Friday, August 12
Bears, Dolphins trying to rebuild
By John Madden
Our first preseason game was Monday night in Canton, Ohio. The Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins were in action and it was interesting to see both these teams coming off a bad year, with Chicago winning five games a year ago and Miami only winning four. The Bears are getting a few key guys back that were hurt a year ago in Brian Urlacher, Mike Brown and Rex Grossman.
Urlacher and Brown make up the middle of their defense, and getting them back and healthy is going to be a big improvement for the defense. Offensively the Bears are going to depend on Grossman to win. In watching him in practice and the game you can see he is a competitor who understands the game and quickly gets rid of the ball. The Bears also added a new offensive coordinator in Ron Turner who should be able to get Grossman going in the right direction. How quickly the players are able to absorb this offense is going to be important.
The Bears have always been about a good running back and a good defense, and in today's NFL that is not enough, and they realize that and added wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad. His addition gives them a big-play receiver.
The combination of Grossman and Muhammad has to do well for the Bears to have success. Those two guys are going to have a chance because the Bears have a good offensive line. They added Fred Miller at right tackle and moved John Tait to left tackle from right tackle, giving them two good tackles as well as Olin Kreutz, who I have always felt is one of the best centers in the league. So they have some things to work with, and like I said during the game, they have a chance because the division they are in doesn't have a dominant team.
On the other side of the field, the Miami Dolphins have the most dominant team of recent years (the New England Patriots) in their division, along with the New York Jets, who are a very good team, and the Buffalo Bills. That kind of competition is going to make it tougher on the Dolphins to make a big jump.
I believe Nick Saban and the Dolphins are on the right track, but it is going to take a while to rebuild that team. Quarterback A.J. Feeley started the game in Canton, but he was backed up by Gus Frerotte, a veteran player. Frerotte will start the Dolphins' second preseason game, and he has the advantage of having played for offensive coordinator Scott Linehan in Minnesota. That gives him a jump on the learning curve, and after talking to players and coaches, I have the feeling that they have the feeling if the season started right now, Frerotte would be the starter.
The Ricky Williams situation is "To Be Determined"! Everyone wants to know how he looks and what it means with him coming back. I think he has a lot to prove to himself and to his teammates. He needs to prove he is back, loves football and is committed to the team, and I don't think you are going to know the answer to that until after midseason because no matter what he does in the preseason he is going to be suspended for the first four games of the regular season, then he has to come back and prove that he can still play football. Meanwhile, the Dolphins' second overall pick, Ronnie Brown should be in camp, and I would imagine if you pick a guy second overall in the draft, you have plans to play him and I would think by the time Williams serves his suspension, the Dolphins would have Brown signed and he will establish himself as the team's running back.
I have heard a lot of talk that there are too many preseason games, I think it is an advantage for both of these teams because they have the opportunity to play five preseason games. I remember the time when there were six preseason games and then when we went from six to four we starting scrimmaging against other clubs. You have to remember that you have 90 guys in camp, and watching and evaluating a guy during practice when things are controlled and there is a coach out on the field telling a guy his every move it is different than in a game situation, where there is no control and the guy just has to play. You get to really see what a guy is and what he has. Nick Saban said, "Veteran players tend to look better in games than in practice, and younger players tend to look better in practice than they do in games." I agree with him.
I always get a thrill when we go back to the Hall of Fame and Canton, because it is the history of the NFL. It brings back good thoughts and memories because of the rich tradition that is the NFL.
Super Bowl-winning coach John Madden is an analyst for ABC's Monday Night Football.