Monday, March 14, 2011

The Almost All-Time Miami Dolphins

Quarterback : Earl Morrall

Morrall was a first round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers in the 1956 draft. He was mostly used as a punter in his rookie year, but he did start four games when the starter, Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle, was injured.

He was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers after that year, and was named to his first Pro Bowl in 1957. After starting the first two games of the 1958 season for Pittsburgh, Morrall was traded to the Detroit Lions for Hall of Famer Bobby Layne. There, he backed up Tobin Rote, Jim Ninowski, and Milt Plum until 1964.

He was traded to the New York Giants before the 1965 season. He started the entire year, and threw the longest pass of that season for 89 yards. Morrall started seven games the next year and threw a pass that is still franchise long of 98 yards to Homer Jones, the man who invented the spiking of the football after a score.

He then was dealt to the Baltimore Colts in 1968, where his career would be reborn. Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas was injured in the last preseason game and was out for the year, so Morrall became the starter. He led the Colts to a 13-1 record, tossed a career high 26 touchdown passes with a career best 2,909 yards.

He led the NFL in touchdown passes, touchdown percentage and yards gained-per-pass attempt. He was also selected First Team All-Pro and to his last Pro Bowl, while being named the 1968 NFL MVP. The Colts would go on to lose in Super Bowl III. With Unitas healthy again, Morrall started three games over the next two seasons.

In 1970, the Colts would win Super Bowl V when he was called upon again after Unitas was injured early in the game. Morrall helped the Colts beat the Dallas Cowboys 16-13.

Morrall started the first nine games of the 1971 year, leading the Colts to a 7-2 record.
He was then injured and replaced by Unitas as the Colts would go on to lose to the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Championship game.

The Colts then cut Morrall, but he was claimed by the Dolphins because their coach, Hall of Famer Don Shula, had coached him on the Colts' 1968 Super Bowl team and was familiar with the quarterback.

The move paid off early into the 1972 season, when Hall of Famer Bob Griese was injured during the fifth game. Morrall started the next 10 games and helped lead the eventual Super Bowl Champion Dolphins to the only perfect season in modern NFL history.

He took them to the AFC Championship game, but was replaced by Griese. Morrall was named the AFC Player of the Year, First Team All-Pro,, and won the first Comeback Player of the Year Award. He started one game the next year, as the Dolphins repeated as Super Bowl Champions.

Over the next three seasons, he started two games, and won both. Morrall retired after the 1976 season at the age of 42 years old. Though he started only 102 of the 255 games he played over 21 years, Morrall won 60 and tied three, while being on four Super Bowl teams..

He is an inductee of the Dolphins Honor Roll as a member of the 1972 team.

Don Strock, Jay Fiedler, and David Woodley deserve mention.

Fullback : Norm Bulaich

Bulaich was drafted in the first round of the 1970 draft by the Baltimore Colts. He led the Colts in rushing as a rookie, helping lead them to a Super Bowl V victory. He ran for 116 yards in the first playoff win against the Cincinnati Bengals, then his two rushing touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders provided the margin for victory.

His second season was his best. He ran for a career high 741 yards and eight touchdowns. Bulaich set a Colts record that year by running for 198 yards in one game, a team record that stood until 2000, and was named to his lone Pro Bowl appearance.

He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles before the 1973 season and lasted there two seasons. Bulaich joined the Dolphins in 1975, backing up Don Nottingham. While Nottingham was the primary short-yardage specialist, Bulaich was second on the team with 32 receptions and still scored five times on the ground himself.

He started six games the next year and was second on the team in rushing and receiving. The 1977 season saw him place third in rushing and receiving for Miami while splitting starts with Leroy Harris. After a decrease of touches over the next two seasons, he retired.

When you talk of the great fullbacks in Miami Dolphins history, it all starts with Hall of Famer Larry Csonka. Besides Csonka, only three Dolphins fullbacks have more rushing yards and scores than Bulaich. Just two have more receptions.

There have been many Dolphin fullbacks behind Csonka that brought different skill sets to the team. Even though he didn't always start, Norm Bulaich might have had the best of all of them.

Andra Franklin, Woody Bennett, Don Nottingham, Keith Byars, and Rob Konrad deserve mention.

Halfback : Mercury Morris

Morris was a third round draft choice by Miami in 1969. He spent his first three years as a Pro Bowl kick returner, carrying the ball just 140 times. The Dolphins had a Pro Bowl duo of Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick in their backfield, so Morris special teams play was his main contribution, though he did average 6.8 yards on 60 carries in 1970.

Things changed in the Dolphins perfect 1972 season. Morris began to share carries with Kiick, getting 190 carries. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry, finishing with 1,000 yards. Morris also led the NFL with 12 rushing touchdowns and caught a career best 15 balls as he was named to the Pro Bowl.

The 1973 season was his last as a Pro Bowler, as Miami won their second straight championship. He led the NFL with an excellent 6.4 yards on 149 carries. Morris also ran for ten scores, despite playing with a neck injury. His 6.4 yards per carry is a team record and ranks 17th best in NFL history.

Morris hurt his knee in an exhibition game in 1974, limiting him to just five games and 56 carries that year. With Csonka and Kiick now gone, he became the workhorse in 1975. Morris had a career best 219 carries while gaining 875 yards.

Miami then traded him to the San Diego Chargers. Despite averaging over five yards per carry, Morris retired after one season due to the lingering effects of his neck and knee injuries.

He still ranks fourth in rushing yards in a career for the Dolphins, and his 29 rushing touchdowns is fifth best in franchise history. Morris averaged 5.1 yards per carry with Miami, easily the best in team history by anyone with more than 42 attempts. He ranks sixth in Dolphins history with 754 rushing attempts.

Though he had to share carries with a Hall of Fame fullback and Pro Bowl halfback, Morris earned his Pro Bowls with sheer determination. Blessed with blazing speed, he went from being one of the best kick returners in the league to becoming one of the best halfbacks.

He is an inductee of the Dolphins Honor Roll as a member of the 1972 team, and might be the best halfback the Dolphins ever had.

