Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dolphins Sign Center Al Johnson

The Bill Parcells connection continues in Miami as the team has added another player from Tuna's tenure in Dallas. With an open roster spot due to receiver Greg Camarillo's injury, the Dolphins added former Cowboys center Al Johnson on Saturday, Nov. 29.

Background

A second-team All-Big Ten selection as a senior at Wisconsin in 2002, Johnson was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round (38th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft. After working with the first-team offense during training camp, a knee injury landed Johnson injured reserve on Aug. 23, forcing him to miss his entire rookie season.

Johnson beat out Tyson Walter for the Cowboys' starting center job in 2004 and went on to start all but one game for Dallas during the regular season. The following season, Johnson started all 16 games for the Cowboys but split time throughout the year with Andre Gurode.

Gurode overtook Johnson for the starting center job in 2006 as Johnson started none of the 16 games in which he played. Johnson became an unrestricted free agent following the season.

On March 6, 2007, Johnson signed a four-year, $17 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals. A knee injury bothered Johnson early in the season, but he went on to start 14 games for Arizona in 2007.

A knee injury nagged Johnson throughout training camp and the preseason in 2008 and the team eventually placed him on season-ending injured reserve on Sept. 6. He was released with an injury settlement on Oct. 21.

Johnson worked out for the Dolphins on Nov. 28 and was signed the following day to replace wide receiver Greg Camarillo, who was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week.

Analysis

While myself and many in the Dolphins media expected practice squad receiver Anthony Armstrong to fill Camarillo's roster spot, it makes sense the team went another direction.

Miami only dresses four receivers on game days (Ernest Wilford has been the odd man out lately), so promoting Armstrong wouldn't have much impact against St. Louis because he's just be the fifth receiver and wouldn't dress anyway.

As for Johnson, he's a good signing who has plenty of experience and ability. Johnson's a solid blocker but doesn't possess great strength and certainly isn't a mauler. He also has some injury concerns, as his career has been littered with knee problems every season.

There is some uncertainty to the reason behind Johnson's signing. One line of thinking says he's just a backup for Samson Satele, as Andy Alleman has been seeing a lot of time at right guard of late.

However, there's another school of thought that believes Johnson is being brought in to push Satele for the starting job. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that the move comes on the heels of a game in which Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork spent four quarters dominating Satele.

Which side do I fall on? Right now I'd say the former. While it's impossible to know Bill Parcells' motives and Johnson certainly has the experience and ability to push for a starting center job, I'm a big fan of Satele and feel he has a ton of upside. Struggling with quite possibly the best nose tackle in football in Wilfork does not mean Satele can't been a good center in this league.