletcher should see plenty of action against the Packers due to an injury suffered by starting cornerback Patrick Surtain that is expected to keep him out for the remainder of the preseason. Chambers will try to provide the Dolphins with a much-needed deep threat to help spread opposing defenses.

When the season begins, Fletcher is a good bet to be the nickel back for the Dolphins behind Surtain and Pro Bowler Sam Madison. Chambers should land the No. 4 receiver spot if he shows consistency.

Punter Matt Turk, a Wisconsin-Whitewater graduate and Greenfield, Wis., native, is also on the Dolphins roster after being acquired in a trade from Washington a year ago.


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