The Miami Dolphins will celebrate their 50th NFL season this year, spanning from 1966 to 2015. Thousands of players have hit the field for the team over that time, helping the team appear in five Super Bowls, winning two of them, including the only undefeated season in league history. Despite spending the last decade stuck in a purgatory of mediocrity, the Dolphins are still hold the fourth highest winning percentage in the NFL at .565, behind just the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears, and Green Bay Packers.
The team has eight Hall of Famer players, Nick Buoniconti, Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Jim Langer, Larry Little, Dan Marino, Dwight Stephenson, and Paul Warfield, plus one Hall of Fame coach Don Shula. Another three Hall of Famers, Cris Carter, Junior Seau, and Thurman Thomas, all had brief stints in aqua on their way to Canton.
As we all look forward to better days for the Dolphins from this rut that has been the franchise since the turn of the century, we can also look back at one of the premier franchises of the NFL as they turn 50. We will do that over the next few days as we build the Miami Dolphins' 50th Season Depth Chart.
Quarterbacks Running Backs Tight Ends Offensive Line Wide Receiver
Today, we move on the defense, starting with the all-time defensive ends.
Starters: Jason Taylor, Bill Stanfill
Reserves: Vern Den Herder, Cameron Wake
Taylor dominates this position, just as he dominated offensive lines in his playing days. Selected in the 3rd round of the 1997 Draft, Taylor played 13 years for Miami, from 1997 to 2007, 2009, and 2011. Over those years, he appeared in 204 games, only missing games in his rookie season (3) and in 1999 (1), recording 186 starts. Taylor tallied 710 tackles as a Dolphins player, second all time on the team behind just his brother-in-law Zach Thomas. He also recorded 8 interceptions in his career, returning three for touchdowns, with 62 passes defensed, as well as 43 forced fumbles, the most in team history, 27 fumble recoveries, the most on defense for the Dolphins, with an NFL record 6 fumble return touchdowns. Taylor is best known, of course, for bringing down opposing quarterbacks, where he recorded 131 sacks as a member of the Dolphins. He ranks first all time in career sacks on the team, and is 6th all time in NFL history in sacks (139.5 career sacks counting his season with the New York Jets and his season with the Washington Redskins; he would rank 13th with just his Dolphins sacks). Taylor was named to six Pro Bowls in his career, all with the Dolphins, as well as being a three-time First-Team All-Pro selection.
Stanfill takes the second position on the starting defensive end depth chart for his eight season performance with the Dolphins. A first-round selection in 1969, Stanfill retired after 109 games with 95 starts, during which he recorded 2 interceptions, both returned for touchdowns. He had an unofficial 67 sacks in his career, which would have been a team record until Taylor surpassed him. Stanfill was selected to five Pro Bowls (1969, 1971-1974) and was a 1972 First-Team All-Pro selection.
Den Herder was the Dolphins 1971 ninth-round draft pick, playing for the team for 12 seasons. He started 144 games, with another 22 appearances, during which he recorded 1 interception and 14 fumble recoveries. Den Herder had an unofficial 64.5 sacks in his career, which would have him third all time for the Dolphins, behind Taylor and Stanfill.
Wake's career stutter-stepped at the start, when he briefly had a stint with the New York Giants, then was out of football before a Canadian Football League two-year stint. He then signed as a free agent with the Dolphins in 2009 and began a career that, when it is over, could rival Taylor's at the top of the depth chart. In six seasons with Miami, Wake has appeared in 93 games, starting 78 times, with 12 passes defensed, 12 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 248 tackles, 1 safety, and 63 sacks. He has exceed eight sacks every year except his first season, and he has been above 11 sacks three times. Wake was a Pro Bowl selection in 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2014, and he was a First-Team All-Pro selection in 2012.
Carrying four tight ends, four half backs, a fullback, and six wide receivers forces me to only carry four defensive ends on the depth chart. The depth concerns that could some from that will be offset by some pass rushing linebackers later in the building of the depth chart, but it also means two deserving defensive ends end up in an honorable mention category. Doug Betters spent ten seasons (1978-1987) with the Dolphins have being a 6th-round pick in 1976. In 146 games, 105 starts, Betters recorded 6 fumble recoveries with 43.5 official sacks (65 unofficial), and was a 1983 Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro selection. Jeff Cross was selected in the 1988 Draft's ninth round, playing eight seasons for Miami (1988-1995). He started 107 games, with 18 more appearances, during which he tallied 1 career interception, 10 forced fumbles, 7 fumble recoveries, 377 tackles, and 59.5 sacks. He was selected to the 1990 Pro Bowl.
Tomorrow we will take a look at the defensive tackle position.