AFCE Inside Look: Miami Dolphins

Head Coach Nick Saban played down winning right away a few weeks ago as the Dolphins were at 3-7 totally out of the playoff hunt. Now that his team has managed to rip off 4 wins in a row to even their record, people aren't taking the Dolphins lightly. What the Dolphins are looking for now is consistency that they can carry into next year to make a run at the AFC East.

Ricky Williams has recently played like a starter, but that isn't the reason he probably will get the nod Saturday against Tennessee.

The Dolphins are expected to have to alter their two-tailback approach because Ronnie Brown is unlikely to play due to ankle and knee injuries suffered in last Sunday's 24-20 victory over the New York Jets. Brown missed all three days of practice this week, leaving Williams to receive the snaps with the first-team offense.

"We will make a game-time decision on Ronnie's status in terms of what he can or can't do and might even have to work him out before the game," Dolphins coach Nick Saban said after Thursday's practice. "We will see what he can do tomorrow and go from there."

Coming off the bench, Williams has rushed for 309 yards and three touchdowns on 65 carries. In that same span, Brown has 211 yards and one touchdown on 59 rushes.

The Dolphins will have the services of quarterback Gus Frerotte (finger), who practiced Wednesday and Thursday after missing Tuesday's session.

"The way it felt Sunday and Monday, I never thought I would be able to go this week at all," said Frerotte, who missed the second half of the Jets game after re-injuring his finger. "You just never know with injuries. I was able to go out this week and throw the ball. It kept getting better and better. I give (the training staff) a lot of credit. They've done a heck of a job."

--Dolphins wide receiver Chris Chambers isn't trying to downplay Miami's four-game winning streak entering Saturday's home game against Tennessee.

"I think team-wise we are playing great football," Chambers said.

The same can be said of Chambers, who joined defensive end/outside linebacker Jason Taylor and middle linebacker Zach Thomas as Miami's three Pro Bowl selections Wednesday when teams were announced.

Chambers has caught 33 passes for 593 yards and four touchdowns in victories over Oakland (33-21), Buffalo (24-23), San Diego (23-21) and the New York Jets (24-20).

"It is a great honor for me - probably the biggest honor I have had in my career," said Chambers, a five-year NFL veteran who is 8 receiving yards away from his first 1,000-yard campaign, of the Pro Bowl. "It was a career goal of mine and I am just taking it in stride. It hasn't hit me all the way yet, but it is a good feeling right now."

Chambers isn't the only Dolphins player who is warm and fuzzy with the franchise having posted its longest winning streak since the 2003 season. Such success has helped take away from the sting of missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Miami (7-7) was eliminated from postseason contention last Sunday when Jacksonville (10-4) and San Diego (9-5) won their respective games.

"What we are doing right now after the Cleveland game, I'd be happy with what we've got right now," said Thomas, referring to his team's rebound from a 22-0 road loss to the Browns. "We are playing well. ... Let's just keep winning and let's take this into the next year. We have a lot of confidence in this room right now."

Dolphins defensive end Kevin Carter agreed that confidence is growing as Miami won its past three victories by just seven points.

"Before, we were kind of sensationalistic that if we had a good game we would have a letdown," said Carter, whose team didn't win consecutive contests in 2005 until the winning streak began. "We didn't have the same mental fortitude. I think this team is beginning to develop a toughness about itself. We go out and play no matter what happens, good things, bad things.

"We don't look at the scoreboard. We just play."

That is proof that what Dolphins coach Nick Saban has tried stressing to his roster all season has sunk in.

"The No. 1 factor is our ability to overcome adversity," Saban said when asked the key to Miami's recent success. "When things don't go well, we are able to respond and react to it the way we need to ... Just keep playing through adversity and having the mindset to do it is critical to being successful because these games are not going to be easy."


--Although they were voted to the Pro Bowl, it doesn't appear Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor will be headed to Hawaii for the game because of injuries suffered during the season. Thomas and Taylor are both playing with shoulder harnesses. Taylor also suffered a heel injury in mid-October that has affected his mobility.

"It has been a tough year," said Taylor, who hasn't missed a start. "I will see how it goes once we finish up the regular season."

Thomas and Taylor proved they could thrive in a different style of defense than the straight 4-3 scheme Miami has deployed throughout both of their careers until Saban's arrival. In a 3-4 system, Thomas leads Miami in tackles with 137 while Taylor ranks sixth in the NFL in sacks with 11 after shifting to an "elephant" role.

"I knew it would be a little different," said Taylor, who is now a four-time Pro Bowl selection. "You have to adapt to things. I am still not totally where I would like to be with this defense. As time goes on if I am still around, I feel like I will be more and more comfortable with it."

Thomas disproved critics who asserted he was too small (5-11 and 228 pounds) for an inside linebacker role in a 3-4.

"Being in a 4-3 for so many years, I heard everybody talking about, 'You're just fit for that,'" said Thomas, who is making his sixth Pro Bowl appearance. "They were wrong and now I feel like I am more fit for this than the 4-3. That's another reason I am happy."

Tight end Randy McMichael, cornerback Sam Madison and punter Donnie Jones were selected as third alternates.

THEY SAID IT: "I tried to BS my way through remembering it, but that's hard to do when you don't have any presents or gifts. I'm in the doghouse now and am hoping to get out by Christmas, but who knows?" - Coach Nick Saban on forgetting his wedding anniversary last week with his wife Terry.


Quarterback Gus Frerotte is making a quick recovery from the finger injury that sidelined him for the second half of last Sunday's win over the Jets.
After sitting out Tuesday's session, Frerotte returned to practice Wednesday and Thursday and is expected to start against the Titans. Frerotte aggravated a right index finger when trying to make a tackle after throwing an interception late in the first half.
"He was good," Saban said. "I actually told him one time he ought to hurt his hand more often."
Sage Rosenfels returned to a backup role Wednesday after working with the first-team offense for Tuesday's session. Rosenfels has led Miami to victories in relief of an injured Frerotte for two of the past three games.


--QB Gus Frerotte (finger) practiced Wednesday and Thursday and said he will play Saturday against visiting Tennessee. Frerotte re-injured his finger in the first half of last Sunday's 24-20 victory over the New York Jets.
--RB Ronnie Brown (ankle/knee) missed practice Thursday for a third consecutive day and is unlikely to play against the Titans. Brown, the second overall selection in last April's draft, had started every game this season.
--WR/KR/PR Wes Welker (quadriceps) participated in all of Thursday's practice and should play against Tennessee. Welker, though, may have to split snaps with Bryan Gilmore as Miami's third receiver.
--WLB Channing Crowder (shoulder) practiced Wednesday and Thursday and should start against Tennessee. Crowder missed the second half of the Jets game and finished with just one tackle.
--WR Bryan Gilmore should log more snaps in Miami's three-receiver sets against Tennessee because of a quadriceps injury that has slowed Wes Welker. Gilmore split third down snaps with Welker against the Jets but didn't log a reception.

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