Around the AFC East, Week 2: Miami Dolphins

In the months leading up to the 2009 NFL Draft, one of the biggest names available on the free agent market was DE Jason Taylor.  Rented by the Washington Redskins for the 2008 season, Taylor was released this off-season - and quickly pursued by a dozen or so teams looking to bolster their pass rushes.

Yes - the Buffalo Bills were one of those teams.

Eventually, Taylor shortened his list to two of Buffalo's chief Rivals, the Dolphins and Patriots, prior to the draft.  On May 13, reports broke that Taylor had chosen his former team over the three-time Super Bowl champions.  Clearly, Matty I and the folks at The Phinsider were elated - but what kind of role will Taylor play in his return trip to South Florida?  I asked Matty that very question...

Probably the biggest story in Miami right now is the return of DE/OLB Jason Taylor after the Redskins rented him for a year.  This is a two-part question - how nice is it to know that the Dolphins edged out the Patriots for Taylor's services, and how large a role does Taylor figure to play being re-inserted into Miami's 3-4 defense?

Matty I: Well I think the fact that Bill Belichick, Bob Kraft, and the Pats reportedly wanted Taylor so badly and were unable to land him is just the icing on the cake for Dolphin fans.  And while it’s always great to steal a player coveted by a rival, most Dolphin fans would agree that the biggest story out of this whole JT situation is that Taylor loves South Florida and clearly was/is always a Dolphin at heart.  That’s what thrills most Dolphin fans – the return of a South Florida sports icon, returning not for the money or for a starting spot, but rather just because he loves this team so damn much.

With that said, it’s unknown at this point what his role will be.  But I don’t think it will be as a starter in Miami’s base 3-4 defense.  Joey Porter had 17.5 sacks last year playing the weakside OLB spot.  Matt Roth is Miami’s best run-stopping linebacker and he mans the starting strongside OLB spot.  Taylor probably figures to factor in as a pass-rush specialist in nickel and dime packages.  And I’d expect him to rotate at times with Porter in the base defense to keep both players fresh.  I’d say 20 to 25 snaps per game will probably be what to expect from Taylor in 2009.

***

Shh... nobody tell Matty that the Bills were seriously pursuing Taylor's services pre-draft, too...

I've always admired Taylor as a player - as nauseating as it is for me to say that.  Zach Thomas?  Couldn't stand Zach Thomas, because he's all anyone talked about during that era of Dolphins football.  I considered Taylor the best defender in the league for a period of two to three years.  In his heyday, he was awesome.  He'll still make plays in his return to Miami.  Prepare yourself, Langston Walker.

What admiration I did have for Taylor only grew knowing that he spurned the Pats - as strong a lock for a Super Bowl bid in early 2010 as you'll find - for the still-rebuilding Dolphins.  That's rare in pro sports today.  Taylor deserves credit for following his heart instead of selling his soul for a ring.  Don't worry - I realize I'm still obligated to loathe him on Sundays, and I will hold up my end of the bargain without doubt.  But on a team full of players that are fun to hate, Taylor is one veteran that I actually enjoy watching play the game.

That does it for this week's 'Around the AFC East' posts.  Be sure to visit The Phinsider, Gang Green Nation and Pats Pulpit for the rest of the massive amount of interviewing going on today - including Bills-centric posts written by yours truly.  If you've ever got questions you'd like to submit to one of our AFC East bloggers in this weekly feature, email me and I'll do my best to get it answered.

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