The draft has come and gone. The most anticipated part of the Miami Dolphins draft, a trade of Jason Taylor and what they would get for him, never happened. Now what?
Let’s start and end with this: The essential part of a 3-4 defense is the pressure one, or sometimes both of the OLBs get off the ends.
If the 3-4 scheme doesn’t get a successful pass rush it is done for. It is that simple. A lot of Dolphins fans were very excited about the signing of Joey Porter last year because they envisioned him rushing off the end opposite of JT. The saw a nightmarish pass rush falling down on opponents quarterbacks. They also didn’t understand the Dolphins scheme or the 3-4.
The Dolphins were incredibly thin at the linebacker position last year, particularly the outside. That’s why they ran a hybrid defense and used Joey Porter for much of the year as a down lineman, which is completely idiotic. Porter is a fast, high octane outside linebacker who can run with tight ends and provide solid run support while also being able to rush the passer. He is too small to play in the down position and loses his greatest asset: his speed.
JT, who is a freakish talent, can play at either position. His incredible first step and snap anticipation allow him to consistently beat larger left tackles and get to the quarterback. Taylor is also deceptively strong and can use his speed first and fall back on a bull rush if need be.
Praise aside, every Dolphin fan knows that over the years JT has sometimes been engulfed by elite left tackles. Think back to those days when Tony Boselli would play fast enough to keep pace and well, we know how ridiculously strong he was. Taylor was a non-factor in those games against Jacksonville.
Had he been standing up, though, he might have faired better. The power of the 3-4 defense is the power to confuse and obscure the blitz itself. One play it would be Taylor, stunting across the middle and getting away from Boselli while the strong safety comes up to support the vacant outside spot and stop the run.
The next play it would be a double blitz, with the “Will” linebacker (Crowder in the Thomas days) coming up the middle and Joey Porter off the edge. Meanwhile Taylor would play contain and drop back and play the flat. Boselli never would have had the luxury of knowing that every play his job was to eliminate Jason Taylor.
Without the pass rush, the 3-4 is very thin against the pass. Corners have to be able to cover in man with only the free safety’s assistance, because the strong safety would have to help support the flat or stop the run. It is a nightmare.
A team like Pittsburgh last year floundered at the end because of weak blitzing. When Polamalu went out they were extremely vulnerable because his incredible ability to be everywhere at once was lost. Polamalu to them was a player who could watch the rush and still run downfield after a receiver.
I don’t think the Dolphins have anything even reminiscent of Troy P.
Miami though, now has depth at the linebacker position. Ayodele, Torbor, Crowder all can play the two inside spots, though Crowder has the best speed for the free backer and can run sideline to sideline better thant he other two.
Last year a single injury threw the 3-4 alignment out the window and forced them to run a 4-3 all the time, but with awkward personnel. Their defensive line was terribly thin and average even when it was fresh.
Additionally, Taylor and Porter have more tread on their tires than given credit for. Together, in a true 3-4 they should be able to keep teams off balance and wondering which direction death is coming from.
Plus Taylor is even better now at moving around on his feet. Did you see that dance last night? Wow.
Personally, I see a lot of potential in Quentin Moses as a 3-4 OLB. Abraham Wright is intriguing but very raw. Plus he apparently doesn’t like to hit people, which is really lame.
Torbor too, could slide to play a conservative OLB if need be. Additionally, there is the new arrival Merling, who could potentially develop into a massive, very intimidating OLB. Imagine him coming in unblocked on the blindside. Ouch.
Basically, with very little available out there to play an outside linebacker in the 3-4, Jason Taylor is essential. They have depth enough to compensate for the unforeseen and not have to sacrifice the 3-4 alignment. Without JT we only have a older Joey Porter to rush the passer, more tread or not. Porter, as I said, is best when he’s allowed to do it all and make plays.
Without #99 the Dolphins will have little to no pass rush. That means another very bad season.
So again, we should be perfectly happy with a hall of famer spending his last year(s) in Miami. Even if he isn't.