In any 3-4 defense, you obviously need to have outside linebackers who can get to the quarterback consistently. In 2008, Joey Porter was that guy - the one that made their defense work. His 17.5 sacks led the AFC and his fire fueled a Miami defense that finished in the top 10 in scoring defense.
But 2009 was not anywhere near the season 2008 was - both for the team and for Porter. Despite the return of Jason Taylor, Porter was more often than not a non-factor rushing the passer. And he remained a liability against the run.
But the worst part might just be what went on behind the scenes with Porter. Ethan Skolnick shares some insider knowledge of the kinds of things Porter was pulling last season - and sheds some light on why Porter was a healthy scratch for the game against Tampa Bay. Writes Skolnick:
My understanding, from these conversations, is that Porter had a habit of sending players off the field who had been sent in to take his spot, especially on third down... even after he was suspended for the Tampa Bay game. During that game, if you recall, Charlie Anderson had two sacks, Cameron Wake had one, and Jason Taylor had an interception...
...The Dolphins did want to work Wake into the game more often at the end of the year, especially with Matt Roth gone, with the plan to use him mostly from the left side. That would have Porter and Taylor splitting time from the right, and Anderson getting some work as well. But my understanding is that Porter got more snaps than he would have otherwise, largely because the team did not, as one source put it, "want to rock the Joey boat."
Skolnick also points out that this wasn't the first time he's heard the "rock the Joey boat" phrase thrown around. That's a major problem, in my opinion. Porter isn't the same player he once was and his on-field production certainly does not make up for undermining a coaching staff and limiting the opportunities for a guy who could potentially be better than Joey at getting to the quarterback at this stage of their careers.
Consider these numbers. In 755 snaps, Porter had 9 sacks and 11 quarterback pressure - meaning Porter was a factor in the QB's face 2.6% of the time. Cameron Wake, meanwhile, had 20 quarterback pressures and 5.5 sacks on just 167 snaps - a 15.3% rate.
So why exactly should Porter get more playing time than Wake?
Meanwhile, there's also a guy named Jason Taylor - who happens to be a free agent. Taylor spent most of the 2009 season playing the strong side. And he played surprisingly well at the position. ProFootballFocus rated Taylor as the 8th best 3-4 OLB in 2009 - not bad for a 35 year old who has limited experience playing the position.
Taylor was unexpectedly effective against the run last year. But his pass rushing also was worth noting. Taylor played 828 snaps in 2009 and tallied 7 sacks and 20 QB pressures. Not bad for a guy who was supposed to have just a little gas left in his tank.
But now the question becomes whether or not JT comes back to Miami in 2010. He's a free agent and deserves a raise from his $800,000 salary he was paid last season. But he'll be 36 in September and the Dolphins could decide to move on. However, I think Taylor still offers a lot in the way of veteran leadership as well as on-field production.
Porter, meanwhile, is owed $4.8 million in 2010 (including a roster bonus due in early March). With it looking like the 2010 season will be "uncapped," now might be as good a time as ever to cut ties with Joey.
So what would you do?