The Dolphins linebacker corps enters the new NFL season with more question marks than answers. Joey Porter and Jason Taylor led the unit in sacks with nine and seven respectively, but neither is expected back next season.
Porter will be released as soon as the free agent signing period begins on Mar. 5, and Taylor is already set to become an unrestricted free agent. While both players’ contributions in 2009 were sub-par, the names beyond the two former all-pros are all limited in varying capacities.
CFL-import Cameron Wake showed some good progress in his rookie season with five sacks, but his skill set is best utilized as a pass-rushing specialist. He struggled in pass coverage and run support. The talent is there, but a lot of work is needed. Expect him to make strides in his second season, but Wake can’t be the answer to the pass-rushing needs.
Charlie Anderson is the only veteran outside linebacker under contract next season, but he is a career backup. With only two sacks and 17 tackles in 2009, there can’t be much more than that expected from him this season.
Quentin Moses, the remaining vet on the unit, is scheduled to be a restricted free agent, and while he will likely be retained, his contribution is minimal—eight tackles and one sack in 2009.
Eric Walden and Brian Johnston round out the outside linebacker unit, but the pair are special-teamers who will have to battle it out to hold onto roster spots next season. Neither are locks to make the team.
As for the Dolphins’ inside linebackers, incumbent starters Channing Crowder and Akin Aydele combined for just 122 tackles in 2009. Injuries hampered their production, but there was no excuse for their lack of tackling and play-making ability. The pair's lackluster performances have Bill Parcells and general manager Jeff Ireland looking for replacements in the middle.
Reggie Torbor is the primary reserve behind the two starters, but since signing as a free agent in 2008, he hasn’t lived up to his $14 million contract. Don’t be surprise to see the 29-year-old released somewhere down the line after the team brings in more players to compete.
The last name at inside linebacker is J.D. Folsom. The 2008 seventh-round pick began the year as a member of the Dolphins practice squad before being elevated to the 53-man roster as injuries piled up. The 25-year-old recorded just a single tackle in very limited action. He has potential, but the Dolphins won’t see much from him any time soon.
The Dolphins need to seriously beef up their linebacker unit or face being routinely exposed throughout the year. Look for at least a couple draft picks to be added as well as the possibility of a big-name free agent addition—the Dolphins are reported to have serious interest in Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Karlos Dansby.
Inside Linebackers Grade: C+
Outside Linebackers Grade: C