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 Defensive Ends Defensive Tackles
The defense continues to be built today with the linebackers. We will build the linebackers with the three best starters and three best reserves, not specifically considering middle- or outside-linebacker positions.
Starters: Zach Thomas, Nick Buoniconti, John Offerdahl
Reserves: Kim Bokamper, Bryan Cox, AJ Duhe
Zach Thomas was drafted by the Dolphins in the 5th round of the 1996 season. Undersized for a linebacker, Thomas went on to become one of the top tacklers in the league. Over 12 years with Miami, Thomas started all 168 games in which he appeared. He recorded 19.5 sacks, along with 17 interceptions, 4 returned for a touchdown, 35 passes defensed, 16 forced fumbles, 7 fumble recoveries. and 1,633 tackles. Add in one season in which he played for the Dallas Cowboys and Thomas ended his career with 1,727 tackles, which would make him somewhere in the top three to five all time, but the league leaves tackles counting to the team's, so it is difficult to come up with an accurate placement all time (and sacks were not even a "recorded" stat until 2001). During his career, Thomas appeared in seven Pro Bowls (1999-2003, 2005-2006), and was a five time First-Team All-Pro selection (1998-1999, 2002-2003, 2006).
Nick Buoniconti was drafted in the 13th round of the 1962 AFL Draft by the Boston Patriots, playing seven seasons with the club before being traded to the Dolphins. He played seven seasons for Miami, 1969-1974 and 1976, appearing in 92 games (one more than in his Patriots seven seasons) with 85 starts. He intercepted eight passes for Miami, along with 4 fumble recoveries, one returned for a touchdown. He recorded an estimated six sacks with the Dolphins, but, more importantly, was the force behind the team's "No Name Defense" of the 1970s. During his time with the Dolphins, he earned three Pro Bowl appearances (1969, 1972, 1973) and was a First-Team All-Pro selection in 1969. He recorded a then team record 162 tackles in 1973 and was the team's Most Valuable Player in 1969, 1970, and 1973. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.
John Offerdahl was the team's second-round selection in the 1986 Draft, playing eight years for the team. He played in 89 games, with 86 starts, recording 4 interceptions, a fumble recovery, and 9.5 sacks. He made the Pro Bowl the first five years of his career, culminating in a 1990 First-Team All-Pro selection as well.
Kim Bokamper joined the Dolphins as a first-round draft pick in 1976 (19th overall). He nearly evenly split his career between outside linebacker and defensive end, so he provides depth at both positions on our depth chart. He played in 127 games, with 103 starts, recording 12 official sacks, with approximately 37 unofficial career sacks. He also recorded six interceptions with one returned for a touchdown, and three fumble recoveries. Bokamper was selected to the 1979 Pro Bowl.
Bryan Cox was selected by the Dolphins in the 1991 Draft's fifth round. He then played outside and middle linebacker for the club over a five-year span, starting all 77 games in which he appeared. Cox made his mark as a pass rusher, including his 14 sack performance in 1992, but was just as good in the middle of, and controlling, the defense. He recorded 529 career tackles with the Dolphins, along with 31.5 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, 6 fumble recoveries, and three interceptions. He was selected to three career Pro Bowls, all with the Dolphins, being an all-star in 1992, 1994, and 1995; he was also a First-Team All-Pro selection in 1992.
AJ Duhe, drafted in the first-round of the 1977 Draft (13th overall), played eight seasons with Miami, first as a defensive end then as an inside linebacker. He started 89 of his career 108 games, recording three interceptions, six fumble recoveries, and 8.5 official sacks. Unofficially, Duhe ended his career with around 480 tackles with 37 sacks. He was selected to the 1984 Pro Bowl, despite only playing 12 games that year.