Jim Kiick, Tony Nathan, Ricky Williams, Mark Higgs, Delvin Williams, and Karim Abdul-Jabbar deserve mention.

Wide Receiver : Mark Clayton

Clayton was drafted in the eighth round of the 1983 draft by Miami. He was buried on the depth chart behind Dolphins greats Nat Moore and Duriel Harris, so Clayton returned a career high 41 punts and scored once.

Miami had also drafted quarterback Dan Marino, a future Hall of Famer in 1983. Marino and Clayton soon developed a close rapport that soon translated onto the football field. He exploded in 1984, helping the Dolphins reach Super Bowl XIX before losing.

Clayton made his first Pro Bowl by leading the NFL with 18 touchdown catches. Not only is it a team record, it was an NFL record at the time and still ranks as the third most ever. He also led the Dolphins with 73 receptions for 1,389 yards at an impressive 19 yards per catch.

He made the Pro Bowl in each of the nest two years, teaming with Marino and bookend Mark Duper as one of the most exciting passing attacks of their era. He led the NFL with 14 touchdown receptions on a career best 86 catches in 1988, then began to experience health issues.

After missing seven games over two years, Clayton rebounded with his last Pro Bowl season in 1991. He had 12 touchdown catches on 70 receptions. After missing three games because of injury in 1992, he was released.

The Green Bay Packers signed Clayton, where he started. He caught 32 balls as Sterling Sharpe was busy setting a then-NFL record with 112 receptions that year. Clayton retired at the end of the season.

No Dolphins player has more receptions and touchdown catches than him. Clayton also ranks second in receiving yardage. His 86 receptions in 1998 was a team record for ten years.

His 84 career touchdown catches still ranks 15th best in NFL history, and he ranks 47th best in receiving yards. Though diminutive, Clayton was an underdog who came from nowhere to become of of the finest wide receivers in Dolphins history.

He is a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll, and his five Pro Bowls is tied with Hall of Famer Paul Warfield as the most ever by a Dolphins receiver.

Wide Receiver : Mark Duper

Duper was a second round draft choice of the Dolphins in 1982. Though the season was limited to nine games because of a players strike, Miami reached Super Bowl XVII before losing. Yet Duper played in just two games that season, not recording any statistics.

Business began to pick up for Duper in 1983 when the Dolphins used their first round draft pick on future Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino. Though he started just 11 games, Duper averaged a career best 19.7 yards on 51 receptions and scored 10 times in earning his first Pro Bowl honor.

He went back to the Pro Bowl in 1984 as the Dolphins reached Super Bowl XIX before losing. Duper was teaming with fellow wide receiver Mark Clayton as a deadly duo of 5'9" receivers nicknamed the "Marks Brothers".

Duper reached his last Pro Bowl in 1986 after catching a career best 11 touchdowns. One went for a career long 85 yards, which led the league. He caught eight touchdowns in 11 games during the strike-shortened 1987 season.

Injuries nagged him in 1988, but he came back to get 1,085 receiving yards on 70 receptions in 1991. After 44 receptions and seven touchdowns in 1993, he retired. Clayton was also released that year, effectively ending the "Marks Brothers" in Miami. Duper did reappear in 1994 to play two games with the Miami Hooters of the Arena Football League before retiring permanently.

Nat Moore almost was given this spot, and deservedly so, but we decided to let the "Marks Brothers" ride again. Duper's three Pro Bowls are the second most ever by a Dolphins wide receiver.

He has the most receiving yards in Dolphins history, and he ranks second in total receptions. Duper also has the third most touchdown catches in team history, and his 85-yard catch is the second longest by a Dolphin.

He is a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll, and one of the best receivers in Miami Dolphins history.

Nat Moore, Chris Chambers, Irving Fryar, O.J. McDuffie, Howard Twilley, Duriel Harris, Orande Gadsen, Tony Martin, Jim Jensen, Karl Noonan, and Jack Clancy deserve mention.

Tight End : Bruce Hardy

Miami snagged Hardy in the ninth round of the 1978 draft. After rarely being used as a rookie, he started the next two seasons. The following four years saw Hardy splitting starts with other players.

He was named the started in 1985 and caught 121 passes over the next three years. The 1986 season saw Hardy catch a career high 54 passes and five scores. Injuries besieged him in 1988 and 1989, limiting him to just three total games and forcing retirement.

He still ranks ninth all-time on the Dolphins reception list and leads all tight ends. He also tops the list in receiving touchdowns amongst all Miami tight ends.

When you think of all the offensive excellence the Dolphins have given the NFL, the tight end position is the one area that has yet to be truly great. The team has sent just two tight ends to the Pro Bowl a total of three times, yet neither player lasted long with the club. Bruce Hardy could be the best the Dolphins have had so far.

Ferrell Edmunds, Keith Jackson, and Jim Mandich deserve mention.

Offensive Tackle : Richmond Webb

Webb was the Dolphins first round draft selection in 1990. He was put in the staring lineup at left tackle immediately and went to seven consecutive Pro Bowls. He was quickly considered one of the best as his position, and Webb was named First Team All-Pro twice.

Though he was solid in 1997, it was the first time in his career he failed to go to the Pro Bowl. That was followed by an injury the next year that took away significantly from his game, forcing him to miss seven games. Though he returned the next season, he wasn't the same player.

Miami let Webb go to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2001. After one full season, he played in just four games in 2001. Cincinnati released him, so Webb tried out for the Dolphins but failed to make the team. He then retired.

He ranks first amongst all Dolphin linemen in consecutive starts with 118. The seven consecutive Pro Bowls he appeared in is also a team record. Webb also ranks second amongst Dolphin blockers in total starts.

His career started off destined for Canton, but his career seemed to hit the wall when he turned 30-years old. Yet there still is a chance he gets inducted one day because he was an upper echelon player for seven years and due to the fact he is a member of the 1990's NFL All-Decade Team.

Not only is Webb a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll, he might be the best offensive tackle in team history.

