Wednesday, January 27, 2010

2009 Miami Dolphins Position Grades: Outside Linebacker

The Miami Dolphins ranked third in the NFL with 44 sacks in 2009, but not all was well as the Dolphins' pass-rushing position of outside linebacker.

The team experienced headaches with the boisterous Joey Porter and the banged-up, now-departed Matt Roth.

Porter's play was also a problem on the field, as was the lack of depth at the position.

It's safe to say many changes are coming for the Dolphins at outside linebacker, but for now, here are my individual and overall grades for the Miami Dolphins' outside linebackers in 2009:

Jason Taylor: A

I didn't really know what to expect from Taylor in his Miami reunion in 2009. After all, he'd been plagued with injuries for the first time as a Redskin in 2008, and at age 35 was making the switch to 3-4 outside linebacker full-time.

Taylor's talent, dedication, and intelligence trumped any age or scheme concerns, however, as he was by far the Dolphins' most efficient outside linebacker.

Not only did he lead the position in Miami, but Taylor was also one of the best all-around 3-4 outside linebackers in the NFL as both a good pass-rusher and run-stopper.

Although he recorded just a decent amount of sacks with seven, Taylor also forced three fumbles, intercepted a pass while ranking fourth in the league at his position against the run.

With Joey Porter likely on the way out and little proven, young talent at the position, the Dolphin would be wise to work out a contract with Taylor in 2010 similar to the one he played on last season.

Cameron Wake: B

A sack machine in two seasons in the CFL, Wake's snaps were limited during his rookie season with the Dolphins due to inexperience, questionable skills against the run and in coverage, and apparently Joey Porter's unwillingness to come off the field at times.

Despite his limited playing time, Wake was an extremely efficient pass rusher with 5.5 sacks and 20 quarterback pressures in just 167 snaps. The NFL sacks leaders, with roughly three times as many sacks, played about eight to 10 times as many snaps as Wake.

Wake was also dominant at times, forcing a game-sealing interception against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, and racking up an astounding nine quarterback pressures in just 33 snaps against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Joey Porter: C

After playing like a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in 2008, Porter's play steeply declined in 2009.

He may have led the team with nine sacks, but Porter was absolutely horrible against the run and was actually a pretty poor pass rusher outside of those few instances he did bring the quarterback down.

Porter was also a headache on and off the field, clashing with the coaching staff, earning a suspension for one game, and reportedly refusing to come off the field during others.

Given his poor production in 2009, there is now little reason to put up with the headaches his mouth bring.

Charlie Anderson: D+

Signed as a situational pass-rusher in 2008, Anderson saw his snaps cut by more than half in 2009, in large part due to the arrival of Cameron Wake.

Anderson did have a few good moments, in particular during his start for a suspended Joey Porter against the Buccaneers, where he recorded six tackles, two sacks, and two forced fumbles.

That was by far Anderson's biggest game in 2009, and for the most part he was a non-factor on the Dolphins' defense.

Quentin Moses: n/a

A highly productive college player at Georgia with a largely disappointing pro career thus far, Moses served as the team's fifth outside linebacker and a special teams player for most of the season.

In 10 games, Moses recorded six tackles and one sack, seeing only 43 snaps on defense. Given his lack of impact, Moses is sure to have his hands full just making the team in 2010.

Erik Walden: n/a

Walden was limited solely to special teams as Miami's sixth outside linebacker in 2009, recording eight tackles. With no defensive production to evaluate and mediocre impact on special teams, he simply doesn't qualify for a grade.

Overall Position Grade: C+

Jason Taylor was simply outstanding for the Dolphins in all facets, and Cameron Wake was a great situational pass-rusher, but that's about where the positives end.

Joey Porter's play and behavior were problems all season, while Anderson, Moses and Wake had little or no real impact on the Dolphins' defense.

How would you grade the Miami Dolphins' outside linebackers? Share your thoughts on the forum here!