Sunday, January 31, 2010

2009 Miami Dolphins Position Grades: Inside Linebacker

Inside linebacker was a very rough position for the Miami Dolphins in 2009, no matter the task, or who was playing.

Whether it was playing the run and tackling, rushing the passer, or covering backs and tight ends in coverage, the Dolphins' inside linebackers simply lacked talent and were over-matched against their opponents.

It's not going to be pretty, but here are my individual and overall grades for the Miami Dolphins' inside linebackers in 2009:

Channing Crowder: D+

Crowder has never been a big play-maker in the NFL, with just 1.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and zero interceptions in 48 games coming into the 2009 season.

Crowder had, however, always at least been a solid tackler in his career. In 2009, he wasn't even that.

Crowder started 13 games for the Dolphins before a foot injury forced him to miss the remainder of the season. He finished the season with a career-low 51 tackles27 fewer than when he started only 10 games in 2007.

Although he did record a sack and his first career interception—the latter due to pressure from Cameron Wake that forced a gift turnover by Tom Brady—Crowder was simply ineffective in every facet of the game.

Akin Ayodele: D

Ayodele led all Dolphins linebackers (actually, all Dolphins non-safeties) in tackles with 71, and forced one fumble on the season, but he was really quite awful in 2009.

Ayodele was almost entirely ineffective in both of the most vital tasks of his position—run stopping and coverage over the middle.

One of the most telling statistics from the season of a player often tasked with covering opposing tight ends is pass deflections. Ayodele had none all season.

Reggie Torbor: D-

Torbor was signed to a curious four-year, $14 million contract during the 2008 offseason, despite being limited to special teams and not having the talent or upside as a starting linebacker.

In addition to being pedestrian on special teams with just six tackles, Torbor was also an extremely ineffective replacement for Ayodele and Crowder. Though slightly better in coverage than those two, Torbor's tackling was horrendous at times and was a big reason the Dolphins' run defense slipped so much when it did.

J. D. Folsom: n/a

The Dolphins' seventh-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Folsom spent most of the season on the team's practice squad.

He had two stints on the active roster as a rookie, including the season finale, and recorded one tackle as a pure special teams player.

Overall Position Grade: D

No doubt, 2009 was an absolutely awful year for the Dolphins' inside linebackers, and served as a glaring indication that the position was a huge area of need for the team in the 2010 offseason.

Whether it's Arizona Cardinals' impending free agent Karlos Dansby, Alabama's Rolando McClain in the draft (how about both?), or someone else, the Dolphins need to do some serious help at inside linebacker.

How would you grade the Miami Dolphins inside linebackers in 2009? Share your thoughts on the forum here!