Miami Dolphins at 50: Top 10 LBs

9 of 10

Mandatory Credit:

No. 2 – Nick Buoniconti

Nick Buoniconti played seven seasons with the Boston Patriots and put up some great numbers before coming to Miami. He made the Pro Bowl five times during his tenure in New England so when the Dolphins acquired him, they were getting an all-star linebacker.

Buoniconti joined the team in 1969 and despite a lackluster season from Miami, he made his sixth Pro Bowl.

Under the new Shula regime, Buoniconti thrived racking up about 250 tackles in the coach’s first two seasons at the helm. He earned his seventh appearance to the Pro Bowl in 1972.

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  • In 1973, he set an unofficial team record with 162 tackles. He earned his eighth and final Pro Bowl appearance that same season.

    However, Buoniconti should best be remembered for his clutch playoff performances, particularly in the 1972 postseason.

    In the 1972 AFC Championship game, Buoniconti picked off Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw and helped to limit running Franco Harris to 76 yards on the ground.

    In Super Bowl VII, Buoniconti picked off Billy Kilmer late in the second quarter while Washington was enjoying their first drive to cross midfield in the game. Buoniconti’s pick prevented Washington from tacking on any late first half points and helped Miami eek out their first Super Bowl championship, 14-7.

    The Dolphins would repeat in 1973 and while Buoniconti didn’t record an inteception, his “No Name Defense” smothered the opposition, particularly in the playoffs when the Dolphins surrendered an average of 11 points per game.

    The Dolphins would make the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year in 1974, but Buoniconti would miss all of the 1975 season.

    When he returned in 1976, Buoniconti started in only four outings and appeared in 11 contests as the Dolphins went 6-8.

    Buoniconti led the “No Name Defense” – indisputably the best defense in franchise history – by example. Without him there’s no telling what would have transpired.