Part two of this Friday's installment of "Around the AFC East" features Phinatic from The Phinsider, who was kind enough to field a question of mine about the long-term viability of Miami's veteran-laden defense. Here's his response:
Buffalo Rumblings: Miami's defense was fabulous last season, but some of your best defenders are starting to age. Do you worry at all about a slip in production from some of your bigger names (Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas)? Do you envision a setback to your defense at any point in the near future?
Phinatic, The Phinsider: "I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't worried at all. Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas, the cornerstones of this defense for a decade, are aging. Thomas will be 34 by the time the season starts and Taylor will be 33. Ironically, little known fact, Thomas and Taylor share the same birthday (September 1), but Thomas was born one year earlier. Anyways, the major fear of most Dolphin fans is that by the time the offense gets to where we all want it to be, the defense will be on a downswing. Remember, other key defensive players are also 30 or older (Joey Porter, Vonnie Holliday, and Keith Traylor).
However, I don't see this happening within a year or two. Yes, Thomas and Taylor are older. But they aren't playing like they are old. Thomas is coming off arguably his best season, where he set a career high in total tackles (165) and tied his career high in sacks (3). He also had 103 solo tackles, which is just one fewer than in 2005 and is the third highest total of his career. The same goes for Taylor, who is definitely coming off of his best all-around season and seems to really like playing that DE/OLB hybrid position.
With all this talk about Thomas and Taylor, it's important to remember that there's more to this defense and a lot of it has to do with some young talent on the roster. Channing Crowder is a guy that many Dolphin fans are excited to see grow. He's got the makings of a star. He's a high-energy type guy that just flies around the field, throwing his body around like it's nothing. And he can certainly lay the lumber. At defensive end, Matt Roth takes over for Kevin Carter. Roth is a guy with a non-stop motor that, in his 3rd year, will finally get his shot to shine. And on the interior, second year Fred Evans and rookie Paul Soliai are highly regarded as future impact starters. Now if we could just get that secondary to match the talent level of the rest of the defense."
Miami's defense was obviously the biggest part in turning that team into a playoff contender (until our beloved Bills ended those dreams with a 21-0 win) last season. Jason Taylor, in my mind, is the most dominant player in the entire AFC East and hasn't slowed down at all. Miami should have a pretty stellar defense once again this year, but their window of dominance could be closing quickly, as Phinatic alluded to. Prediction: this defense won't carry the Dolphins as far as they did last year.
One more installment to go, and it's coming from NY Landing Strip a bit later on. I'll also have a recap post up later this afternoon outlining all the action from this little production. Stay tuned, folks!