Power Ranking the Greatest Defensive Linemen in Miami Dolphins History
Let's take a break from Miami Dolphins training camp to talk a little about their history.
I'm a big Miami Dolphins history buff. It's part of the inspiration for me becoming a Dolphins featured columnist on Bleacher Report, and the reason why I'm thinking about writing a Miami Dolphins book for their 50th anniversary (if given the opportunity).
One thing I've noticed about the Dolphins' history is if they have a good quarterback, they win their division, which was true with Bob Griese, Earl Morrall, Dan Marino and Chad Pennington.
However, when the Dolphins have a dominant defensive line that can stop the run and terrorize the quarterback, that's when they dominate.
When they have both, they go to Super Bowls. Over the years, they've had the dominant defensive line and the quarterback, but since the 1980s, it's never been at the same time.
This year could fit into their history, for the Dolphins look like they have a good quarterback and a dominant defensive line.
But before we go forward, let's go back and look at the five best defensive linemen in Miami Dolphins history.
To tell you the truth, this is probably one of the toughest Miami Dolphins lists to make, because there have been plenty of great defensive linemen in Miami's history.
Before we get to the list, let me lay down some guidelines as you enjoy the 38-second video of parenting done right.
This won't be strictly based off of statistics. Part of the reason for this is because players play a different number of years, thus skewing the numbers, and also because of the fact that the Dolphins have alternated between the 3-4 and 4-3 defense throughout their history.
Currently they run a 4-3, which was also used during the tenures of Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt and Nick Saban. Don Shula and Tony Sparano used the 3-4 while coaching the Dolphins.
The other reason why statistics won't be the ultimate decider of this list is because of the fact that one of the biggest statistics for defensive linemen, the sack, wasn't officially kept until 1982. In addition, Pro-Football-Reference.com (which is the source of the statistics used in this list) has spotty records when it comes to the number of tackles and forced fumbles for each of these players.
Along with statistics, team success will be taken into account, but like with stats, it won't be the ultimate decider.
5. Cameron Wake
Miami does have a deep defensive line this season, but only one of the players on the current line makes this list.
Cameron Wake gets the No. 5 spot despite the fact that he isn't even listed as a defensive end on Pro-Football-Reference.com, and in fact has only really played as a defensive end for one season. (He's always been a pass-rusher, but when Miami ran the 3-4 he was used primarily as an outside linebacker who occasionally would line up as an end.)
Wake is naturally a defensive end, and therefore I'm counting him as one. Last season showed us why defensive end was his natural position, as he accumulated 15 sacks, 38 tackles and three forced fumbles.
This season, he should have more sacks thanks to more support from the other side, even if they are half-sacks.
In just four years, Wake has amassed 43 sacks, which already ranks him fifth in Dolphins history. His next sack will move him past Doug Betters for fourth in franchise history (according to the records, anyway, for we're not sure how many sacks Betters really has since he was already in his fifth season when the NFL officially began to keep track of sacks as a statistic).
There is more to Cameron Wake's career that we have yet to see (he may be 31 years old, but it's a young 31 football-wise), but for now, he's the fifth-best defensive lineman in team history.
4. Doug Betters
One thing you will notice about this list is that none of these players is in the Hall of Fame.
I'm dead serious. The players on this list have combined for six All-Pro appearances, 19 Pro Bowl appearances and 240.5 sacks (and three of the five players played at times when sacks weren't kept as a statistic, with one playing his entire career without a sack counting), yet none of them are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It should be mentioned, however, that two of them are ineligible, seeing that one is still active and the other won't be eligible for enshrinement until 2017. But that the other three gentlemen are not in Canton yet is astonishing.
Doug Betters is one of these players who deserves enshrinement but is still waiting for the call. He was the 1983 Defensive Player of the Year and recorded 16 sacks on a defense that ranked first in points allowed.
Throughout his career, Betters was on a top-10 defense and went to two Super Bowls with Miami, finishing up his career in 1987 with 43.5 stats (post-1981) and six fumble recoveries in 146 games throughout 10 seasons.
3. Bill Stanfill
What's sad? The fact that there's not a lot of 1972 Miami Dolphins footage on YouTube, and even less of our No. 3 player on this list, Bill Stanfill.
In this video, he recovers a fumble at 1:52. It would be one of eight fumble recoveries in Stanfill's career, which also included two Super Bowl wins as a member of the No-Name Defense.
Stanfill would also make the Pro Bowl five times while being named to the 1972 All-Pro team. He is a member of the Miami Dolphins' Ring of Honor as well, being inducted in 2010 (even though the Dolphins were late in inducting him into their Ring of Honor, which itself is pretty sad).
