The Dolphins do have a new coach who is more offensively minded than Saban. But, we still don't know for sure who'll be lining up under center. One difference this year is that Chambers will be lining up in the X position instead of the Z which should help his numbers.
Posted on Tue, May. 29, 2007
Dolphins' Chambers ready for fresh start
Chris Chambers, coming off a tough 2006 season, seems to be embracing Cam Cameron's offense.
BY MICHAEL WALLACE
Wide receiver Chris Chambers wishes he knew what went wrong last season.
Chambers would like to identify just what led to the drop-off in production that had this former Pro Bowl selection believing the prime of his career was slipping through his hands like a dropped pass.
He just can't put a finger on one thing. Chambers -- like many of his teammates who struggled in the offense under the previous coaching regime -- doesn't know exactly where to start. What is clear is that Chambers' 2006 struggles were a microcosm of the team's overall problems.
''There were so many things -- you just can't pinpoint one or two,'' Chambers said after a weekend workout at the Dolphins' practice facility. ``But there was no chemistry. Nothing really ever connected. I've had a pretty good career until this point. I know I'm not coming off my best season. But with some of these changes, I'm going to be able to get back to doing what I normally do.''
Among the changes this offseason have been a switch from defensive-minded coach Nick Saban to Cam Cameron, considered an offensive guru. For Chambers, it also has meant spending the past month adjusting to a new role at receiver. In football jargon, Chambers has moved from the Z to X position. Why? It's a subtle change that could have substantial results.
Loosely translated, Chambers would line up primarily on the less-crowded side of some formations, leaving him more space to exploit mismatches.
Cameron said Chambers seems to have embraced the change through the initial stages of offseason workouts. Chambers can grow more acclimated to the role when the team's next minicamp opens June 8.
''He's progressing,'' said Cameron, who has moved at least four starters to new positions. ``It sounds crazy -- a Pro Bowl player, a veteran guy, progressing. But that's what it's all about. The minute you quit getting better in this business, you're on the way out. He's still getting better.''
The hope is that Chambers will rekindle his Pro Bowl production from 2005, when he had 82 catches, 1,118 yards and 11 touchdowns. But those numbers dipped to just 59 catches for a career-low 677 yards and four touchdowns last season. Chambers' franchise record of five consecutive seasons as the leader in receiving yards ended.
He said several factors led to the disappointing results. Chief among them, Chambers said, was a lack of continuity in the offense and trust. Chemistry was a challenge because four quarterbacks have started over the past 17 games. And trust grew shaky with a coach whose expertise was in directing the other side of the ball. The lack of cohesion was never more apparent than during last season's Oct. 22 loss to Green Bay, when Joey Harrington attempted 62 passes and Chambers had just two catches for 29 yards.
With Daunte Culpepper's future in doubt as the Dolphins pursue Kansas City's Trent Green, the quarterback situation appears as unstable as it was last season. But the trust factor has been resolved, Chambers said.
Chambers takes comfort in this fact: When Cameron was the coordinator in San Diego, his offense was just as prolific when it was run by Philip Rivers last season as it was when Drew Brees ran it in 2005.
The Chargers led the NFL in scoring (30.8) and were fourth in total yards last season. The Dolphins were 29th in scoring (16.2) and 29th in total yards.
''I'm working for a guy who's used to his offense scoring, who's used to having the most productive system in the league,'' Chambers said. ``In the past, you got away with doing some things wrong and no one says anything, oftentimes. Now, you have guys nitpicking everything. You get knowledge every day. If you get just this much better, you can be great.''
Chambers describes his new role in the offense as ''freedom.'' His goals are to finish with close to 80 catches and 10 touchdowns and help the team break its six-year playoff drought.
''It gives me an opportunity to play fast and be explosive, and that's what I've always wanted,'' he said.
Az-Zahir Hakim, a veteran receiver who spent last season in San Diego, followed Cameron to Miami and signed as a free agent in March. Hakim said the offense is ''perimeter-friendly'' and should be a perfect match for Chambers' versatility.
''I see a guy who shows up every day excited to see what's going to be on the table next,'' Hakim said of Chambers. ``I don't know where things stood with [Miami's] offense last year. But this offense speaks for itself. . . . If you accept it, it'll get the best out of you.''