MIAMI, SEPT. 19 -- Do I, Jim "Crash" Jensen asked, really have to talk about two years ago?

If you don't mind, Jim, because two years ago the Miami Dolphins were stuck in a world where the wonders of Dan Marino were frequently repressed by the bedevilment of another wild loss. That's when the Dolphins were in the midst of losing 10 straight AFC East games and falling to middle-of-the-pack status.

"It wasn't much fun," said Jensen, Miami's special teams standout, Guy Friday and graybeard at 31. "There was a lot of doubt within the whole team and within each other."

But after Sunday's 30-7 rout of Buffalo, Miami is 2-0 and in the division lead for the first time since the end of the 1985 season. More important, Marino hasn't had to throw the ball 50 times or fire four or more touchdowns for the Dolphins to win.

Miami finds out just how good it is Sunday when the Dolphins travel to East Rutherford, N.J., to play the Giants. The two teams haven't played each other in the regular season since 1972 -- before the days of linebacker Lawrence Taylor.

"I saw films of them today," rookie tackle and first-round pick Richmond Webb said, "and he looked pretty awesome."

Miami, which finished 27th in rushing last year, is second (to the Bears), and second-year back Sammie Smith leads the NFL with 215 yards rushing, including 159 against New England in the season opener. And Troy Stradford, who missed the last nine weeks of last year with a knee injury after leading the team in rushing, is finally back.

"I'm very pleased, obviously, with what's happened the first two ballgames {and} the way that we won -- coming from behind in the first game, and a total, all-out effort last week," said Coach Don Shula, who last Sunday won his 200th game with the Dolphins. Only three other coaches -- Curly Lambeau, George Halas and Tom Landry -- have won 200 games with one team.

Shula has seen his share of fast starts go up in smoke. Last year Miami was 7-4 after 11 weeks, but lost four of its last five to finish at .500. It was the third year in four that the Dolphins had failed to post a winning record.

"It was no mystery," veteran guard Roy Foster said. "The defense dictated to us. We were out there and they just kind of knew what was coming. They knew it was going to be some sort of pass. It kind up put us in a bind. The defensive linemen would just put their ears back, stop our running game, and they'd have us."

Marino threw for 3,997, 4,434, 3,245 and 4,746 yards the last four seasons, but Miami has no playoff appearances to show for it and has won just two of its last seven December games.

This year has been different -- so far. Marino has thrown the ball only 60 times in the first two games; projected out over the full season, it would be his lowest number of attempts in a non-strike year since his rookie season in 1983.

Smith is running behind fullback Tony Paige and an offensive line dubbed "New Kids on the Block." Webb and second-round draft pick Keith Sims start on the offensive line. Jeff Uhlenhake, 24, has given Miami a suitable replacement for legendary Dwight Stephenson at center; 25-year-olds Harry Galbreath and Mark Dennis are at right guard and tackle, respectively.

"We're a bunch of young guys and we're still earning our stripes, so to speak," Dennis said. "When you have somebody like Dan, it's in your mind how important it is to protect the quarterback. But we're professionals and we're there to do a job."

The Dolphins also use a platoon system, so Foster and veteran Jeff Dellenbach also get a lot of playing time.

"There's a more conscious effort for the running game," Foster said, "because we really haven't had much of a running game around here in a few years. We've gotten that done so far. We've relied so much on Dan Marino's right arm to get us out of trouble all the time."

Defensively, the Dolphins are behind only the Giants and Atlanta against the run, allowing 126 yards in two games. Miami's inside linebackers -- four-time Pro Bowler John Offerdahl and Plan B free agent Cliff Odom, late of Indianapolis and one of 33 new faces on the roster in the last three years -- have led the attack. Defensive end Jeff Cross, who led the team in sacks last year, signed a two-year deal Tuesday after some acrimonious public negotiating in the option year of his contract.

"We've got some guys that have quite a bit of experience," Cross said. "We've got some young guys who are energetic. But we've only played two games and we need to gel more, get used to playing with each other."

They held Buffalo to 205 yards total offense Sunday, the fewest allowed in a non-strike year since November 1983.

In the secondary, the Dolphins have been bolstered by the acquistion of ex-49er Tim McKyer and the emergence of former DeMatha and Maryland standout J.B. Brown at the corners.

Four of the six Plan Bs who made the team were on defense, and rookie nose tackle Alfred Oglesby is also starting, in place of Brian Sochia, who was suspended by the league during training camp for steroid use and will be eligible to play after this week.

"Oglesby's done a good job," Shula said, and then we picked up {nose tackle} Shawn Lee {in a trade with Atlanta} and he's alternated with the other guys. . . . We've been alternating five guys in the three positions, and when Sochia comes back it'll be that much better."

The last word, Crash?

"It's still early," Jensen said, "but we all feel pretty confident and pretty positive about the direction we're going. It can change in a hurry but we'll still be 2-0 in the AFC East. That's pretty important to us."