2. Bob Baumhower
Type in Bob Baumhower on YouTube and you won't find many highlights (unlike his teammate Doug Betters, who had the profile by NBC Sports' Pete Axthelm on their pregame show in 1983), even though he's arguably the best nose tackle in Dolphins history.
(Instead, you find this video of Monday Night Football Superstars, an NFL variant on the popular late-'70s/early-'80s ABC program Superstars. I might have to watch and write about this one day, especially since it involves Lawrence Taylor in Miami during the offseason in 1982. There must be plenty of good stories about that.)
The problem with being a nose tackle, however, is that your job is to create the gaps that the linebackers must shoot through. This means you're not going to get very many sacks, tackles or forced fumbles.
But while playing, Baumhower was considered the anchor of the "Killer B's" defense of the early '80s. The defense was ranked first in the NFL in points allowed during the strike-shortened 1982 season and would typically finish in the top 10 in points allowed during Baumhower's career.
He would be rewarded with five trips to the Pro Bowl and a first-team All-Pro selection in 1983.
Baumhower has a Hall of Fame body of work, yet he isn't in Canton yet. While he played, however, he was respected by his teammates and opponents.
His career might not have him in Canton, but he's No. 2 on this list.
Here are some players I considered for the list before finishing on the top five.
Trace Armstrong: Armstrong is most famous for the above sack and strip of Doug Flutie in the 1998 AFC Wild Card playoff game against Buffalo, but in six seasons with the Dolphins, he recorded 56.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
His final season with Miami saw him record 16.5 sacks before leaving to sign with the Oakland Raiders. This, however, wouldn't be a problem for Miami, as he was replaced by our next man on the list.
Adewale Ogunleye: When Jason Taylor was Miami's top defensive end, he had a remarkable effect on the defensive end who played on the opposite side of him. In three years with the Dolphins, Ogunleye had 25 sacks, but in the seven seasons he played away from the Dolphins, he totaled 42. He's not really an honorable mention on this list; however, he does make a case for why our No. 1 player (spoiler alert) belongs in the Hall of Fame once he is eligible.
Manny Fernandez: It was tough to leave Manny Fernandez off of this list, and much like the rest of the list (including his teammate Bill Stanfill), it's a shame he's not in the Hall of Fame. Fernandez, however, is in my eyes Miami's second-best nose tackle of all time (behind Baumhower) and was one of the key cogs in the No-Name Defense.
Tim Bowens: The Dolphins have had a plethora of great nose tackles. Bowens actually started off as one, but when Jimmy Johnson came in in 1996, Bowens would find himself fitting in well as a 4-3 defensive tackle. He was named Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1994 and had two Pro Bowl selections in his 11 seasons in Miami.
Randy Starks: If he can contribute at least four more seasons after this one with the Dolphins, he's a shoe-in for this list in 10 years.
Dion Jordan: Obviously, Jordan is not really an honorable mention, as you have to actually play for the Dolphins to get on this list. However, since he was the third overall pick in the draft and Miami traded up to get him, it's reasonable to expect him to creep into this list. No pressure, rookie!
1. Jason Taylor
Did you really think it was going to be anybody else?
Keep in mind that my own experiences watching this team might have shaded how I ranked this, as did my age. I was born in 1983, the same season Doug Betters won the Defensive Player of The Year award, so other than Cameron Wake and Jason Taylor, I have absolutely no recollection of seeing the players on this list play.
With that said, Jason Taylor does have the Dolphins' all-time record for sacks with 131 (that's as a Dolphin; for his career he has 139.5). I'm not sure how much you can count on Wikipedia, but on Bill Stanfill's Wikipedia page, it says that he would be second in Dolphins history with 67.5.
Far and away, Taylor has the most sacks in Dolphins history. Of course, Taylor also played for 15 seasons, 13 of them in Miami, which is more than anyone else on this list.
In 2011, when Taylor retired, I made the case for him making the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One thing I pointed out was that Taylor finished his career sixth of all time in sacks in NFL history. Some of the players JT is ahead of: 2013 inductee Warren Sapp, as well as Richard Dent, John Randle and Rickey Jackson (all of whom are in the Hall of Fame).
He even has more sacks than Lawrence Taylor.
Jason Taylor making it into Canton when he is eligible is something that I feel strongly about, and my gut feeling is that he will get in, but they will make him sweat since he will be compared with more dominant contemporaries such as Michael Strahan and Warren Sapp, who always had more press around them (and can back up their numbers with Super Bowl wins, which Taylor lacks).
I can't control that, but I can say without a doubt that he is the best player to ever play a position where Miami has been strong.
Jason Taylor is the best defensive lineman in Miami Dolphins history.
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