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On a periodic basis between now and the 2005 NFL Draft, I
will take an in-depth look at the Dolphins. This week: Defensive Line.
Current State: Perhaps no other position was as badly decimated by injuries as was the
defensive tackle position. Starters Larry Chester and Tim Bowens were simply
non-factors. Chester was lost Week 2 with a season-ending knee injury. Bowens
never got out of the starting gate, entering training camp with a back injury
that never got better. He played in three games, starting only two, and netted
a grand total of two tackles before landing on Injured Reserve. Chester will be
back in 2005, the same may not be said for Bowens (health, salary). Reserve
Jeff Zgonina and newcomer Bryan Robinson (Bears) filled in admirably as
starters. Zgonina posted his best season ever, with career highs in tackles,
sacks, and passes defensed. Robinson had his best season ever in terms of
tackles made. Reserve Dario Romero improved considerably. Josh Shaw and Mario Monds, late
season pick-ups, were non-factors.
Strengths: When healthy, Bowens and Chester. They may just be the most dominant pair
of DTs in the game. Reserves Zgonina and Robinson allow the Dolphins the luxury
of a 3 to 4 man quality rotation that can wear on opposing interior linemen.
Weaknesses: Overall age and health of Bowens, Chester, and Zgonina. Questionable
presence of a truly dominant Nose Tackle should Nick Saban elect to go to a 3-4
Offseason Priority: Medium to High. Even if Saban stays with the current 4-3 defensive scheme,
the Dolphins are in real need of some fresh blood. In hindsight, Rick
Spielman’s decision to pass on drafting Vince Wilfork was simply stupid.
Current State: What a year for Jason Taylor, one of the most disruptive forces in the
league. While his numbers were not career-best, his dominant play and
disruptive potential frequently demanded double and triple teams as opposing
offensive coordinators were compelled to account for him. The team’s crowning
moment this year, the 29-28 win over the Patriots on Monday Night Football, was
a testament to his game-changing skills. His peers recognized him with a Pro
Bowl berth, the only Dolphin to be so honored this season. With the departure
of Adewale Ogunleye (traded to Bears), David Bowens was finally afforded an
opportunity to show off his skills. While Bowens’ numbers (26 tackles, 7 sacks)
were comparable to Ogunleye’s (29, 5.5), it is obvious that Ogunleye is a
superior run stopper. Reserve Jay Williams turned in an improved effort over
his disappointing 2003 campaign.
Strengths: Taylor. His ability to rush the passer, stop the run, and cover the hook
zones and flats makes him one of the most complete defenders in the NFL. Not
too bad for an “undersized” guy from Akron.
Weaknesses: Left Defensive End; overall ability to stop the run at the point of attack
and pressure the quarterback. No DEs on roster that can play in a 3-4 scheme
(lack of size).
Offseason Priority: High to Very High. If the Dolphins continue with the 4-3, an upgrade at
LDE is needed. If Saban changes over to a 3-4, Taylor could be moved to OLB
where he would become a current-day A.J. Duhe. In that event, the Dolphins would
need at least two big defensive ends in the 300lb range, one of which must be
able to pressure the quarterback.