Offensive Tackle : Norm Evans

Evans was drafted in the 14th round of the 1965 AFL Draft by the Houston Oilers. He soon found himself in the starting lineup protecting Hall of Fame quarterback George Blanda. He also scored a touchdown off a blocked kick. Yet that still not prevent the Oilers exposing him to the expansion Dolphins before the start of the 1966 season.

Evans was plugged into the starting lineup right away and would stay there his entire career. The Dolphins would improve yearly and Evans was a big reason why. Starting in 1971, Miami reached three Super Bowl games and won the last two.

Part of the reason for their success was an offense that could run over teams with three Pro Bowl running backs while stretching the field with a Hall of Fame quarterback tossing it to a Hall of Fame wide receiver.

The Miami offensive line had two Hall of Famers, yet Evans also was sent to the Pro Bowl twice himself. He stayed a stalwart in the trenched until 1975, when the Dolphins exposed the 34-year old to the expansion draft.

The fledgling Seattle Seahawks grabbed him up and Evans would start over the next two seasons. After spending the 1977 season as a reserve for the first time in his career, he retired. He is an inductee of the Dolphins Honor Roll as a member of the 1972 team.

He never missed a game in his entire 10 seasons with Miami. Evans ranks third amongst all Dolphin linemen in consecutive starts with 91, as do his 135 total starts. There have been few Dolphins players as durable and dependable as Norm Evans.

Wayne Moore and Doug Crusan deserve mention.

Guard : Bob Kuechenberg

Kuechenberg was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth round of the 1969 draft. He quit the Eagles during training camp and the played for the Chicago Owls of the Continental Football League, the first professional football team to play on Soldier Field since the Chicago Cardinals occupied it for one season in 1959.

He signed with the Dolphins in 1970, and eventually started five games that year. He was named the full time starter at left guard the next year, remaining there mostly the rest of his career. Kuechenberg immediately earned to respect of his peers.

Miami went to the Super Bowl in his first season, where they would lose to the Dallas Cowboys. Hall of Fame defensive tackle Bob Lilly, a star with Dallas, noted that Kuechenberg was one of the best offensive linemen he had ever seen.

After the loss to Dallas in Super Bowl VI, the Dolphins went undefeated in 1972 with the top rated offense and defense in the NFL. After winning Super Bowl VII, Miami repeated as champions the very next season. The offensive line led the way for Miami, with every starter of the 1973 team having made the Pro Bowl in their careers.

He made his first Pro Bowl in 1974, something he would duplicate in three of the next four years. The 1978 season was one of his best, making First Team All-Pro after having to play several games at left tackle because of injuries.

Kuechenberg played left tackle the entire 1979 season, then moved back to guard for the rest of his career the following season. He made his final two Pro Bowls in 1982 and 1983, then retired. His six Pro Bowls are the most ever by a Dolphins guard.

He ranks first amongst all Dolphin blockers in total starts and games played. Only Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino has played more games with the team than Kuechenberg. His 15 seasons is ranked second behind Marino's 17 years.

He is a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll as both an individual and member of the 1972 team and has been a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame six times so far. It seems likely that one of the best offensive linemen in Dolphins history will eventually find himself inducted into Canton.

Guard : Ed Newman

Newman was a sixth round draft pick of the Dolphins in 1973. He did start one game as a rookie, helping Miami win Super Bowl VIII. The next five seasons were mostly spent as a reserve behind Hall of Famer Larry Little and Pro Bowler Bob Kuechenberg.

He replaced Little in 1979 and soon became an integral part of the Dolphins attack. He made the first of four consecutive Pro Bowls in 1981, establishing himself an elite NFL right guard.

The Dolphins reached the Super Bowl in 1982 and 1984, but lost both times. Newman was named First Team All-Pro in 1984, yet retired after the Super Bowl XIX defeat. He has since become a judge in Miami.

He ranks second in games played for all Miami offensive linemen. His 12 years is tied with Hall of Famer Larry Little as the most by a Dolphins lineman. The four Pro Bowls he appeared in are the third most ever by a Dolphins guard, one less than Little and two fewer than Kuechenberg.

Roy Foster and Keith Sims deserve mention.

Center : Tim Ruddy

Ruddy was the Dolphins second round draft pick in 1994. After sitting on the bench as a rookie, he was named a starter from his second year on. Called "Big Master" by his teammates, Ruddy led an offensive line that protected Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino.

He was durable and gifted. Besides his rookie year, Ruddy started in every game he played and missed just four games with the Dolphins. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2000. The 2003 season was his last due to knee problems.

Center has been a strength in Miami, starting with Pro Bowlers like Tom Goode and Bob DeMarco. Hall of Famers Jim Langer and Dwight Stephenson followed. Ruddy was once named one of the 40 greatest Dolphins of all-time, cementing his legacy with the franchise always.

Jeff Dellenbach, Bob DeMarco, and Tom Goode deserve mention.

Defensive Tackle : Bob Baumhower

Baumhower was drafted in the second round of the 1977 draft bu the Dolphins. He was drafted to handle the nose tackle position because Miami switched to the 3-4 defense that season. He started in all 14 games he played that year.

He quickly established himself an elite player in 1978, after scoring a touchdown off a fumble and intercepting the only pass of his career. Baumhower made he first Pro Bowl the very next season. He would return to the Pro Bowl in 1981.

The NFL did not recognize sacks as an official statistic until 1982, a season marred by a players strike. Yet Miami led the league in defense behind their "Killer Bs" defense. With Baumhower manning the middle in his third Pro Bowl year, the Dolphins made it to Super Bowl XVII before losing.

His 1983 season may be considered his best. Baumhower was named First Team All-Pro for the only time in his career after getting eight sacks, an excellent number for a nose tackle. He made the Pro Bowl that year and the next after scoring on another fumble recovery.

Miami returned to the Super Bowl in 1984, but were soundly defeated by the San Francisco 49ers after a record setting performance by the 49ers offense.

Most nose tackles are squatty player with wide bases. Baumhower was not of this mold, standing 6'5" and weighing just 261 lbs. He was a master technician with superior intelligence and athleticism. Yet nose tackle is the hardest position to play in football.

