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Joey Porter: "I'm going to be the guy..."

"I'm going to be the guy fans were coming to see."

That's what Joey Porter told the Palm Beach Post recently.  And Porter also called 2007 the worst year he's ever had.  Many fans would probably agree, especially when you consider the contract Miami signed him to last offseason (5 year, $32 million w/ $20 mil guaranteed).  But the good thing here is that Joey realizes he disappointed last year and he accepts the fans' anger towards his 2007 performance:

"Fans have some say. To point their fingers, I understand. [They say] 'We brought this guy in here and he's not taking over games like we thought he was going to do.'

"But last year is last year. I'm so happy to put that behind me. I think this year is going to bring a lot better things for us."

And his enthusiasm for this upcoming season is easy to see.  Tony Sparano says:

"You look at a veteran player like him and he wasn't afraid to come in here and say, 'Coach me and tell me how to get better. I think that's important. He listened to his coaches - in the weight room and out here on the field."

Defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni also adds that Porter looks stronger than he ever has - without losing any quickness.  And that's going to be important considering Porter's role as the strong-side linebacker in Pasqualoni's 3-4 defense - the same role he had in Pittsburgh and what he thought he was going to be doing in Miami last year.  Instead, Porter was asked to line up opposite of an offensive tackle in a 3-point stance 40 or 50 times per game - something he had never done.

It's no wonder why his production wasn't there last season.  And don't forget that Porter had knee surgery in early August and didn't even get back onto the practice field until close to opening day.  But even so, his 2007 numbers don't really look that bad when compared to those of previous seasons:

Season Tkls Scks TFLs Ints PD
1999 25 2 1 0 0
2000 60 10.5 3.5 1 3
2001 61 9 8 0 3
2002 89 9 1.5 4 10
2003 66 5 2.5 0 4
2004 54 7 7 1 12
2005 57 10.5 3 2 4
2006 55 7 3.5 2 5
2007 66 5.5 7 2 5

Sure, his numbers do dip in some categories.  But 2007 wasn't really a terrible year for Joey.  I think the issue here is that none of the plays that he did make really changed the outcome of a game.  I think that the team's overall disgusting play last year causes people to generalize Porter's season as bad.  But I don't really see it that way.  Was it below his standards?  Of course.  But look at his tackles, his tackles for a loss, and his interceptions.  To say Porter wasn't productive at all is just a false statement.  Just think about this: if Joey would have had just 2 more sacks last year, he would have tied or surpassed his 2006 production in every major category.

I think that one of the things you also need to look at when you examine Porter's 2007 season is how the knee injury might have held him back.  I remember thinking for the first month of the season that Joey just looked slow and sluggish out there.  But by November and December, he looked like the team's best defensive player (outside of JT at times).

Last year, the team's bye week fell right in the middle of their season after the first 8 games.  Below is Porter's 2007 season stats broken down into two halves:

Tkls Scks TFLs Ints PD
First 8 games 27 1 2 0 2
Last 8 games 39 4.5 5 2 3

As you can see, Porter was much more productive following the team's bye week.  Not only was he healthier, but he was also more comfortable in the defense.  Remember, Porter missed basically all of August after the scope, so he was basically thrown right to the wolves from week one on, without any real practice time in this defense.  But as time went on, especially after the bye, Porter's knee was probably feeling better and Joey was probably doing less thinking and more reacting out on the field thanks to finally being comfortable with the defense.

And if you were to project his final 8 games out to a full season, the numbers (78 tackles, 9 sacks, 10 tackles for a loss) would represent one of Joey's best career seasons, right up there with the that stretch of 3 seasons from 2000 to 2002.

Now that Porter's healthy and will be back to playing in a defense that is a lot like the one he played in most of his career in Pittsburgh, I have a sneaky suspicion that he's going to have a big season.  Will it be worth the contract he was given?  That I do not know.  But there's just this gut feeling I have that is telling me to be excited over what J-Peezy is going to do in 2008.

So I'll trust that gut feeling.

And I'll also trust Porter himself when he says:

"We're going to be a much better football team. It's like night and day."