Dolphins Have The Next Welker?

The Miami Dolphins realized the gravity of their mistake early into the 2007 Season when former Dolphin Wes Welker turned in career-best performances week after week for New England. Miami gave up Welker for a second and a seventh round draft pick from the Patriots. Now they're looking to find Welker's replacement, and they just may have done it... on the cheap

The new regime, led by Dolphins czar Bill Parcells, has already placed an indelible stamp on the latest reincarnation of this floundering franchise. They want players who are tough, in shape and are hungry to achieve - three requirements they're not so sure they're getting with their estranged dancing defensive end Jason Taylor. But that's another story as the coaching staff, led by hard-nosed Parcells' protigi Tony Sparano, are rebuilding the Dolphins from the trenches out. They've signed six of their nine draft picks, unprecedented around the league, and now await training camp to start shaping the final 53-man roster with a priority on finding out which of the three quarterbacks - John Beck, Josh McCown or rookie Chad Henne - will take the opening snap against the Jets next September.

Rookie to watch: Wide receiver Davone Bess -- The undrafted receiver out of Hawaii has impressed from Day 1 with his ability to catch the ball with just his hands and his innate skill to find openings in the middle of the field. He could be the slot receiver the Dolphins have been looking for since allowing the Patriots to pilfer Wes Welker. Bess was a fixture in the end zones while at Hawaii, snatching a school-record 41 touchdowns while posting three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. His stock dropped when he ran a slow 40 at the Combine, but he has the quick-burst speed off the line that eludes hard-pressing cornerbacks. The coaches have been concerned about his conditioning, but another two months of work in the weight rooms should enhance that. They also love his versatility as they've been working him on punt returns to take some of the load off of Ted Ginn Jr.

"I like (Davone) Bess. He's a guy that is an undrafted guy that's out here and has made a lot of plays," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said at the final OTA day of the offseason.

Sudden Impact: Running back Ricky Williams -- He has easily been the most outstanding player on the field during minicamps and OTA days. In a stunning development based on their history, coaches have shunned Jason Taylor, while embracing Williams, who seems completely recovered from his torn pectoral muscle that limited his 2007 season to six carries in the Monday Night 3-0 fiasco loss to the Steelers. Williams, who recently turned 31, has just 173 carries since 2003 (in the NFL), and is amazingly fit, fresh and fast.

He is also eager, particularly in the final year of a contract that pays him the NFL mandated minimum. The former NFL rushing champion's marijuana-smoking days seems far behind this yoga-teaching family man. Parcells admitted recently he's always been a fan. Williams has formed a brotherly relationship with starting running back Ronnie Brown, who is ahead of schedule and actually practiced with the full offense in the final week of OTAs for the first time since sustaining a season-ending torn ACL last October. Brown is hoping to be ready by the season opener, but Williams, who seems primed for his fifth 1,000-yard season (but first since 2003), is prepared to give Brown more time to heal by shouldering most of the load in the first month of the season.

"I like what Ricky has done. He finishes every run. I think that's important. Within his individual drills, I see the guy working hard to get better during these individual periods. I think the guy shows up each day and has a purpose when he practices. He wants to get better at something each and every day. When you sit down and you talk to him, he'll tell you those things. I like where he is right now," Sparano said. "I think he has really been a hell of a guy in the locker room right now and he has been a real solid guy out on this field. I am pleased."

Remember, the last and only time Brown and Williams played together was in Brown's rookie season in 2005 when the two combined for 1,650 yards.


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