Officially tomorrow makes two weeks away from the start of Training Camp 2012 for the Miami Dolphins, and position battles on both sides of the football have been discussed by arm chair quarterbacks all across South Florida! Quarterback and wide receiver are the two positions on offense that garner most of the attention, but on defense, I’m going to focus on the linebacker position. I realize that safety and a pass rusher opposite Cameron Wake are hot topics, but who’s going to be counted on to rack up the tackles in a 4-3 defense this season? The answer to that question is the linebacker position!
Karlos Dansby- Usually it starts in the middle when focusing in on the position, and that means talking about this nine-year veteran. Dansby led a defense in 2011 that limited opponents to 95.6 yards per game against the run, which ranked third in the league. His 103 total tackles were third on the team last season, and ranked first on the squad in solo tackles with 88! Playing in a 4-3 defense means Karlos will see plenty of action come his way if the big bodies in front of him take care of business. Dansby accounted for 10 tackles for loss in 2011, and also did a good job covering the tight end position. His leadership will go along way in defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle’s new defensive scheme.
Kevin Burnett- Burnett was solid all season long in 2011 and his interception for a touchdown against Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer highlighted his season. His 105 total tackles (second on the team) and 10 tackles for loss showed Dolphins fans he’s capable of showing toughness and playing with speed! I’m looking for Burnett to shine in the 4-3 defense because of his speed and great instincts for the football. He plays with great anticipation and that will only improve in year two playing next to Dansby, and it will strengthen the Dolphins defense!
Koa Misi- Outside of Dansby and Burnett, Misi is the next guy you think about at the linebacker position. Misi looks the part 6’3 250 pounds, but consistency has been an issue. Misi has improved at playing with flexibility when needed but it all depends on what he’s asked to do in Coyle’s new defense. Setting the edge and playing with strength against the run should give Misi the nod early in this competition.
Josh Kaddu- Kaddu, the Dolphins fifth round draft choice will definitely push Misi for a roster spot and just might be a good fit on special teams. He has the ability to rush the passer and looks athletic enough to run and cover.
Gary Guyton- Guyton is a five-year veteran that has the athletic tools get after the quarterback, and play against the run. He also has the experience of playing both outside and inside linebacker while with the Patriots.
Jason Trusnik & Austin Spitler- These are two players that impact special teams first and the defense second. Moving to a 4-3 defense might make the chances of both of these players making the opening day roster difficult, so every repetition is meaningful to both of them.
Jamaal Westerman- Westerman, who played his high school football in Ft. Lauderdale at St. Thomas Aquinas, joins the Dolphins after three seasons with the Jets. Westerman had 3.5 sacks for New York last year and I can see him getting an opportunity during camp at the outside linebacker position as well as rushing the passer at defensive end!
Shelly Lyons- Lyons comes to Miami as a rookie free agent from Arizona State, where he excelled in pass coverage and also made 126 career total tackles!
Cameron Collins- Collins is also a rookie free agent (Oregon State) and played the safety position his first three years at OSU. His speed and athleticism should help him not only at the position, but on special teams as well.
Jonathan Freeny- Freeny participated in training camp with the Dolphins last year after signing as an undrafted college free agent out of Rutgers. Freeny, a Margate native who was part of the Dolphins final cuts last year in training camp, will get another chance to impress the Dolphins as a pass-rusher and special teams player this year.
As you can see there is an abundance of bodies and a shortage of space at the linebacker position. The more that you can do at this position just might be the determining factor in making the final 53 or looking for work in another NFL city!
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