While you sit here and read this, know that I am sitting in a hospital educational center getting oriented to my new job duties. Yes, I officially start working again this morning. While I am now back in the business of saving lives, I realize that my duties to all of you are no less important and the fact that my new job (first time in 6 years after being a stay home dad) is exciting, the thought of a Miami Dolphins training camp has it beat by a mile. So with 13 days to go until the Phins begin to punish their minds and bodies, here is the look at the LB’s that will make up the core of our defense this season.
The Dolphins brought back Jason Taylor on a one year deal, what does that say about DE’s Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford, or newly signed LB Cameron Wake? How about Matt Roth? It says little aside from the fact that the Phins know they need to put pressure on opposing QB’s and Jason Taylor can serve as a leader on defense and a tutor to the younger guys like Pennington did to the offense last year.
Linebackers: 13 LB’s are on the Phins roster heading into training camp
Joey Porter: Last years team leader in sacks wore down towards the end of the season. Porter is expected to be healthy and with the addition of Taylor, he should find some more favorable match-ups against opposing offenses. While he will not likely reach the 17 plateau again this year, the pressure he should be able to put on will go a long way in allowing someone else to make the hit.
Cameron Wake: Wake was signed after beating up QB’s in the CFL, he is a monster hitter but has no proven assets at the NFL level. Wake has been the subject of some rumors surrounding his ability to make this years squad, but they were nothing more than rumors that were started by taking out of context someones comments. Wake is a beast and if he can step into the roll of back-up early this season, then he will have time to learn and adjust making the investment much more lucrative in the long term. Wake however is not guaranteed anything and if he can not perform when pads go on, then his future with the team will be in question from the start.
Jason Taylor: Taylor is that hybrid DE/OLB that the Phins find themselves stacked with. The question is can Taylor regain his play ability of 3 years ago when he won league defensive MVP? Taylor spent his only season with Washington playing an on again off again game with the injury bug. The Dolphins for now will not commit to using him all 3 downs and that could keep Taylor fresh the entire season for when he is needed the most.
Matt Roth: Roth has more than a contract year ahead of him. He has emerged as one of the teams more vocal locker-room leaders. His teammates love his attitude and energy but on the field, Roth needs to become much more consistent. He has yet to take the next step and the Dolphins will not wait for him to develop and being a leader is not enough to earn him a new contract. Roth will have plenty of competition and will have to make the most of every opportunity he is given. He is not on the bubble of making the roster but his progress on the field will determine his future after the season is over.
Charlie Anderson: Anderson began to come on strong at seasons end last year and played well in spot duties all season long. Anderson is also a valuable tackler on special teams and will again be asked to pull double duty as is the case with most Bill Parcells/Jeff Ireland teams. Anderson can play both inside and outside and with the outside stacked the way it is this year, he will likely see most of his time working next to Channing Crowder in the middle. Anderson is in no real danger of being cut unless he has a poor TC while a younger guy has a solid one.
Reggie Torbor: Signed last year as a free agent out of the NY Giant roster, Torbor competed for a starting job in Miami but couldn’t take it away from Matt Roth or the other OLB’s. He will have to compete again this year and the Dolphins are expecting more from him. Torbor has the ability to be an every down player but like Matt Roth, can’t seem to play consistent. If he can’t change that, he will spend his NFL career backing up someone else. Torbor has value on ST’s as well which makes having him on the roster for depth is important. It should be remembered though that the Phins brass only bring in guys who can play ST’s…so it’s not a roster lock.
Akin Ayodele: The throw in piece to last years robbery of Anthony Fasano for a 4th round pick turned out to be just what Channing Crowder needed to help him on the inside. Ayodele is not a premier LB in the league but he is solid and is more consistent that many other players on the roster…and at times that includes Crowder. Ayodele had 2 INT’s last season and 74 tackles in 16 games. He started 13. The Dolphins didn’t draft a blue-chip inside LB that many draftnicks thought would happen. Is that a testiment to Ayodele or a lack of availability vs. other needs? Ayodele can go a long way in easing the minds of the upper execs with another solid season.
