Just how bad were the Dolphins' inside linebackers a year ago? Well, it was arguably the worst position on the entire team, and the only reason I say arguably was because free safety made an equally dreadful case. In fact, you could probably get away with saying Miami's inside linebacker's would have been in the cellar, if you were to rank each team at the position.
The usually solid Channing Crowder, had the, hands down, worst season of his life, Akin Ayodele was exposed repeatedly while attempting to drop back in coverage, and Reggie Torbor may have been the worst cover linebacker in all of football.
Needless to say, a makeover was in order. When the clock struck midnight on the morning of free agency, most Dolphin fans were glued to their TV set, hoping Karlos Dansby would take his talents to South Beach.
Dansby informed everyone his first visit would be Miami, and thankfully, it was also his last. The Dolphins locked up the best available inside linebacker on the market, and a player who will finally provide some playmaking spark at the position.
The Dolphins also brought in Tim Dobbins in a draft day steal. Dobbins projects to contribute heavily on special teams, but could emerge as a starter if Crowder can't return to form.
Karlos Dansby: He was the huge upgrade that was almost necessary given the other players available and how many needs this football team had going into the draft. He can stuff the run, drop back into coverage, and rush the passer. He's an all-around linebacker, not the one-dimensional type you see in Crowder. Will he live up to the $43 million dollars Parcells and Ireland threw at him though?
Channing Crowder: Crowder may not be on the good side of the fans anymore, but this regime still seems to have maintained their high opinion of him. He's as one-dimensional as they come, has made only a few game-changing plays in his career, is attempting to come back from a Lisfranc fracture, and is fresh off a season where his tackling production was cut in half. Still though, the one dimension Crowder does bring to the table, has been pretty darn good in the past. For all his faults, he knows how to play the run. And now that he's paired with a guy who can handle the playmaking and coverage duties, he may be able to get away with being purely a run-stuffer.
Tim Dobbins: Even if Dobbins doesn't push Crowder at all, and he proves to only be a core special teams guy, he brings enough potential production on special teams to likely secure his roster spot. Like I have said before though, Dobbins had more tackles than Crowder last year, in way less playing time. That doesn't change the fact, that Ireland labeled him a special teams contributor, shortly after the draft day trade, and that we haven't heard any reports of an open competition, though. So, maybe he's still a backup, but the depth he brings to the position can't be under-appreciated.
A.J. Edds: I only put him on this list because he's an unproven rookie, and he has to earn the right to play for this football team. But, at the end of the day, I would be surprised if Edds isn't on the final 53-man roster. The Dolphins traded up, after all, in the fourth round in order to make sure they could get him, even though they probably could have stayed put and got the same result. He may not project as an every-down starter, but many expect Edds to have a significant role in the nickel package. There, he can utilize the coverage skills that were on full display at Iowa, and could play a huge role in finally enabling the defense to get off the field on third down.
Austin Spitler: This year's seventh-round selection had a solid senior season at Ohio State after waiting his turn behind James Laurinaitis in the year's prior. He showed some potential as a Buckeye, including some adequate speed, but he's going to have an up-hill climb trying to beat out Edds.
J.D. Folsom: Folsom was Miami's seventh-round pick last season. He didn't make the team last camp, but found a home on the practice squad. After Crowder went down late in the season, he got his call up to the roster, and finally saw some limited action in Week 17.
1. Karlos Dansby
2. Channing Crowder
3. Tim Dobbins
4. A.J. Edds
Countdown to Camp: 17 days