Yesterday we talked a little bit about Channing Crowder and how 2008 is a critical season for him. Well as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald points out, '08 is a pivotal season for two more young defensive players who were supposed to be key contributors to this unit for years to come.
The first is Matt Roth. Entering his 4th season, Roth has a lot to prove if he wants to remain a starter. In fact, some believe he could not just lose his starting job, but might also lose his roster spot if he doesn't prove his worth early to this new regime. After 3 seasons, Roth only has 7.5 sacks and 8 tackles for loss. Now Roth will be battling rookies Phillip Merling and Kendall Langford as well as free agent acquisition Randy Starks and 3rd year vet Rod Wright. So the competition is certainly stiff, and with his contract up after '09, he's certainly not a player who can afford to struggle early on in camp this year. Good news: Roth has bulked up from 272 pounds last season to 285 this year, which will help him transition to a true 3-4 defensive end. Bad news: some people still don't think he's cut out for the position:
Roth remained at first-team defensive end during Wednesday's practice, though Randy Starks and Phillip Merling should challenge. Undersized at 272 pounds for a 3-4 scheme, Roth bulked up to 285. But doubts remain. ''I don't think Roth fits there,'' former Browns scout/espn.com analyst Matt Williamson said. ``He'll probably go by the wayside, but you can't just release him.''
It'll be interesting to watch how long he can hold off the field in camp and remain working with the 1st team defense. While I agree that releasing Roth if he struggles would be a bad move, I honestly don't see Roth getting involved much with the defensive line rotation once the regular season comes except for the few times Miami might use 4 down lineman in passing situations.
A lot of Dolphin fans had big hopes for Roth when Nick Saban selected him, but right now he just seems like yet another Saban disappointment.
And speaking of Saban disappointments, there are none more disappointing than 2006 1st round pick Jason Allen. And I'll be honest here, I really thought he'd excel as a safety for this team when we drafted him. He's a guy with all the physical tools needed to excel at this level. He's fast, strong, and has good hands. But now whenever I think about Jason Allen, I get sick to my stomach and sometimes even throw up a little bit in my mouth (well, not literally, but you know what I mean).
And let me start off by saying how I simply don't understand how anyone who watched the games Allen played in last year can say that he's gotten better. I don't get it. Why do some say he got better? Because he picked off 3 passes? For the most part, those balls were right to him. And those 3 interceptions don't make up for the fact that he was out of position in pass coverage probably 75% of the time. The man couldn't even beat out Cameron Worrell last year. It took the entire secondary getting injured before Allen saw regular playing time. And he still looks lost out there, and that's what worries me. Call me a pessimist if you want to, but I'm very close to completely writing of Allen as a bust and moving on.
So this season, actually this training camp and preseason, is the "shit or get off the pot" scenario for Jason Allen. And the good thing is, at least he knows this:
''It's a big year for me,'' Allen said. ``Last year, I grew tremendously. I still have a lot to improve.''
I'll give him this camp and preseason to show us all something, anything really. But I'm certainly not holding my breath. And if I was a betting man, I'd bet that Chris Crocker wins the starting job out of camp and holds the position until Renaldo Hill is ready to take back his starting spot that he lost when he went down with a knee injury last year.
So now I open the floor up to you all. Tell me what you think of Matt Roth. And to those Jason Allen supporters out there, tell me why I should not give up on him yet.