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Defense Provides Dolphins With Best, Maybe Only Hope

Wednesday, September 8, 2004; Page H14

It all started when Ricky Williams decided to quit football a week before training camp. Then, wide receiver David Boston was lost for the season with a patella tendon injury. More recently, special teams ace Chris Akins, who signed as a free agent from the New England Patriots, tore his right anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments. Surgery will keep him out for the season as well.

"Every team has obstacles to overcome, and ours are a little different, and ours might be a little bit unusual, but nothing is going to change anybody's mind-set," Dolphins Coach Dave Wannstedt said.

"You don't hide from it. You don't kid yourself. You don't stick your head in the sand. You meet these problems and these issues head-on. As tough as it is, that is what this game is all about. You continue to work. You continue to be consistent. I don't think you waver."

Fortunately for the Dolphins, their defense remains mostly intact. Miami ranked fourth against the pass and third against the run in the AFC last season and sent four members of that unit to the Pro Bowl. And the Dolphins may need their defense to score in order to win games this season.

The most notable change was the loss of Adewale Ogunleye, who was traded to the Chicago Bears for wide receiver Marty Booker and a third-round draft choice. Ogunleye led the AFC with 15 sacks last season and had been holding out for a better deal before Miami dealt him.

The offense, even when Williams played, was not exactly prone to scoring outbursts. Throw in Boston's absence, and it's difficult at best to see from whom Miami will get consistent offensive production. Then there is the unstable quarterback situation.

"We've got a long way to go on this quarterback thing," Wannstedt said of the competition between A.J. Feeley and Jay Fiedler. "My timetable is the first snap against Tennessee [in the regular season opener], if you want to know the truth."

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