Channing Crowder: Crowder was all set to leave Miami for the free agent market until a last hour deal came onto the table. Crowders’ contract will give him another few years to become the type of LB that Bill Parcells likes. Truth be told, Crowder will never be that player. He doesn’t have the make-up. He will however use his drive and desire to become one of those MLB’s that operate next to a BIll Parcells type LB. In that situation he could become an all-pro. For now Crowder will call the shots from the inside and work on becoming more consistent…something that seems to plague most of the Dolphins.
Crowder has good speed and can read plays well but he lacks that closing instinct to suffocate a ball carrier at the line of scrimmage often finding himsel making tackles downfield instead of in the backfield. Crowder needs to work on his upfield pass rushing as well, often times he finds himself stuck in the middle or dropped to the ground rather quickly by a larger lineman. He needs to use his speed burst to get through the gaps and around the blocking RB’s. He has the tools, now it’s time to put them to work.
Quentin Moses: Moses is a storied player in a short amount of time. Drafted by the Raiders in round 3, he was cut and signed by the Cardinals only to be cut again. The Phins signed him mid-season and now the team is about done with waiting. Moses hasn’t shown much in his 2 seasons with Miami and unless he can show something this TC, he will be cut for a 3rd time in as many years.
Erik Walden: Walden is another DE/OLB hybrid that the Phins staff is looking at. A starter since his freshman year in college, Walden was taken by the Dallas Cowboys in 2008 with the pick that Miami gave them for Jason Ferguson. The Cowboys cut him and Miami signed him. Walden has a lot of potential but he also faces a large group of competitors that are also trying to earn a roster spot. Waldens youth serves him on both sides of that fence. The Phins could keep him on the roster and allow him to develop or simply say good-bye for another youngster. Walden needs to have a solid TC that shows improvement every day of camp if he wants to stay on board.
Tearrius George: George has been on the rosters of 4 NFL teams including Miami and one CFL team, the Calgary Stampede. Only in the CFL did he make the roster. George is trying to make the roste yet again for an NFL squad threw training camp. George has been active for all of 3 NFL games and has not played.
George has stiff competition on a unit that is loaded with promising talent and faces challenges from guys like Walden and Moses to name two. George may not make it through another NFL camp, but he has good fundamentals and decent speed. The Dolphins will give him a shot to make the roster but it begins and ends with George himself.
William Kershaw: Kershaw is making his rounds around the NFL. He has been signed by Philly, KC, NO, Denver, Houston, and of course Miami. Through those trips around the league he has been cut and re-signed by the same team more than once. Kershaw finally landed in Miami and was activated from the PS in December of last year. He won’t have the PS to head to this season and with the tight competition at the LB position will likely be searching for another team…which is ashame…he grew up about 10 miles from where I am at right now.
J.D. Folsom: Folsom comes to Miami as their first 7th round selection in this past April’s draft. Folsom started at the small school of Weber State in Utah for only 6 games as a senior. He had transferred from a junior college two years earlier. Folsom has a long way to go to make the Dolphins roster and that includes making the practice squad. Folsom has an enormous uphill climb to make an impact and with the talent in front of him, he could be the first Dolphins draft pick cut this training camp.
Predictions on the LB’s: Last season the Dolphins had 9 LB’s on their roster going into the season. Matt Roth was listed as a DE and with Vonnie Holiday no longer on the roster, the Dolphins may end up listing one of their hybrids to the DE list as well.
If the Phins keep 9 LB’s this season as well, Channing Crowder, Joey Porter, Akin Ayodele, Jason Taylor, and Matt Roth are all locks to make the roster. That would leave 4 roster spots left to be filled by the remaining 8 LB’s. It’s a safe bet that Folsom and George get released as well as William Kershaw. That would leave Cameron Wake, Reggie Torbor, Charlie Anderson, Quentin Moses, and Erik Walden competing for the last 4 positions.
I will go off the assumption that the Phins keep 9. I believe that Wake, Torbor, and Anderson make the roster and Moses gets cut. I think that Walden will win the battle between those mentioned above being cut.