Training Camp Primer: Burning Question #4 - The pass rush

We're just days away from the beginning of training camp down in Davie.  And now that Jason Taylor is in our nation's capital, there is suddenly a new burning question that the Dolphins must address during camp this year.

Where will their pass rush come from?

Sure, I already said that I'm a fan of the trade that "the trifecta" pulled off this weekend.  The long-term benefits of this deal, to me, outweigh the short-term negatives.  Nonetheless, this is still an issue.  How will the Dolphins generate any pass rush now that their all-time leading sack leader is in Washington?

Consider this: the Dolphins ranked 24th in the NFL in 2007 in sacks with just 30.  Now, with Zach Thomas in Dallas (though he wasn't a pass-rusher per se) and Taylor in Washington, Miami has lost 12 of their 30 sacks from '07.  So where will any kind of pass rush come from?

Sure, the Dolphins added a few players along the front seven.  But none of them are prototypical pass rushers and the ones that could potentially be pass rushers are inexperienced.  Charlie Anderson has just 3 career sacks, Akin Ayodele has just 3.5 sacks over the past 3 years, Jason Ferguson has 1 over that same span, Reggie Torbor has just 5 career sacks, and Randy Starks has just 3 sacks over the past 2 seasons.

Will a new defensive system and good coaches be enough to get some pressure on the QB out of the guys currently on the roster?  Can Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford develop quick enough to have an impact along this defensive line in 2008?

Questions abound when you begin to think about the Dolphins front 7 now.  But the biggest one, of course, is who will replace Taylor at OLB.  Some possible solutions might be:

  • Charlie Anderson and Quentin Moses.  Anderson is a guy that this front office and coaching staff really like.  But is he ready to make the leap from special teamer and reserve linebacker to starter at weakside LB in Miami's 3-4?  Meanwhile, Moses is raw but has a lot of untapped potential.  How quickly will he develop?  He's showed flashes during his brief stint in Miami already.  But you certainly can't count on him.
  • The loser of the inside linebacker battle.  Three players are vying for the 2 ILB starting spots: Channing Crowder, Reggie Torbor, and Akin Ayodele.  Could the loser of the battle possibly convert to OLB?  All 3 have experience playing outside linebacker in a 4-3, but it's not known how that would translate to playing outside in a 3-4.
  • Matt Roth.  Early offseason reports claimed that Roth was bulking up a bit to help him become a better DE in a 3-4.  But then at some OTAs, Roth was doing drills with both the lineman and the linebackers.  Could he be a possible replacement for Taylor?

Perhaps one of the more intriguing ideas is to have Joey Porter, a much more reliable and proven pass-rusher, move to the weakside and then replace Porter at strongside with the loser of the ILB battle.  Truth be told, a 4-3 OLB's role is much more similar to the strongside backer's role in a 3-4 than it is to a weakside backer's role.

Of course, possible replacements don't have to come from within.  With ample cap space and the top priority in the wavier process, the Dolphins could look to other teams' cuts for a possible OLB.

Clearly, there are many questions that need to be answered following the trade of Jason Taylor.  But the exciting part is that these questions will begin to get answered once camp kicks off in just a matter of days!

Thoughts?

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