Though he was named to the 1984 Pro Bowl, he decided to have knee surgery instead. Earlier that year, his streak of 125 straight starts was ended when he hurt the knee, but he got right back out there, not missing another game, and damaged it further to try to help Miami win a title. He needed help walking off the field after the loss to San Francisco.

The knee got so bad that he couldn't walk for awhile. He sat out of the entire 1985 season, but tried to return in 1986. He played 12 games that year but decided to retire because the knee was giving him problems.

He is easily the greatest nose tackle in Dolphins history, but it was a position he was not keen on playing initially. “But a lot of that was because the center and two guards I was practicing against were Jim Langer, Bob Kuechenberg and Larry Little, three All-Pros, maybe the best trio ever.", Bauhower said. "They bounced my around like a pinball. But I learned a lot, and that made playing other teams easier.”

Baumhower is a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll. His five Pro Bowls is tied for second as the most appearances by a Dolphins defensive lineman, and it is far and away the most by an interior defensive lineman.

Defensive Tackle : Tim Bowens

Bowens was Miami's first round draft pick in 1994. After getting a career best 52 tackles and two forced fumbles, he was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

The 1997 season was one of his best. Bowens had a career high five sacks and scored a touchdown off a fumble recovery while tying his second-best career total of 48 tackles. He was named to the Pro Bowl the next season.

He returned to the Pro Bowl in 2002. What interesting about his two Pro Bowl years is that they are the only seasons of his career, excluding his last, where Bowens failed to record a sack as well as being two years that were amongst his lowest tackle totals.

Bowens hurt his back in 2003, forcing him to miss three games that year. He had missed five total in his ten years by then, showing his toughness and dependability. He played two games the next year, but retired because of his back issues.

The excellence of Bowens is especially amazing if you consider he was missing three toes on his left foot caused by a lawnmower accident as a teenager. He was the only Dolphins defensive tackle in franchise history to go to a Pro Bowl until Randy Starks went in 2010.

It is safe to say Tim Bowens is the one of the best defensive tackles in Dolphins history.

Brian Sochia, Manny Fernandez, Daryl Gardner, and Bob Heinz deserve mention.

Defensive End : Bill Stanfill

Stanfill was the Dolphins first round draft pick in 1969. Miami put him at defensive end despite his playing defensive tackle so well in college that he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Miami was intrigued by his athleticism, which once had Stanfill play quarterback in one collegiate game.

The move worked out great right away. He was named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie after scoring twice on the only two interceptions of his career. He also had eight sacks, which is still a team record by a rookie.

Miami was building a special football team at this time, and Stanfill was a key component. Stanfill would lead the team in sacks the next two years as Miami began to make an impact on the NFL. They reached Super Bowl VI in 1971 before losing as Stanfill made the Pro Bowl.

The 1972 Dolphins team is the only team in modern NFL history to have a perfect season. Though their great defense was dubbed the "No-Name Defense", people knew about Stanfill. He was named to the Pro Bowl and given his only First Team All-Pro honor.

After Miami won Super Bowl VII in 1972, they repeated as champions the next season. Stanfill went to the Pro Bowl after setting a team record with 18.5 sacks. He also set a team record with five sacks in one game.

His 1974 season was his last as a Pro Bowler. He tied his record of five sacks in a game, finishing with 10 that year. Stanfill then jammed his next during a exhibition game in 1975 that was so bad that he spent much of the next two years as a reserve before retiring.

Though the NFL did not recognize sacks in his era, Stanfill retired with a franchise leading 67.5 in 1976. It is still the fourth most in team history. His five Pro Bowls is the second most ever by a Dolphins defensive lineman.

He is a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll as both an individual and member of the 1972 team. Stanfill is also a member of the Dolphins All-Time Team. When talk of the greatest defensive end in Dolphins history is discussed, Bill Stanfill should always be the first name mentioned.

Defensive End : Jason Taylor

Taylor was drafted by Miami in the third round of the 1997 draft. He quickly earned a starting job, getting five sacks. The next year he scored a touchdown off a fumble recovery, a prevalent theme throughout Taylor's career.

He was given his first Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro honor in 2000 after getting 14.5 sacks and scoring off another fumble recovery. Taylor would score his third touchdown off a fumble recovery the next season.

The 2002 season was one of the best in Taylor's career. He led the NFL with 18.5 sacks and was given his second Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro honors. Though he had 13 sacks the next year, as well as recording a safety and scoring off yet another fumble recovery, he was somehow not given a Pro Bowl honor.

Taylor then went to the Pro Bowl four straight years starting in 2004. He recorded a safety and scored a touchdown off a fumble recovery in 2005, as well as having a career best 73 tackles and 12 sacks.

The 2006 season is considered by some the best of his career. Taylor was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year after forcing an amazing nine fumbles. He also scored twice off interceptions, which led the league, and had 13.5 sacks.

After making his last Pro Bowl in 2007, where he scored off an interception, Taylor left Miami and was dealt to the Washington Redskins in a trade. His stay in Washington was so ineffective that the two parted ways after just one season, partly because Taylor refused to participate in team conditioning activities.

He returned to the Dolphins in 2009, but was moved to the linebacker position. He has seven sacks and scored once again off a fumble recovery. Taylor then signed a contract with the New York Jets as a reserve linebacker and recorded a safety. New York released him and he is currently a free agent.

Taylor is all over the record books for both the NFL and Dolphins. His six touchdowns off fumble recoveries and three safeties are the most in NFL history. His 27 fumble recoveries in just two short of an NFL record by a defensive player, and his 246 yards off fumble recoveries is 23 yards short of another NFL record.

His 132.5 sacks is eighth best in NFL history, and the 124 he had with Miami is a team record. Taylor's six Pro Bowls and three First Team All-Pro honors are the most by a defensive lineman in team history.

He scored nine non-offensive touchdowns in his career. Not only is it the most in Dolphins history, but it is the most by a defensive lineman in the history of professional football. His 42 forced fumbles is easily a team record, as is the nine he had in the 2006 season. Since the NFL does not keep track of this stat, it is unknown where it stands historically.

