Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chambers to Chargers

When rumors of Chris Chambers being on the trading block surfaced in the preseason Durden and I discussed possible destinations that might make sense.

There were a handful of teams that could have benefitted from acquiring Chambers (Vikings, Chiefs, etc…), but we settled on the Chargers being the logical choice for a plethora of reasons. So, while I’m surprised at when the deal went down, I’m not exactly shocked that it happened.

Despite statements from the organization saying otherwise, barring an extremely successful season by him and the Dolphins it was clear that this was going to be Chambers’ last season in Miami.

I’ve long been a Chambers apologist, expected big things from him, and was thrilled when they locked him up with a long term deal. Unfortunately, the truth is he wasn’t living up to his price tag and it was time for the Dolphins to cut him lose.

He’ll be 30 next year and Chambers has never put together a full season since being drafted in 2001. Even his best year (2005: 82 catches, 1118 yards, 11 TDs) was completely skewed by a ridiculous last 6 games (43 catches, 620 yards, 6 TDs). Aside from that he never surpassed 1000 yards despite being one of the most targeted receivers in the NFL.

In fairness to Chambers, everyone should be well aware of the difficulties he faced on lousy Dolphin teams. New head coaches, rotating coordinators and WR coaches, countless double teams, terrible supporting casts (James McKnight, Derrius Thompson, Dedric Ward, David Boston, to name a few), and one subpar QB after another brought in to over throw and under throw him several times a game. And while he’s had his fair share of inexcusable drops, he’s also made quite a few spectacular catches...he'll literally (and by literally I mean figuritively) jump out of the stadium and remarkably, ALWAYS comes down in bounds.

In the end, I think this is one of those rare trades that seems perfect for both teams. Chambers has the opportunity to take the Charger offense to a whole new level. Dolphin fans have always thought he’d make a superb number 2 receiver, which is essentially what he’ll be with Gates getting most of the attention. He gives Rivers another legitimate veteran option and should help to move the chains without having to completely burn out LDT by the time the postseason rolls around. And if the opposing team sleeps on him, he can still beat them deep, or even pull off a big run on an end around/reverse.

The addition of Chambers puts the Chargers offense a notch below the elites (New England, Indy) and right with the Cowboys. They’ve got the offensive line, and weapons all over the place. It’s up to the coaching staff to turn ‘em loose and it’s up to Rivers to execute – he’s obviously the key to it all. If that happens, and I think it will, we’ll have another serious contender in the AFC by seasons end.

Meanwhile, the 0-6 Dolphins were clearly going nowhere. They already drafted Chambers' replacement in the Ginn Family, but need to get younger and better (particularly on defense), so the draft pick makes sense. Chambers’ time had come and gone and his value wasn’t going to get any higher over the course of the season. At one point there were some pundits saying he’d be traded for a fourth rounder, or possibly released outright. So, to get back the 2nd rounder they used on him, 6 years after the fact, is not bad considering Chris Chambers was not going to be the guy to turn the team around over the last two+ seasons of his contract.

Now, they’ll get a good look at Ted Ginn and Derek Hagan, and they added another first day draft pick. It’s no secret that success in the NFL comes from nailing your draft picks and keeping them with you. Well, that and cheating. But since the NFL has cracked down on cheating, and Shula is no longer on the rules committee the Dolphins have to try the draft pick route.

Thanks to the Ricky Williams trade, as well as a few other poor decisions (Feeley, Culpepper, etc…), the Dolphins had been light on draft picks in recent history. So the demise shouldn’t come as a total shock. When you lose guys to free agency, retirement, suspension, injuries, and just plain get older without any upper echelon young talent to replace them, you’re going to struggle. This regime actually seems to get that, and is trying to build through the draft. All TEN draft picks made the roster and quite a few have shown some potential. You’d have to go back almost ten years for the last time the Dolphins even had that many picks, let alone all of them making the roster.

It’s way too early to know how long it will take to turn around the franchise but we should get a better idea by the end of the season just by taking a closer look at the recent draft picks. If Mueller and Cameron can prove to be solid talent evaluators then this thing could get turned around rather quickly.

The good: Vernon Carey has finally come around, Ronnie Brown has proven to the masses what I already knew, Channing Crowder should be a staple of the defense for years to come, Samson Satele has looked solid in his debut season. You know things aren't great when a punter is listed under “the good”, but Brandon Fields has a leg on him and looks like he should be pretty good. Of course, they let Donnie Jones go, who’s been nothing short of the best.

The bad: Jason Allen has been given his last chance and will be out the door if he doesn’t show anything at FS the rest of the way. Travis Daniels is in the same boat as Jason Allen, and it’s sinking fast. Matt Roth has shown his motor, but nothing else. If he can’t find ways to get to the QB with Jason Taylor opposite him, there’s reason for concern. Hopefully increased playing time will do wonders for Derek Hagan. Because so far all we know is he’s not that fast, his routes are iffy, and he has hands like feet, but other than that he’s great…

The ugly: Only one draft pick from the years prior to 2004 is still on the Dolphins roster (6th round pick in 2003, Yeremiah Bell, and he’s never made it through a season healthy).

The unknowns:
There are others, but the most important ones are…

John Beck – I feel good about Beck being successful, unfortunately if we get to see him at all this year it will be against the tough part of the Dolphins' schedule. It will be interesting to see how Cameron handles him.

The Ginn Family – The last couple weeks we saw why we were going to enjoy watching this kid return kicks. Now, if only we could eliminate the holding penalties so they don’t get called back. He’s also shown some big play potential in the passing game. I’m less down on him than I was prior to the draft (I wanted Willis, would have settled for Okoye), but he still has quite a bit to prove.

Rodrique Wright – I liked him in college and thought his shoulder injury was a blessing in disguise for the Dolphins. Hopefully, he turns out to be a 7th round steal. He’s shown some flashes, but has a ways to go.

Lorenzo Booker – Reports of his greatness during camp appear to be exaggerated as he hasn’t been awarded a chance to prove himself on Sundays despite the Dolphins’ struggles. Even so, the praise was coming from coaches, veterans, media, pretty much anyone that caught a glimpse. So, there might be something there. Best case scenario: Warrick Dunn

Glenn Dorsey – Whoops, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

So, for all the criticizing that's been handed down over the last few years to the Dolphins front office (and rightfully so), it appears they got this one right.

I'm a Chambers supporter and I hope he finds success in San Diego. In fact, I'll be sporting his Miami Jersey when i head to the Chargers/Ravens game next month. At the same time, this is a move the Dolphins had to make, so I applaud and respect that they actually pulled the trigger. Now, let's hope they grab the right guy in next years draft.

Yep, with 10 games to play in this season I'm already pondering next season's draft. Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2007 Miami Football Dolphins!

One for the road...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post, Mazzone. You're giving me hope for next year. Or at least next year's draft, which I didn't think was possible.

So long Chris Chambers, hopefully you actually get to see the playoffs.