We're now just 3 days away from the first veteran mini-camp under the new regime, which begins on Friday and runs through Sunday. The next round of OTAs are also underway. So with that in mind, it's time to talk about the new defensive players that I'm most excited/anxious to see on the field.
You'll remember that I gave out my offensive list last week, and you can click here to revisit that. Below are the 6 new Dolphins on the defensive side of the ball that I can't wait to see:
Phillip Merling - Besides just being the Dolphins top 2nd round pick (and the 32nd overall), there are other reasons to be excited or anxious to see him on the field. He was widely regarded as the best run-stopping defensive end in the draft and now he'll be attempting to learn a new position: the DE in a 3-4 scheme. Some also think Merling might be able to transition to the pass-rushing OLB spot in a 3-4. While I really don't see this as an option, it'll be interesting to see how he is used in camp. And we also can't forget that he's recovering from a hernia injury, so we'll all want to see how his recovery is going.
Kendall Langford - Many Dolphin fans question the selection of Langford in round 3 by this new regime. However, this regime is very excited about him. And at 6'6, 287, what's not to be excited about? He's an ideal fit as a DE in a 3-4 defense. But since he comes out of a Hampton, many of us haven't really gotten to see him in action. So I'm sure I'm not the only one who can't wait to see Langford on the field for the Dolphins.
Randy Starks - Starks is a very intriguing player because he's young, only 24 years old, but has a ton of experience. He's also a player who can play anywhere along the defensive line, making him very valuable. He can play defensive tackle when the team goes with 4 down lineman. Then when the team runs a 3-4, Starks can play the defensive end spot or the nose tackle position. At 6'3, 312, he's just about the same size as Jason Ferguson (well, at least what Ferguson is listed at). He'll likely be the key backup at each DL position, but his most important role could be as the team's future replacement at nose tackle for Ferguson.
Jason Ferguson - You can very easily make an argument that Ferguson is the most important addition to this team's defense this off-season. And I'd have a hard time arguing with you. When you run a 3-4 defense, like Miami will likely do, you need that big run-stopping nose tackle, especially considering the Dolphins were the very worst team in the league last season at stopping the run. And that's exactly the kind of force in the middle that Ferguson is. When you also consider that Ferguson is guaranteeing that the Dolphins will be better against the run, I can't wait to see Jason out there in a Dolphins uniform this season.
Keith Davis - Granted, Davis isn't the best cover safety in the world. And chances are that Davis won't even be a starter at safety, as there's actually some good competition for the 2 safety spots. But that's not what Davis was primarily brought in here for. No, he was brought in as a kick-ass special teams player. And I'm simply excited to see him knock some people out with big hits like these. Anything we get out of him at the safety spot is just a bonus.
Will Billingsley - Some might be surprised that he made my list, but let me explain. He's an undrafted rookie from 2007 who is getting a shot here in 2008. So right there, you got a potentially great human interest story. And that aside, here's a player who runs a 4.4 40 and was reported to be a pleasant surprise at the rookie mini-camp a few weeks back. So I'm very curious to see how he progresses in terms of his technique and ball skills. He has the speed to be a solid corner in this league. So if he can continue to work hard and improve, he has a legitimate shot at making the team as a 5th corner. You never know. Just like Davone Bess and Jayson Foster are my favorite undrafted offensive players to watch, Billingsley is my favorite undrafted defensive player to watch.
Just missed the list: Akin Ayodele, Charlie Anderson, Titus Brown
So there is my top 6 new defensive players to watch. Let me know what you think below.
And tell us all your list of new defensive players to watch.