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sun-sentinel:Dolphins' offensive line questions won't go away


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Dolphins' offensive line questions won't go away

By Alex Marvez

Staff Writer

Posted November 18 2003

DAVIE -- Two weeks ago coach Dave Wannstedt said he stood by the decision not to sign veteran offensive line depth in the offseason because the Dolphins' younger players were a better option.

With three starters battling injuries, Wannstedt's choice could be put to the test in Sunday night's home game against Washington.

Left guard Jamie Nails (sprained ankle) and right guard Todd Perry (hyperextended elbow) were injured in the second half of last Sunday's 9-6 overtime victory over Baltimore, while center Tim Ruddy dressed but didn't play because of an inflamed quadriceps tendon.

Wannstedt said Monday that he would wait until Wednesday before announcing the medical status of Nails and Perry for the Redskins game. Trainer Kevin O'Neill said Perry was swollen and sore Monday, while an NFL source said it was too early to tell whether Nails would be available.

Wannstedt is optimistic that Ruddy can return, but O'Neill said irritation remained in the quadriceps, and the team will monitor how the injury responds in practice.

Seth McKinney is the top backup at guard and center and has just four starts since becoming the 2002 third-round draft choice.

But McKinney is a grizzled veteran compared to Billy Yates, an undrafted college free agent who would have to start if two of the first-team linemen can't.

The top reserve at both guards would be Greg Jerman, a second-year player who is also the backup tackle. The other backups are guards Brad Bedell and third-round pick Taylor Whitley.

Bedell had four starts with Cleveland in 2001 but is still learning the Dolphins' offense after being claimed off waivers last week from Washington. Whitley has been inactive for every game.

Wannstedt again offered support to his backup linemen Monday, but he admitted inexperience is a drawback.

"It's not going to be effort, toughness or quickness," Wannstedt said. "What's the tradeoff? It's experience. When you get multiple blitzes and things like that, that's where the older, veteran guy has a chance to obviously get an edge."

Wannstedt said a lack of veteran offensive line depth is a problem for most teams.

"I think in the NFL today there's not that growing period," Wannstedt said. "Almost every offensive line that we face has a young kid or two in there playing. I think that's just the way of the NFL nowadays, that your backups are not going to be five- or six-year veterans."

Other injuries

Wannstedt said he expected cornerback Patrick Surtain to start against Washington. Surtain left the Ravens game after aggravating a sprained ankle on the third play.

Tailback Ricky Williams had one-third of a nail on his big toe cut off at halftime against Baltimore after it was stepped on.

Williams finished the game with 105 yards on 36 carries in a performance that O'Neill said left the tailback "very sore."

Asked about Williams playing with a toenail injury, O'Neill said, "I don't think the toenail itself has an effect on how well you run or cut.

"But try ripping a little bit of your nail down into the live bed where it's bleeding, and you know how much that hurts."

Backup safety and core special-teams player Trent Gamble will undergo surgery Thursday to repair torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee.

Gamble was injured nine days ago against Tennessee and placed on injured reserve.

what's the hurry?

Wannstedt was able to joke about the large number of fans who had left Pro Player Stadium before Olindo Mare's winning field goal against Baltimore.

"They were that confident," Wannstedt said.

Free agents visit

The Dolphins will entertain center Ben Claxton, wide receiver Larry Foster and linebacker Bobby Howard today on free-agent visits.

Claxton was a fifth-round draft pick by Denver and was released in the preseason.

Sun-Sentinel.com editor Keven Lerner contributed to this report. Alex Marvez can be reached at amarvez@sun-sentinel.com.

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