Best Miami Dolphins linebackers since the year 2000
By Nick Belotto
The Miami Dolphins have had linebacker problems recently despite their long history of having strong defenses, anchored by quality linebacker play.
Looking towards the future, let’s look at the past and rank the top 9 linebackers of the 21st century.
The Miami Dolphins have had a long history of quality linebacker play as many names like Zach Thomas, Nick Buoniconti, Bryan Cox, and Kim Bokamper have cemented themselves as some of the greatest in team history. In the last 19 years, however, the linebacking positions have seemed like a revolving door as players have generally only lasted a few years with mixed results. Regardless, there have been some quality players to put on the Dolphins uniform in the last few years that are deserving of some recognition.
Going into the 2019 season gives us a great opportunity to look back and see which players would make a list of the top 9 linebackers of the 21st century. This article will only focus on the last 19 years to make things easier to measure. I also will be taking a different approach to the position articles than my colleagues. Since Miami has used various linebackers at different positions, I will be looking at the top 9 linebackers since 2000 rather than the top three at each individual linebacking position. I will not be including guys like Cameron Wake or Jason Taylor who, at certain points in their careers, lined up at outside linebackers. I will leave that to the defensive line guys. This will be totally subjective and I am excited to see who you would put on this list.
Without further ado, here are my top 9 Miami Dolphins players at linebacker over the last 19 years!
Philip Wheeler! Just kidding…and I apologize for making you all relive that disastrous year for a second…
Junior Seau is the complete opposite of Philip Wheeler and is my number 9 linebacker on this list. Seau’s time in Miami was, similarly to many on this list, short. That being said, his 2003 season was a good one, where he finished with 96 tackles and 3 sacks. His last two years in Miami were littered with injuries so his full impact wasn’t felt every single Sunday. That being said, and in a two-decade period of sub-par linebacker play, Seau is a solid choice to kick this ranking off.
My number 8 linebacker goes to a guy who played for a few seasons in Miami and never realized the potential of his first few years of play. That’s right, it’s none other than Jelani Jenkins. Jenkins had a great second year of his career in Miami. After coming in as a fourth-round pick in 2013, Jenkins was given a year to learn the ropes and started in 2014. During that season, Jenkins tallied 110 tackles and 3.5 sacks. The remainder of his career was an injury fest which caused him to be released by the Dolphins after 2016.
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At number 7, I am going with Derrick Rodgers. Rodgers played for the Dolphins from 1997 to 2002. Looking just at his 21st-century stats, Rodgers was good for 222 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. Yes, these stats don’t jump off the page in any way, but his tenure with the Dolphins was very, very solid. He had a good career with the Dolphins while on the team and is definitely deserving of the number 7 spot on my list.
Karlos Dansby was another linebacker in this century that only stuck around for a few years. His time with Miami was solid as he was able to rack up 332 tackles and 14 tackles for a loss. As a middle linebacker in his last season with the Dolphins, he was also able to add 9 passes defended which is a solid number for a linebacker in general. He never turned in a Pro Bowl season for Miami, but he got better every year that he played down here and was a quality contributor.
Koa Misi may be the definition of “he’s fine.” His play was never great and, similarly to Crowder, his numbers never jumped off the page, as he ended his career with 360 tackles, 12 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries. He never had a pro-bowl caliber season and he shouldn’t be remembered for his numbers. What matters for this list is his longevity, as he played for the Dolphins from 2010 to 2017. His career was cut short due to a number of different injuries that plagued him throughout his time.
There was definitely hype around Misi when he came out of the draft in 2010 and it’s easy to say that he never really lived up to his second-round selection. That being said, when he was on the field he was at least somewhat reliable, right?
Joey Porter’s time in Miami was short, only playing from 2007 to 2009 in a Dolphins uniform but his impact was felt while he was on the field. Porter struggled in his first year, only tallying 5.5 sacks. In 2008, he had a Pro-Bowl season, racking up 17.5 sacks. 2009 wasn’t as successful, as Porter ended with 9 sacks and a few controversial moments that resulted in his release in 2010.
Porter’s time in Miami was more or less a rollercoaster experience. He may not have been around the team for long, but his 2008 season is deserving of putting him in the top 9 since 2000, especially since that is one of the better seasons had by a Dolphins linebacker since the start of the 21st century (unless your name is Zach Thomas).
Channing Crowder was a solid member of Miami’s linebacker corp from 2005-2010. Playing in a variety of roles for the team, Crowder was never a “stud” linebacker. Yet he always played well for the time that he was on the field. His time as a Dolphin, and an NFL player for that was short lived as he retired early on in his career. He always played hard.
His numbers don’t jump off the page, as he racked up 469, 2.5 sacks, 3 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles over his career. His consistency, however, coupled with the fact that he is one of the longest-tenured linebackers in this period, puts him right at this number
Kiko Alonso is a name that many people might not agree with on this list. Part of me struggled with it too, but I thought that Alonso had a great season last year and was deserving of Pro-Bowl consideration. His first few years were a bit all over the place but he has, minimally, been a consistent starter on the team for the last few years and does seem to make plays when it is needed. Yes, he has had his share of bonehead plays over the years, but, like it or not, he has been consistent in a linebacking corp that has been underwhelming the last few years.
Number one is by far the most obvious selection: Zach Thomas. Thomas was a 7-time pro-bowler, a 5 time First Team All-Pro and a 2 time Second Team All-Pro. He anchored Miami’s linebacker crew for more than a decade and is, and always has been, a fan favorite. Racking up over 1,700 tackles over the course of his career, Thomas was always reliable and hard working. He was always around the ball, even if he wasn’t directly involved in making the tackle. Unfortunately, he gets overshadowed sometimes by some other linebackers that played during his era, but Thomas deserves the same pomp and circumstance as all of the others.
He is more than deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame as a player who left everything on the field and consistently played his best football when the team needed him to do so.