The Miami Dolphins certainly had a desire to get more athletic and explosive at the linebacker position this off-season. Last year’s starters, Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby, were serviceable, but lacked the ability to truly create impact plays.
While it occurred as a bit of a surprise, the team took the liberty of signing Oakland Raiders’ outside linebacker, Phillip Wheeler, and Baltimore Ravens’ inside linebacker, Dannell Ellerbe, to replace Burnett and Dansby at their respective positions.
Wheeler is clearly a more athletic and explosive player than the ten-year veteran, Kevin Burnett. But how much of an upgrade will Ellerbe be over the self-proclaimed future Hall of Fame linebacker, Karlos Dansby?
During his three-year tenure with Miami, the 6’4” 250lbs. linebacker was a serviceable starter in the middle of Miami’s defense. Dansby had his best season in 2012 for Miami posting a career-high 134 total tackles and defending nine passes.
That being said, Dansby totaled only one interception for the team over a three-year period. Compile that with a total of three forced fumbles and a mere six sacks, and we clearly have a bust.
Dansby was clearly smoking something strong if he seriously supported his theory of being the best linebacker in the game, especially after showing up to training camp in 2011 tipping the scales at 270 pounds.
Over his three-year tenure with the team, he had never lived up to the beefy – get it, he was over-weight…ha…ha..ha.. - five-year, $42.5 mill contract Miami dished out to the former Arizona Cardinal. When Miami asked Dansby to restructure his deal, he declined. Paving the way for the team to cut the linebacker and opt for a younger and more explosive option.
Shortly after the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl, the team understood their roster was about to be depleted having numerous key free agents and losing future Hall of Fame linebacker, Ray Lewis, to reitrement. But, the team desperately wanted to re-sign inside linebacker, Dannell Ellerbe.
That is until the team lost out on Ellerbe’s services to the Miami Dolphins.
Ellerbe agreed to terms with Miami on a five-year, $35 million contract on the opening day of free agency.
Ellerbe is known as one of Baltimore’s key contributors on defense during their Super Bowl run, but will Ellerbe be able to lead a defense?
Over his four seasons with Baltimore, the former Georgia Bulldog accumulated 182 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, 4 passes defensed, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble.
While Ellerbe has yet to play a complete sixteen game schedule, he filled in admirably for Lewis this past season while the future Hall of Famer was sidelined with a triceps injury.
Ellerbe played in 13 games, while starting seven of those accumulating 92 total tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 passes defensed and one forced fumble.
Hmm, Ellerbe had more sacks in thirteen games than Dansby did in sixteen? You got it. Hell, Ellerbe made more of an impact in those seven games he started than Dansby did in the sixteen contests he started.
Ellerbe also played like a man-child during the play-offs. The 6’1” 240lbs. linebacker tallied 32 total tackles, 2 passes defensed and a key interception sealing the game against Miami’s division rival, New England Patriots.
Ellerbe plays the position with a passion and tenacity that Dansby was clearly missing. He is an excellent blitzing linebacker and is a perfect fit in the middle of Miami’s 4-3 hybrid defense. With big Paul Soliai and Randy Starks in front of him, Ellerbe has the ability to roam the field and make plays.
Ellerbe will also be surrounded by two under-rated linebackers in Koa Misi and Phillip Wheeler. He will finally be the leader of the defense, unlike in Baltimore being forced to take a back-seat to Lewis.
Expect to see an impact player in the middle of Miami’s defense this upcoming season as Ellerbe takes over for the self-proclaimed future Hall of Fame linebacker, Karlos Dansby.
117 total tackles (87 solo), 6 sacks, 7 passes defensed, 3 forced fumbles and 3 interceptions.