Feb 22, 2007
The Saints last year really caught the NFL and fantasy world by surprise. This was a team known for its underachievement, despite the presence of superior talent. Their emergence was hard to see given their recent history, and especially since they had a new and younger coach who was entering his first season as the head guy. Making matters even more complicated, they had a new QB coming off a serious shoulder injury. Yet, despite all this, they were one of the best teams in the NFL.
I think the 2006 Saints were indicative of the NFL we now follow; many times, conventional wisdoms – like the ones that call for lowering your expectations when injuries are involved and new systems are installed – is disproved. Planets can align quickly at times, so teams like the ’06 Saints will continue to surprise us.
So the question now is: which team or teams will be this year’s version of the 2006 Saints?
I think a case can be made for the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins were a sexy pick to make a big splash in 2006, but they fell on their faces, and are now severely under the radar. But there was a reason many were high on them, and those reasons are still prevalent. In many ways, they are mirror images of the ’06 Saints. They have a talented QB coming off an injury, a new first-time head coach who is an offensive guy, and a lot of talent on offense. For the record I liked the hiring of Cam Cameron, and I think he’s a guy who can quickly turn this team’s fortunes around on offense. As some readers may recall, I was skeptical on QB Daunte Culpepper all off-season last year and I felt he would have to be broken down and rebuilt coming off his injury and his ugly 2005 season. I did warm up to him late in August, since he and Miami’s offense was so sparkling, but my initial reaction was correct. My initial reaction this year is that, with a full off-season under Cameron’s tutelage, Culpepper can turn his career around. He’s shown in the past that he can be coached up, see his success in Minnesota under Scott Linehan, and he should be much better off health-wise another year removed from his devastating injury and almost a full year removed from his last game once the 2007 season starts.
Cameron is reunited with line coach Hudson Houck, who usually does a great job but whose line fell back in 2007. I expect them to make some upgrades, so the unit should be at least adequate. And although he hit a little bit of a wall mid-season and suffered an injury after that (and you should never blame an athlete for a bone break), I still maintain that RB Ronnie Brown showed a lot last year and basically did all he could do given the situation. The possible return of Ricky Williams can only help, and would give the Dolphins an excellent 1-2 punch at RB, just like the 2006 Saints. WR Chris Chambers may not be the perfect NFL receiver, but if utilized properly he can still be a deadly weapon, and Cameron’s offense, which features more downfield passing, sets up well for Chambers. Throw in the rock solid Marty Booker and TE Randy McMichael, still playing at a high level, and there’s definitely a recipe for surprising success right out of the gates for this offense.
I have noticed more than a few times the last few years that things I was ultimately wrong about in the summer I was on the right track with earlier in the year, like Culpepper last year. I’d like to avoid that this year, but sometimes the evidence in training camp and in the exhibition season is too strong not to change a stance on a player or situation.
But for the record, as of right now, I expect a lot of these Dolphins to go down as solid fantasy values in 2007, thanks to Cam Cameron.