Yet his impact in Miami goes beyond the gridiron. Taylor's mission to try to teach kids to read in a foundation of his garnered him the 2007 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for his charitable works.

At just 250 lbs most of his career, Taylor was surprisingly stout against the run despite facing off against the opponents best offensive tackles weekly. Most weighed at least 50 pounds more than Taylor, but his athleticism, quickness, strength, and intelligence allowed for him to make play after play.

It is unknown if his career is over, but Taylor does seem bound for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day. He was always around the ball making huge plays. Whether it was scoring or getting the ball back for his team, the definition of "play maker" certainly can be branded onto his extensive resume.

Jeff Cross, Doug Betters Marco Coleman, Ed Cooke, T.J. Turner, and Vern Den Herder deserve mention.

Outside Linebacker : Bob Brudzinski

Brudzinski was a first round draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams. He started half of his rookie year at left outside linebacker after an injury, eventually being named All-Rookie by several publications.

He moved over to the right outside linebacker the next year and was named a starter on a team known for their excellent defensive unit at the time. The Rams reached Super Bowl XIV in 1979 after an excellent season from Brudzinski. He piled up 127 tackles and five sacks while breaking up 14 passes.

After the Rams lost, Brudzinski headed into the 1980 wanting a pay raise. After the owners declined his request, he walked away from the team nine games into the season. He vowed to never play with the Rams again, which forced them to trade Brudzinski to the Dolphins before the 1981 season.

Miami plugged him in as the starting left outside linebacker right away, and he would stay there the next seven years. Though his specialty was stopping the run, Brudzinski was also solid against the pass and an effective blitzer.

He became an integral part of the Dolphins famous "Killer Bs" defense, which also had Glenn and Lyle Blackwood, Doug Betters, Kim Bokamper, Bill Barnett, and Bob Baumhower all helping Miami's defense rank first in yards allowed and second in points allowed in 1982.

Miami reached Super Bowl XVII in 1982, but lost. He led the team in sacks that year. The Dolphins went back to the Super Bowl in 1984, but lost again. After scoring the only touchdown of his career, off a fumble recovery, in 1985, he continued to be a steadying force.

In 1988, he was a key reserve of Miami. It was the first year of his career he was not a starter. He retired after the next year. Brudzinski is a member of the Dolphins All-Time Team.

Middle Linebacker : Zach Thomas

Thomas was drafted in the fifth round of the 1996 draft by Miami and immediately earned a starting job. He had a career high three interceptions, one of which was taken for a touchdown, and a career best 120 solo tackles. He was named AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year.

The 1998 season was his first to be named First Team All-Pro after matching his career mark of three interceptions and returning two for scores. He then began a run of five consecutive Pro Bowl appearances in 1999, three of which he was also named First Team All-Pro.

He returned to the Pro Bowl in 2005 and 2006, as well as earning his final First Team All-Pro nod in 2006 after getting a career high 165 tackles. Thomas was hurt the next year, appearing in just five games. Miami then released him.

Thomas signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 2008 and played one year for them. He tried to join the Kansas City Chiefs the next year, but was cut in training camp. He then retired.

Since the NFL began officially recording tackles in 2001, Thomas has the fourth most in NFL history. He is one of three players credited with 100 or more tackles in each of his first ten seasons.

His 17 interceptions are the most ever by a Dolphins linebacker and his four touchdowns off interceptions is a team record. His five First Team All-Pro honors is tied with Hall of Famer Larry Little as the most in Dolphins history, and his seven Pro Bowls is the most by a Miami defender.

The list of legendary middle linebackers awaiting induction into the Pro Football if Fame is long, starting with Tommy Nobis, Randy Gradishar, and Lee Roy Jordan. Thomas has a very good chance at one day joining fellow Dolphins middle linebacker Nick Buoniconti in Canton because of his excellence as a player and leader.

Bryan Cox, A.J. Duhe, and John Offerdahl deserve mention.

Outside Linebacker : Larry Gordon

Gordon was the Dolphins first round draft pick in 1976. He started right away at left outside linebacker as a rookie.

Miami switched to a 3-4 base defense in 1977, deciding to move veteran Bob Matheson inside. Gordon replaced him at right outside linebacker, where he would stay the rest of his career.

Statistics like tackles and sacks were not recorded officially during his career, but Gordon was a force. Whether it was intercepting passes or sacking the quarterback, his steady play was a key to the teams defense.

The strike-shortened 1982 season would be his last. Gordon was part of a defense that allowed just 14.2 points per game, which was second best in the NFL that year. Miami began an improbable run in the playoffs, winning three games and giving up just 26 points total.

After shutting out the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game, Miami would lose 27-17 to the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVII. It was the last game of Gordon's career, because he passed away while jogging a few months later.

Though he was taken away in his prime, the seven seasons Larry Gordon spent with the Dolphins was special. He helped bring the team back to the Super Bowl after a nine-year drought and left a legacy those who knew him would not forget.

Kim Bokamper, Bob Matheson, Doug Swift, John Bramlett, Tom Erlandson, Larry Izzo, Joey Porter, Mike Kolen, and Derrick Rodgers deserve mention.

Strong Safety : Dick Anderson

Anderson was the Dolphins third round draft pick in 1968. He was named their starting strong safety right away and responded by leading the league with 230 interception return yards, which came off of eight picks. One interception went 96 yards for a touchdown. It was a team record until 1992.

After getting named AFL Defensive Rookie of the Year that season, he followed that up with 106 yards off three swipes the next year, Anderson led the NFL with 191 interception return yards. He had eight interceptions, returning one for a league leading 86 yards.

Despite all of that excellence, he did not go to the Pro Bowl until the 1972 season after leading the NFL with five fumble recoveries. He returned one for a score. Teaming with Jake Scott as one of the greatest safety duos ever, the Miami "No Name" defense dominated the league in helping the team have a perfect season.

The Dolphins went to the Super Bowl three straight years between 1971 and 1973, winning the last two games. The 1973 season was probably the best in Anderson's career. He led the NFL with eight interceptions and two touchdowns off of those interceptions. He was named to his second straight Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro honors.

