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Chambers and Booker Aiming High

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Chambers and Booker Aiming High

Postby Dr. Duran Duran » Sat Aug 05, 2006 5:08 pm

DAVIE, Fla. -- With Gus Frerotte at quarterback for the Miami Dolphins a year ago, Chris Chambers and Marty Booker probably had no major complaints.

Chambers posted numbers that vaulted him into the elite class of NFL receivers, earning him a Pro Bowl nod and a selection as the Dolphins' most valuable player. And Booker finished with the league's fourth-best yards-per-catch average, among those with more than one grab per game.

Frerotte's gone now, with the talented Daunte Culpepper set to take his place in perhaps the most ballyhooed move made by the Dolphins in many years. So, even after big years in 2005, Chambers and Booker are hoping for even bigger accomplishments this season -- with their new quarterback leading the way.

"He wants to make every throw," Chambers said of Culpepper, the former Minnesota star who's now set to lead the Dolphins' offense. "If he misses a throw by I mean an inch, he points at himself, and when you have someone that does that it really speaks volumes of what kind of person he is and what kind of player he is."

As such, with someone like Culpepper -- who has a career passer rating (91.5) that's more than five points better than former Dolphins great Dan Marino and possesses one of the best completion percentages (64.4) in NFL history -- under center, it's no wonder that Chambers and Booker are eager for 2006.

"Those two guys complement each other very well, and I think the better both of them play, the better it's going to be for our team," Dolphins coach Nick Saban said earlier in training camp. "I think both guys did a good job last year. Chris had a fantastic year, probably his best year as a pro in terms of production at least, and certainly contribution to our team. I think Marty made as many big plays as he has ever made."

The numbers support those sentiments.

Chambers set career-highs with 82 catches and 1,118 yards, plus matched another career-best with 11 touchdown receptions. His catch numbers rose for the fifth consecutive year; the last player to increase his reception total in each of his first five NFL seasons was Mushin Muhammad from 1996-2000.

"I don't really feel the pressure," said Chambers, who turns 28 next Saturday when the Dolphins open their preseason schedule against Jacksonville. "I know it's my responsibility to go out here and be more of a leader and step my game up, even more to help the team win. I know I have guys around me that can make plays as well. So it's really no-pressure type deal for me."

Booker had only 39 catches, but made them count, matching a career-high with four catches for 40 or more yards during the season. All but nine of his receptions resulted in first downs, and his yards-per-catch average of 17.6 was 49 percent higher than his career average entering the 2005 campaign.

"I showed another dimension in my game," Booker said. "If I can build on that and do the intermediate stuff too, that's a big plus for me. I know (Culpepper) is going to spread the ball around and there are going to be opportunities."

Both have missed some time already in camp with minor health issues, although neither player, nor the team, believes they're serious. Chambers has a strained hamstring, something he said has bothered him sporadically for years, and Booker appeared to suffer some type of lower leg injury in practice Thursday, but was back on the field the next day.

Both were on the field for Saturday afternoon's practice, donning the red, no-contact, jerseys. But after an offseason filled with working alongside Culpepper, there's no cause for concern that the quarterback and receivers won't be in sync when the season opens in Pittsburgh Sept. 7.

"We're always here working with the quarterbacks throughout the whole offseason, so it's a good thing," Chambers said. "Who doesn't want to stay in Miami and work out and train?"
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