Miami Dolphins Training Camp Preview: Inside Linebackers


What should have been a smooth voting process considering all major details of a new CBA have been agreed upon, turned to chaos last night as the owners apparently tried to sneak in a few details that had not been discussed into the deal they passed by vote.

The players have been very outspoken about their disproval of the owners’ tactics, but it appears things have been smoothed over to some degree this morning, with a vote now expected to come by the players possibly today, but more likely this weekend.

If all goes as planned and we don’t have any more unexpected surprises, free agency and training camp will still open on Wednesday. But it’s probably going to take the players swallowing some pride and taking one on the chin here to finally put this lockout in the rearview mirror.

We have a few preview-able positions left on the Dolphins’ roster before camp kicks off. Among them, the offensive line, tight ends, and inside linebackers. Let’s finish off the defense today with Karlos Dansby, Channing Crowder, and company.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN FREE AGENCY
Many fans wouldn’t mind seeing the Dolphins clean their hands of Channing Crowder, who has seemingly been all bark and no bite in the past couple years. But the Dolphins are still high on him it appears. They wouldn’t have put up with his mouth for this long if they weren’t. I still see Crowder being paired with Karlos Dansby for the time being, with the Dolphins probably not considering a starting caliber addition until at least 2012.

With A.J. Edds returning from injury, the Dolphins also have who they hope will be an excellent coverage linebacker who can spell Crowder on passing situations. There really doesn’t appear to be much work for Jeff Ireland here in free agency. They could add a camp body with the inflation of the roster from 80 to 90, but they opened camp with six inside linebackers a year ago and already have that many.

SAFE

Karlos Dansby: His production from 2010 won’t blow you away, but Karlos Dansby was surely the addition the Dolphins’ defense was desperate for last offseason. He flashed some of the playmaking ability Miami acquired him for with 3.0 sacks and 2 forced fumbles, but Mike Nolan’s unit benefited the most from his coverage ability.

Dansby repeatedly was able to cover 20 to 30 yards down the field with the speed to run stride for stride with many running backs and tight ends. He was a huge acquisition for the defense a year ago and the optimism surrounding that side of the ball heading into 2011 probably wouldn’t be possible without him.

Channing Crowder: To go along with his inability to make game-changing plays, which was ever so present in 2010 with goose eggs in the sacks, interceptions, and forced fumble columns, Crowder has also become quite injury prone, having not played a full 16-game season since 2006. For all his faults, though, he’s been very solid on early downs for his entire career and the Dolphins’ defense just isn’t the same against the run when he’s not in the lineup.

Tim Dobbins: Dobbins turned into a nice little draft-day acquisition last offseason when he was included in the deal that allowed the Dolphins to trade back with the Chargers in the first round and pick up a second-round selection. While Dobbins probably will never be a quality starter, he’s a reliable backup and was able to fill in admirably when Crowder and Dansby got nicked up.

With rookie A.J. Edds returning, Dobbins may have to take a backseat on passing situations, but should benefit the Dolphins’ punt and kick coverage units with more time to dedicate to special-teams.

A.J. Edds: When A.J. Edds tore his ACL last season in training camp, the Dolphins’ nickel package took a considerable hit. At least that’s what we were told. Edds is still a fairly big question mark as essentially a rookie all over again, but the scouts labeled him excellent in coverage heading into the draft.

LIKELY CUTS

Austin Spitler: One of last year’s seventh-round picks, Spitler had a decent enough camp and preseason to get signed to the Dolphins’ 53-man roster in Week 4. Spitler spent a total of 12 games on the active roster in 2010, but will have a difficult task beating out A.J. Edds for likely the fourth and final roster spot at the position.

Mike Rivera: The Dolphins signed Rivera off the Green Bay Packers’ practice squad shortly before Week 17. Rivera has yet to play an NFL game after being signed by the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent in April of 2009. He’s likely nothing more than a camp body who would need players ahead of him to go down to be considered.

PREDICTIONS
Depth Chart
1. Karlos Dansby
2. Channing Crowder
3. Tim Dobbins
4. A.J. Edds

Cuts
Austin Spitler
Mike Rivera

COUNTDOWN TO CAMP: 5 days (pending CBA approval by NFLPA by Tuesday) 

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