Anderson was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in a year he picked off four passes for 121 yards for two touchdowns in a key late season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He stayed with Miami until 1977, making the Pro Bowl for the final time in 1974. After missing five games due to injury in 1976, Anderson failed to record any statistics the next year as a reserve. He then retired.

Though he ranks second in Dolphins history with 34 career interceptions, one less than Scott, Anderson was used several different ways by Miami. He played both safety slots, punted the ball nine times, caught a pass, and returned both punts and kickoffs.

The 792 interception return yards in his career is a Dolphins record. His 230 interception yards in one season is still a team record, as is his eight interceptions as a rookie.

Anderson is the only Dolphin with three seasons of at least eight interceptions. His four interceptions in one game in 1973 is a team record, and the 121 yards he got that day stood as a team record until 1992.

His three career touchdowns off interceptions is the second most in team history and the most by a Miami defensive back. The two he had in one game and season is tied as a team record.

He is a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll as both an individual and member of the 1972 team. He is also a member of the NFL's 1970's All-Decade Team. There is no question that Anderson is the greatest strong safety in Dolphins history.

Glenn Blackwood, Jarvis Williams, and Tim Foley deserve mention.

Free Safety : Jake Scott

When the Dolphins grabbed Scott in the seventh round of the draft, Miami general manager Joe Thomas proclaimed the team had gotten first-round talent for seventh-round cash. Scott had been an All-American player who is now on the 50th Anniversary All-Time SEC Team.

Scott was coming in from one season with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League after having left the University of Georgia as a junior because Vince Dooley had brokered a deal for his team to play in the Sugar Bowl, a lesser game at the time, despite the Bulldog players having voted to play in the Orange Bowl.

Dooley had long called Scott the greatest athlete he ever coached, which includes men like Hershel Walker, but their disagreement in has led Scott to declining induction into the College Football Hall of Fame because Dooley was involved.

Scott joined the Dolphins despite making $10,000 less than he had made in the CFL. He was starting right away at free safety and returning punts full time with the team. He picked off five balls for a career long 112 yards while returning 27 punts. He took one ball 77 yards for a touchdown

The Dolphins safety tandem of Scott and Dick Anderson was quickly becoming the best in the NFL. Both were supremely intelligent and athletic, capable of playing either safety slot at a Pro Bowl level. This versatility gave Miami an advantage few teams have ever enjoyed in NFL history.

The 1971 season saw Scott lead the NFL in punt return yards, getting 318 on 33 returns. He also intercepted seven balls, which led the team and helped Scott earn his first of five consecutive Pro Bowl nods. The Dolphins would get all the way to the Super Bowl that year before losing to the Dallas Cowboys.

He severely broke his left hand on the helmet of Kansas City Chiefs fullback Jim Otis in the 1971 AFC Championship Game, then he would break his right wrist early in Super Bowl VI. This led to both hands in heavy casts and the famous Scott quip, "Now I find out who my real friends are when I go to the bathroom."

The Dolphins 1972 season was one that all teams head into striving for, but only this team actually accomplished. They led the NFL in both offense and defense while going undefeated the entire year. Scott returned less punts that year because Charlie Leigh took most of the attempts.

Miami also had Scott playing strong safety often, and it led to five interceptions. He hurt his shoulder so bad that, heading into Super Bowl VII, prognosticators favored the Washington Redskins because the word was that Scott would be unable to play.

Not only was he able to play, but Scott became the first defensive back, and just second defensive player, to ever be named Super Bowl MVP. In a defensive battle where ball possession reigned supreme, the Dolphins outlasted Washington 14-7 in the lowest scoring game in Super Bowl history.

Scott intercepted a pass on the Redskins first possession, then picked off a second in a crucial moment in the fourth quarter. On a Billy Kilmer pass intended for Hall of Fame wide receiver Charley Taylor, Scott picked off the ball in the end zone and took it 55 yards.That would set up the famous "Garo's Gaffe", when Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian would throw an interception that resulted in the Redskins only points.

Miami would reach their third consecutive Super Bowl in 1973, a year that saw Scott get named First Team All-Pro on a defense that gave up only 10.7 points per game all season. Scott handled the return duties in Super Bowl VIII and recovered two fumbles in the Dolphins 24-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

When Dolphin legends Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and Paul Warfield bolted for the fledgling World Football League in 1974, Scott bluffed Miami by saying he also had an offer. The Dolphins quickly signed him to a five-year contract for $600,000, making him the first defensive back in NFL history to make at least $100,000 per season.

He rewarded Miami by intercepting a career best eight passes, which had him earn his second First Team All-Pro honor while playing most of the year at free safety. He also returned 31 punts for 346 yards. He was named NFL Defensive Back of the Year by Football Digest.

Scott and Dolphins head coach Don Shula were close to the point the Shula's son wore Scott's jersey number when playing football because Scott was his hero. When the Dolphins brilliant defensive coordinator, Bill Arnsparger, left Miami after the 1973 season to become head coach of the New York Giants, several Dolphins defenders, including Scott, were unhappy that Vince Costello was chosen as the replacement.

Costello was replaced by Don Doll after one year. Playing under Doll, he enjoyed his final Pro Bowl seasons in 1975 after six interceptions. Rookie wide receiver Freddie Soloman handled the punt return duties instead of Scott that season.

One practice in 1974 had Scott telling Costello he didn't know what he was talking about. When Shula interjected, the pair had words. This carried over into 1976, when Shula wanted Scott to play a preseason game even though the safety said his shoulder was hurting too much.

When Scott refused to shoot pain killing medicine into his shoulder, the coach and safety argued so much that Scott was quickly traded to the Washington Redskins for safety Bryan Salter. Salter lasted six games with Miami before calling it a career after one more game as a Baltimore Colt that season.

Scott lasted three years with the Redskins, starting in every game that he played and missing only two games. Though Washington had him return three punts in 1976, those duties were primarily given to Pro Bowler Eddie Brown.

In his three years with Washington, Scott picked off 14 passes. He had a career best five fumble recoveries in his first year, then picked off seven and retired at the end on the 1978 season.

