The Dolphins drafted Jason Taylor 11 seasons ago with a third-round pick. They got six Pro Bowl selections, a defensive-MVP season, seven interceptions, eight touchdowns, 117 sacks, and an eye-popping 41 forced fumbles out of that third-round pick.
They just traded him in, too. The Washington Redskins are giving the Dolphins a second-round pick in 2009 and a sixth rounder in 2010. All for a third rounder. That’s a great value.
So now there is some fallout. Things read online today: “The Dolphins may be better off without Taylor." "They got a great deal by trading Jason Taylor to the Redskins." "Jason Taylor would have been a source of unnecessary drama in training camp.”
These are the sentiments of many, but not all. The Dolphins will miss Jason Taylor, even if some ungrateful fans have moved on in unseemly expedience. The reason is simple: Jason Taylor was needed this year.
I think it’s pretty clear to all that the Dolphins have lost their best defender. More to the point, they’ve lost their best defender at the most important position in their current defensive scheme.
Running a 3-4 defense without an effective pass rush is like cringing before every punch in a boxing match. The hits will keep coming and you just won’t win. The knockout is always looming in the not-distant-enough future.
Tom Brady drops back.
The X’s and O’s are simple. The 3-4 defense is constructed to confuse the protection scheme as to the origin of the pass rush, typically coming from blitzing linebackers as well as the occasional safety or corner.
The defensive line is responsible for gap control. Essentially, the three down linemen must get sufficient penetration, occupy multiple blockers, and open up lanes for linebackers to get to the ballcarrier or blitz the quarterback.
He’s got time.
This is different from a 4-3 by the fact that in the latter, the pass rush is provided by the defensive ends as well as by the tackles. This allows for more rushers to be actively pursuing the quarterback on every down.
In a 3-4 scheme, there is usually only one or two pass rushers, coming from different spots from the defensive midfield. The lack of an elite pass rusher will allow protection schemes to focus on moving the big bodies on the line and allowing running backs to take on the blitzing linebackers.
The QB has tons of time and eventually will land the big punch. The 3-4 defense without a dynamic pass-rusher is one of the most conservative defenses a team can field.
Randy Moss is wide open.
The Dolphins have gone to great lengths this offseason to bring in big, young bodies to dominate the line of scrimmage. The defensive line is one of the most difficult areas in a 3-4 to find personnel for. The next is the pass-rushing outside linebackers.
They need to be big enough to match up with tackles and fast enough to catch quarterbacks and run with tight ends. Jason Taylor, now a Redskin, had his MVP season is 2006 while playing outside linebacker in a hybrid 4-3/3-4. His biggest plays came while standing up like a linebacker.
Brady airs it out.
So what are the Dolphins to do? Of the remaining personnel, Joey Porter is the last proven pass rusher. Porter’s strong suit though, and I’ve written about this before, is his ability to play in space and run with tight ends. He just isn’t a pedigree pass rusher like Jason Taylor. Few are.
The other guys up for filling his spot are mostly unproven. Charlie Anderson, picked up in free agency this offseason, has played very limitedly as a linebacker and has had more experience on special teams. The ex-Texan has good size and speed, and barring something unforeseen, should be a functional stopgap for the year.
Boy he had all day back there.
Stopgaps don't win games.
So this leads us to look for the unknown diamond on the roster. Who is the unknown sack maestro? The guy that personally intrigues me most is Quentin Moses.
The highly-touted pass rusher from University of Georgia who, despite being a third-round selection by the Raiders in 2007, was released by them and then the Cardinals before finally landing with the Dolphins last year.
Moses has a prototypical makeup for playing on the outside, and in many ways he resembles J.T. He is a high-motor guy with great playing speed and a knack for finding the ball. He played defensive end in college and racked up the sacks, but converting to a two-point stance will be the real difficulty.
Of all the guys the Dolphins have right now, he has the most potential.
The Dolphins got zero pressure on this play.
The other possibility is that there are some questions about what the Dolphins will do with the top pick of the second round this year, Philip Merling. The big DE from Clemson has very good playing speed, and the long arms and football awareness to make plays standing up, but he’s also not as fast as J.T. or the typical outside backer.
The common wisdom on him is that he was brought in as a 3-4 end, not as a linebacker. Still though, Bill Parcells likes his players with size and strength. He might have potential playing on the outside.
You can’t give a guy like Tom Brady that kind of time and expect to win a football game.
Bill Parcells has an expression for explaining the concept of potential. He likes to say that, “The definition of potential is that you haven’t done ____ yet.”
You fill in the blank. I hope the Dolphins do.