Joey Porter was as disappointed with his play last year as the fans were, and Porter has gone to great lengths to change things in Miami.
Porter often goes by the less-than-fearsome nickname of "J-Peezy." He calls his shoulder pads “big-boy pads”, and entertains much conversation, but no proof, unless they’re delivered while wearing them.
He is known for two facets of his game.
One, that he’s an All-Pro linebacker that plays fast and can break games wide open with the big play. He is a sure tackler that can sack the quarterback, stop the rush, and run with most tight ends.
Two, he’s one of the loudest mouths in the history of the league. For better or worse.
During his pre-Super Bowl feud with Seahawks' tight end Jeremy Stevens, Porter asked a reporter which player he would rather have on his side in a dark alley, Porter or Stevens.
When the reporter didn’t respond fast enough for Porter’s liking he answered for him, “You're lying.” Porter said, “You're taking too long. You don't want to tell the truth.... Y'all both will get mugged."
Porter probably wasn't aware that the reporter was likely scared of him. Neither wanting him as an assailant or companion in a dark alley. He just didn't want to be in a dark alley with Joey Porter under any circumstances. I can't find fault there. After all, Porter is the type of guy who gets shot on the way to his wedding (true story).
Stevens scored a touchdown on one of his three catches that Super Bowl, and he accounted for the only touchdown the Seahawks scored. Stevens' catches only amounted to 25 yards.
That’s the thing about barking: Their needs to be a bite to follow. Otherwise, who fears the dog? A Pomeranian may bark up a storm, but are you going to take heed of its warnings? I think not.
In Joey’s defense, Stevens was a non-factor for the majority of the game, and playing on a Steelers' defense that allowed only 10 points certainly puts Porter on top of the feud. Joey's bite was backed up with solid play. Pitbull play. His reward was a Super Bowl victory and a place on ESPN magazine's cover as "The Most Feared Man In the NFL."
For the majority of his career, Joey has been on the winning side. “Often” ended for him last year.
Porter was the marquee addition for Miami in the 2007 offseason. The 2006 Dolphins fielded the fourth-ranked defense and boasted two Pro Bowlers in Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor. Taylor went on to win Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Fans were naturally excited to have the fiery Porter. Images of the bookend pass-rush combo of Porter and Taylor led to speculations of a return to playoff form. Add in new head coach Cam Cameron’s offensive pedigree, and many believed the team to be again on the cusp of a championship run.
Problem: then GM Randy Mueller slashed the budget. Stalwart defensive linemen like Kevin Carter, David Bowens, and Jeff Zgonina were all left unsigned. Randy looked to bolster the offense in the draft, drafting offensive players with his first four picks.
Once the season was upon the team, injuries began to slowly whittle away the remainders.
Starting strong-safety Yeremiah Bell was lost for the season in game one. Vonnie Holliday fought foot and knee injuries for the entire season and missed several games.
Then the post-Zach Thomas era began. Thomas was plagued with concussions and freak accidents (a car accident after the home game against the Patriots aggravated his injuries).
The list is too long to name. Warm bodies became a must. Guys out of the league for the last couple years were starting in the Dolphins secondary.
Even Jason Taylor seemed to come up short. Overmatched and double-teamed, the normally indomitable Taylor had to scrounge all year to get to double-digit sacks.
Porter, though...he was the sore thumb. His five-year, $32 million signing with ample bonuses and guaranteed money made him a very easy target to point at. When he had to get his knee scoped before the season started, things began to rankle.
Porter had to be worked in slowly after the surgery. He couldn’t run very quickly, and due to injuries, the team moved him to play end in a 4-3, effectively taking Porter’s greatest asset away from him: the ability to play in space.
Porter was rarely seen making tackles. He certainly wasn’t getting sacks and no game-changing interceptions were witnessed. As the losses piled up, and fingers began to get pointed, Porter and his contract were riding high on the list of the blamed.
Part of it was that most fans were caught unaware. No Zach Thomas. No depth on the defensive line. The bedrock of the team over the last decade, good run defense, was nowhere to be seen. Porter was just one of the letdowns in a season full of them. Naturally, his recent signing served to amplify any ill feelings.
When Porter made a guarantee of victory before the Week Four game against the Raiders, the stage was set. The Raiders blew holes through the Dolphins' defense and racked up 299 rushing yards. In the eyes of many fans, J-Peezy was left holding the check.
Porter himself understands the feelings. "Fans have some say. To point their fingers, I understand, they say, 'We brought this guy in here and he's not taking over games like we thought he was going to do.' But last year is last year. I'm so happy to put that behind me. I think this year is going to bring a lot better things for us."
The fact is that Joey Porter is a good football player. After his knee healed, he adjusted to his new role. He played defensive end in college, and he began to make plays for a team that desperately needed them.
There was many a game where I watched only Porter during the fourth quarter. The game often long over, Porter still barked at his lounging teammates and lined up every down like he could change the course of the entire game.
Porter finished the season with respectable numbers, and his best plays came when most needed. He dominated his old team, Pittsburgh, during the legendarily sloppy Monday Night Football game. His open-field tackle for loss of RB Willis McGahee late in the Ravens game helped (along with Jason Taylor’s field-goal block) the Dolphins avoid eternal infamy as the only defeated, 0-16 team.
Now Porter is back to playing outside linebacker in a true 3-4 defense. According to new defensive coordinator, Paul Pasqualoni, Porter has brought his 6’3” frame up to 260 lbs; adding 10-lbs of muscle while developing better speed.
J-Peezy is now playing on a Dolphins team that has 47 new faces out of a total of 53. So he isn’t the only pushing to a return to form. The potential for a Porter/Taylor combo still exists. That is if old No. 99 can buy into the team and return to practice.
The bottom line is that in Porter, the Dolphins will have a chance to still get what they paid for. Personally, I think they will. The scheme and the training will pay off for J-Peezy.
This, of course, will make things interesting in Miami. He wasn’t able to shoot his mouth off last year. Losing kind of takes that away. Not since Brian Cox left have the Dolphins had a guy who could “jaw” and play in an entertaining way. That being said, Porter makes Cox look like a boy scout.
Will Porter be humbled by this process? Might he be permanently silenced by a miserable season?
No, he won't. Don’t ever bet on finding Joey Porter humble. Instead of maintaining silence and waiting for the next season, Porter has made a new guarantee. I like his odds at fulfilling this one.
"I'm going to be the guy fans were coming to see."
So says the 2008 model of J-Peezy. The proof, as Joey would probably tell you, will only be known when the big-boy pads go on.