He is the Dolphins all-time leader in interceptions, punt returns, and punt return yards. Scott is a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll as both an individual and member of the 1972 team. He is definitely the greatest free safety in team history.

He might not yet be inducted into Canton, but his 49 interceptions, punt return prowess, and overall excellence say he surely belongs.

Brock Marion, Lyle Blackwood, Willie West, and Louis Oliver deserve mention.

Cornerback : Sam Madison

Madison was the Dolphins second round draft pick in 1997. He was mostly used as an extra defensive back as a rookie, but would earn a starting job from his second season on.

He intercepted eight balls in 1998, then led the league with seven the next season. He was named to the Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro after scoring a touchdown off a pick and recording a safety that year.

He made the Pro Bowl, as well as again being named First Team All-Pro, in 2000 after swiping five balls and taking one for a score. He and fellow Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain represented Miami in the Pro Bowl that year and again in 2002.

Madison and Surtain were perhaps the best cornerback duo in the NFL and Dolphins history over this time. Teams rarely tested Madison, who was know for his toughness and willing run support.

He became a free agent after the 2005 season, so he signed a contract with the New York Giants. He led the Giants with four interceptions in 2007, helping them reach Super Bowl VLII.

New York defeated a New England Patriots team trying to become the first perfect team since the 1972 Dolphins. He broke his ankle seven games into the 2008 season, causing him to retire at the end of the year.

His 31 interceptions with Miami is the third most in team history and the most ever by a Dolphins cornerback. His four Pro Bowls are the most ever by a Dolphins cornerback, as is his two First Team All-Pro nods.

Some longtime Miami fans will tell you that Sam Madison is the best cornerback in team history. He one day should find himself in the Dolphins Ring of Honor, hopefully joined by Surtain.

Cornerback : Patrick Surtain

Surtain was the Dolphins second round draft pick in 1998. He was used as a nickel back as a rookie and swiped a few balls. Taking over a starting job towards the end of the 1999 season, Surtain picked off two passes and had a career best two sacks.

Now firmly entrenched as a starter, Surtain became a top-flight AFC cornerback. After scoring a touchdown off a pick in 2001, he began a run of three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances in 2002 after scoring once again. The 2002 season saw him named First Team All-Pro as well.

He and Sam Madison were perhaps the best cornerback duo in the NFL from 1999 to 2003, where at least one of them represented Miami in the Pro Bowl each season over that time. The pair would go to the Pro Bowl together twice.

After a career high seven interceptions in 2003, Surtain became a Pro Bowler for the final time in his career the next year. He was due a raise in salary, but Miami chose to dealt the 29-year old to the Kansas City Chiefs for a second round draft pick.

Kansas City had him paired with Ty Law starting in 2006, and the Chiefs had one of the NFL's best pass defenses in 2007. He got hurt in 2008, missing half of the season. The Chiefs then released him, so Surtain retired.

In his seven season with the Dolphins, Surtain intercepted 29 passes. It is the second most ever by a Dolphins cornerback, and tied with Glenn Blackwood as the fourth most in team history by any player. His three Pro Bowls are the second most ever by a Dolphins cornerback.

Miami has had several great cornerbacks wear their jersey over the years, and Patrick Surtain was one of their very best.

William Judson, J.B. Brown, Troy Vincent, Paul Lankford, Dick Westmoreland, Curtis Johnson, Lloyd Mumphord, Don McNeal, Tim Foley, Gerald Small, and Terrell Buckley deserve mention.

Kicker : Garo Yepremian

The journey of Yepremian to NFL stardom is a better story than any Hollywood writer could concoct. He had emigrated to the United States from the island of Cyprus in the 1960's looking for work. He inadvertently watched a few minutes of an NFL game on television and decided he could make money kicking a ball.

After tryouts with several teams, he made the Detroit Lions roster in 1966. He knew so little about the game that he decided not to wear a facemask at first. When Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke hurt him in the fourth game of the season, Yepremian decided to wear one.

A famous story of his football innocence was in a story Lions Pro Bowl defensive tackle Alex Karras liked to tell. Detroit scored a touchdown late in a game that they were losing heavily in. Yepremian celebrated after converting an extra point, prompting Karras to ask Yepremian what he what happy about.

"I keek a touchdown". was Yepremian's reply.

He set an NFL record as a rookie by kicking six field goals on eight attempts in a single game. Jim Bakken, of the Saint Louis Cardinals, broke that record the next season by making seven of nine attempts. Yepremian still holds the rookie record.

He also set an NFL record by making four field goals in one quarter. This has been tied since, but he owns the record for a rookie. Though he made six field goals that day, Yepremian made just seven of 14 attempts in the other eight games he appeared in.

Detroit had him suit up for eight games the next year, where he attempted just six field goals and made two. They preferred having Pro Bowl linebacker Wayne Walker kicking field goals.

He joined the Army for a short stint in 1968, then kicked for the Michigan Arrows of the Continental Football League. The team folded after the season, so Yepremian was out of the game in 1969.

The Miami Dolphins gave him a tryout in 1970, and Yepremian made the team. He had worked hard on his game during his year off, and this was shown by his leading the NFL in field goal percentage that year.

He was named First Team All-Pro in 1971 after making 28 field goals on a career best 40 attempts and leading the league a career best 117 points. His highlight that year was kicking a game-winning field goal during double-overtime against the Kansas City Chiefs in the longest game ever played in NFL history. Miami would go on to reach Super Bowl VI before losing.

Yepremian led the NFL in extra point attempts the next year, as well as the making the first three field goals of his career of 50 yards or longer. He would only make two kicks of 50 yards or longer the rest of his career.

The highlight for Yepremian was not just the fact the Dolphins had a perfect season, but his famous moment in Super Bowl VII will have him forever a part of the games historical lore.

The Dolphins were winning 14-0 when they decided to have Yepremian try a field goal against the Washington Redskins. The kick was blocked right back into Yepremian's hands, where he inexplicably tried to pass the ball.

The ball started to slip from his hands, causing Yepremian to bat it straight in the air. Washington's Mike Bass caught it and ran for a score. Though a play considered a comedy of errors, Miami prevailed with a 14-7 victory.

