Thursday, July 31, 2008

Game slows down for speedy Dolphins receiver Ginn


July 30, 2008

DAVIE — Somewhere between the Nos. 1 and 9 on wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr.'s jersey is the bull's-eye.

It comes with the first-round draft pick money. It's what you get when you essentially disappear in your first season on a 1-15 team. It's what you live with during an all-too-long off-season when the man who picked you No. 9 overall is fired for a series of bad decisions.

It's makes you the target of criticism. And it gleams fluorescent aqua and orange when the new man in charge, Bill Parcells, and coach Tony Sparano revamp the roster, tossing dead weight and adding their type of players.

The only thing that will make it go away, Ginn knows, is taking every shot squarely in the chest and responding with the productive season he feels he can have.

"You have to come in and prove to everybody - not just your head coach, the whole coaching staff - that you want to be that guy," Ginn said. "You have to show them how you learn. You have to show them how your run. You have to show them everything that you bring to the table."

Ginn started off his rookie season slow, but by the end, had caught 34 passes for 420 yards and two touchdowns. More than that, as Sparano reviewed endless hours of tape, he saw how Ginn improved throughout the season, culminating in a seven-catch, 53-yard performance, when he caught his second touchdown against Cincinnati.

"He wasn't even the same player," Sparano said.

Former Dolphins coach Cam Cameron coveted Ginn's speed and quickness. But Ginn was mostly a kick returner still learning how to be a receiver in college.

The NFL didn't make his transition any easier. He struggled to run routes and showed that burst of speed only after the catch.

If anyone questioned Ginn's ability, he certainly did not.

He has become the star pupil of receivers coach Karl Dorrell, a former receiver himself at UCLA who has seen Ginn begin to tap into his talents.

Dorrell said since the first voluntary practice of the spring, Ginn has grown tremendously, running better routes, showing more quickness during his routes and making cuts that gets defensive backs on their heels.

"And that's usually the hardest thing to improve because he's moving so fast," Dorrell said. "But he's one of those guys that has really good balance."

Even after those long practices, Ginn took home film of himself and watched for flaws in his technique that were keeping him from exploiting his speed. And so the Dolphins are starting to see, even in their own first-team defense, the problems that Ginn can create. He is starting to spread the field and forcing defensive backs to give him room.

"Teddy is starting to play really fast and he's putting pressure on the defense, and I really like that," Sparano said. "You can see it. It's jumping off the film how fast he's playing."

Former Dolphins great Nat Moore, a favorite target of a young Dan Marino and Hall of Famer Bob Griese, has watched Ginn and sees the steady improvement. When he looks at Ginn, Moore is reminded of a young Mark Duper, in velocity if not in build. And he reminds anyone who will listen that Duper was playing with "a marquee quarterback."

Given enough time, Moore said, Ginn will tap into that elusive resource: "That speed. He's a speed guy who can be a game-breaker."

Already, Miami's quarterbacks are finding him more often in practice and that, Sparano said, is a sign Ginn is inching closer to fulfilling his promise. "All of a sudden, the ball's finding him," Sparano said. "That tells me the game's slowing down a little for Ted."

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