Linehan Working Open Offense With Dolphins

His high-flying offense worked with Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss in Minnesota, but can offensive coordinator Scott Linehan work his magic with different personnel in Miami?

For the first time since Dan Marino's heyday, the 2005 Dolphins should have a deep passing game as a major part of their offensive attack.

"I've always believed you have to have the threat to put the ball down the field," said new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who backed up that statement the past three seasons in Minnesota. "We'll take big plays or explosive gains any way we can get them, whether it's a long run or a screen pass to the back or whatever. We want to create explosive plays, but I really believe you can set up that opportunity with the vertical passing game.

"I think that's always going to be a staple in our offense and attacking the field vertically. If that isn't there, the quarterback needs to know where to go with the football if we don't get the proper coverage and things like that. But that's going to be a personality we have."

The Dolphins were a run-first offense the previous nine seasons under former coaches Dave Wannstedt and Jimmy Johnson, which led to a largely one-dimensional attack and arguably contributed to the franchise's inability to get beyond the second round of the playoffs in that span. Miami had only five pass plays of 40-plus yards in 2004, three of which came in one game against St. Louis.

That is expected to change under Linehan, whose offense in Minnesota finished in the top four offensively from 2002 through 2004.

"I think it's fair to say there's going to be some deep threat incorporated in every read," said Linehan, who was signed away from the Vikings with a three-year, $2.4 million contract. "The coverage, the defense is going to dictate where that ball goes. But it's fair to say we're going to attack all parts of the field."

That type of approach should give Chris Chambers the opportunity to emerge as one of the NFL's elite wide receivers. Despite possessing outstanding tools, Chambers has yet to break the 1,000-yard mark during his first four NFL seasons because of Miami's anemic passing attack.

Playing in Linehan's offense also will draw comparisons between Chambers and Randy Moss, who thrived in Minnesota's deep passing game.

"I really don't make comparisons that way," Linehan said. "Chris Chambers is going to be Chris Chambers, but he's going to fit into our system very similar. He plays the same position as Randy ... His skills and the things he's shown really have confirmed what I believe he was capable of doing. He's certainly going to be a big part of what we do."

Linehan, though, said he doesn't plan to downplay the running game like he did last season in Minnesota, which makes sense considering the Dolphins could have Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams in the same backfield.

"We had some running back issues, whether it be injuries or a suspension issue, things like that," Linehan said of Minnesota's 2004 offense. "It was hard to get a real good feel for what our running personality's going to be. The two years prior, running the ball was pretty effective and that's more what we want to be, a balanced offense that has ability to not only run the ball or throw the ball but be able to do both equally well."

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