Yepremian made his first Pro Bowl, as well as earning his second First Team All-Pro honor in 1973, as the Dolphins repeated as champions. He was now a celebrity in Miami, rubbing elbows with their most famous residents.

In the 1973 Pro Bowl, he became the second kicker to ever win the MVP Award after making a Pro Bowl record five field goals. Though Jan Stenerud won it two years earlier, he shared the award with teammate, and fellow Hall of Famer, Willie Lanier. Yepremian is the first kicker to win the award by himself.

Staying with the Dolphins until 1978, he made his last Pro Bowl that year after making 20 consecutive field goals and leading the NFL in field goal percentage. Miami still allowed him to join the New Orleans Saints in 1979, where he played one season.

Yepremian joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1980, then retired after playing in three games the following season. Of the 1,074 career points Yepremian had, 830 came with the Dolphins and is the second most in team history.

His 117 points in a season was a team record until 1991. No other Dolphin has attempted nor made as many extra points as Yepremian. He has the second most field goal attempts and third most made field goals in team history.

He is an inductee of the Dolphins Honor Roll as a member of the 1972 team and the first Dolphins kicker to ever go to the Pro Bowl or be named First Team All-Pro.

Yepremian is a member of the NFL's 1970s All-Decade Team. He was named Kicker of the Decade for the 1970's, beating out Hall of Famer Stenerud. He was also named one of the Dolphins "Greatest Players" on their 40th Anniversary celebration.

Miami has employed several excellent kickers in their franchise history, yet there have been none better than Garo Yepremian.

Pete Stoyanovich, Uwe von Schamann, and Olindo Mare deserve mention.

Punter : Reggie Roby

Roby was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the sixth round of the 1983 draft, and was the 167th player chosen overall. He produced immediately, averaging 43.1 yards on 74 punts. He also had the first of just five career punts blocked. Roby went to his first Pro Bowl the next year, when he averaged 44.7 yards on 51 punts.

He would be named an All-Pro that season. Known for his strong leg and incredible hang time, Roby led the NFL in 1986 and 1987 with the longest punts of the year of 73 and 77 yards. He led the NFL with a net average of 38.7 yards per punt in 1986.

Roby returned to the Pro Bowl in 1989 after 42.4 yards on 58 attempts. He then led the NFL with a 45.7 yards average in 1991, on 54 attempts. He is the only Dolphins punter ever to go to a Pro Bowl.

He then joined the Washington Redskins in 1993, and went to his final Pro Bowl the next year. He averaged 44.4 yards on a career high 82 punts. It was also the final time he would be named an All-Pro.

Roby then joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 1995, and averaged 42.8 yards on 77 attempts. He also attempted his only career pass that year, which went for 48 yards. The 1996 season saw Roby in a Houston Oilers uniform, and he had a career best 38 yards net that year.

He stayed with the team as they moved to Tennessee the next year, and then joined the San Francisco 49ers for 14 games in 1998, and averaged 41.9 yards on 60 punts. He then retired from the game with a career average of 43.3 yards per punt on 992 attempts.

Roby was one of a kind. He was known for his quick two step delivery, which many have tried to emulate since. He also wore a watch many games so he could time his punts in the air. The NFL only started recording net punting average in 1991, as well as virtually every other type of punting statistic.

Roby's career net average is probably better than the recorded one of just over 36 yards. He was a great directional punter and put an incredible amount of air under his punts. Twice he had opponents fair catch his punts 23 times over the 8 years that stat was kept.

He still holds several NFL and team records. His 77-yard punt in the longest in Miami Dolphin history, as is his 58.5 yards per punt single game average.

His ten punts in the 1985 Pro Bowl is a record, and he ranks second in Dolphins history in punt attempts and yardage. Reggie Roby is a member of the NFL 1980's All-Decade Team, and should never be forgotten.

Larry Seiple and Matt Turk deserve mention.

Kick Returner : Mercury Morris

Morris was the Dolphins primary kick returner during hid 1969 rookie year. He led the AFL with 43 returns for 1,136 yards and a 105-yard touchdown return that is still the sixth longest in pro football history. He also returned 25 punts.

Averaging an impressive 29 yards on 28 returns the next season, Morris also started to become a bigger part of the Miami offense. He made his first Pro Bowl in 1971 after averaging 28.2 yards on 15 returns.

He began to share kick return duties the next two years as his responsibilities on offense increased. The 1973 Super Bowl-winning season was his last as a return specialist. He returned three kickoffs for touchdowns in his career, a Dolphins record.

The 26.5 yards per kick return average is the 16th best in NFL history and is the best in Dolphins history by anyone with 13 or more returns. His 29 yards per return average is a team record for anyone with 18 or more attempts. He still ranks third in team history in career yards on returns.

While other players have had more attempts and yards as a kick returner for the Dolphins, Morris was the most explosive and effective in franchise history. He is on the Dolphins Honor Roll as a member of the 1972 team.

Wes Welker, Fulton Walker, Brock Marion, and Tedd Ginn Jr. deserve mention.

Punt Returner : Tommy Vigorito

Vigorito was a fifth round draft pick of the Dolphins in 1981. He was the Dolphins primary punt returner, but he also returned the only four kickoffs of his career as well. He had a career high 36 punt returns for 379 yards while scoring on a team record 87-yard return.

He returned 20 punts in the strike-shortened 1982 season and scored again. He got hurt in the first game of 1983 after returning one punt for 62 yards, forcing him to miss the rest of the year and the entire 1984 season. He came back to return 22 punts in 1985, then retired.

Miami liked to throw the ball to Vigorito on third down in his first two seasons, but they ran him occasionally as well. He ran the ball 54 times and caught 57 passes his first two years, then caught just two balls the rest of his career.

His two touchdowns on punt returns is a Dolphins record and he still ranks fourth in team history in punt return yards. Vigorito was a passionate overachiever who finished his brief career as one of the best punt return specialists in Dolphins history.

Jake Scott, Wes Welker, Scott Schwedes, Freddie Soloman, and O.J. McDuffie deserve mention.

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