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The All-Time Miami Dolphins: Defensive Ends

I guess it was too good to be true. A day after optimism was dominating headlines in regards to negotiations between the owner and players, so much so that some were projecting a deal to be in place by early July, talks took a turn for the worse today. ESPN reported that talks almost “blew up” and now an unnamed source is saying that its “borderline insane” to think the new deal will be done in two weeks.

It’s important to note, though, that the consensus still is that progress is being made and expectations are that a compromise could still be reached shortly after July 4th, which would give teams ample time to complete free agency before training camp kicks off as scheduled. But we should probably take everything we hear with a grain of salt. We’re far from out of the woods and getting your hopes up before we are would be premature.

Rest assured, though, whether or not free agency is right around the corner or we’re in this thing for the long haul, we’re going to continue to try and keep interesting reading material a daily product here at Phins Phocus. We’ve brought you interviews with Dolphins’ players like Charles Clay, Kory Sheets, and Davone Bess and NFL Network Analysts Charles Davis and Michael Lombardi. In the midst of so much turmoil in the present, we’ve also been taking a refreshing look back at the past in our “All-Time Miami Dolphins” series.

We finished up the offense on Monday so it’s time to kick off the defense tonight. Seven of the Dolphins’ eight Hall of Famers reside on the offensive side of the ball, but that doesn’t mean this franchise hasn’t produced some great defenses led by great defensive players. Whether it was the “No Name Defense” of the 70’s, the “Killer B’s” of the 80’s, or the very solid defenses of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, defense has played a huge role in enabling the Dolphins to boast two Super Bowl titles, five Super Bowl appearances, thirteen AFC East championships, and the league’s highest regular season winning percentage.

Let’s kick off the D with defensive end, which could arguably end up being one of the stronger positions on the roster. Note that we are going by a 4-3 defense here because that’s what the Dolphins have run for the majority of their existence. That means our defensive ends are the pass rushing type, not the run stuffers we see on the current Dolphins defense.

1. Jason Taylor (1997-2007, 2009): The Dolphins made one of their best draft selections in franchise history with the 73rd pick of the 1997 draft. Jason Taylor quickly put all doubts to rest about whether or not he could make the jump from the MAC conference to the NFL, as he won the starting job as a rookie and registered five sacks and forced two fumbles in the process.

Taylor’s future continued to brighten in year two when he added nine sacks to his rookie total. In his third season, Jason firmly established himself as one of the league’s premier pass rushers with a dominate 14.5-sack campaign that earned him his first trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. In 2002, Taylor put together his most productive season getting after the quarterback by setting a team record with 18.5 sacks. But it wasn’t until 2006 that he was finally rewarded with Defensive Player of the Year honors, as JT put together his most all-around effort, getting to the quarterback 13.5 times, forcing nine fumbles, recovering two, and returning both of his interceptions for touchdowns.

2006 was the peak of his career. Things have gotten ugly and somewhat controversial since. Following the Dolphins’ miserable 1-15 season in 2007, Taylor was shipped off to Washington for second and sixth round selections, in a deal in which the Dolphins flat out robbed the Redskins. After the Dolphins won the AFC East title in 2008 without him, Jason followed his heart back to Miami where he signed a one-year deal. He had a solid year individually, but the Dolphins stumbled to a mediocre 7-9 record and chose not to resign the aging veteran last offseason.

That’s when the unthinkable happened. Jason wound up signing with the New York Jets, the team he’d openly hated for the duration of his career. Some sympathized with Jason because the Dolphins were unwilling to resign him, but to me anyway, he let his pride get bigger than his heart. I won’t go as far as to call him a trader, but I’m not going to jump to his defense when I hear other Dolphin fans label him that.

But I’m sure time will heal some of those hard feelings between the fans and Taylor and between Taylor and the Dolphins. He did far too much for this franchise to not forgive and forget. He’s undoubtedly going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and when he’s inducted the loyal fans should flood Canton with aqua and orange and embrace JT as arguably the greatest defender in franchise history. He certainly has the credentials for that honor.

He’s tied for 8th on the all-time sack list with 132.5, he’s picked off eight passes, broke up another 66, forced 39 fumbles, and returned an NFL record eight fumble recoveries for touchdowns. He’s also been selected to six Pro Bowls, been named to three first-team All-Pro rosters, and was voted to the 2000’s All-Decade Team.

2. Bill Stanfill (1969-1976): Bill Stanfill was a force to be reckoned with as a pass rusher in the early 70’s. The NFL didn’t start keeping track of sacks as an official stat until 1982, but Stanfill’s unofficial team records were more than enough to qualify him for induction into the Miami Dolphins Honor Roll in 2010.

He unofficially has the team record for sacks by a rookie with eight, he is actually tied with Jason Taylor (unofficially of course) for most sacks in a season with 18.5 in 1973, and he sits at second on the franchise’s all-time sacks list with 67.5 unofficial quarterback takedowns. Bill Stanfill was selected to four Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro twice.

3. Vern Den Herder (1971-1982): The unofficial sack leader on the league’s only perfect team, Vern Den Herder combined with Stanfill to form one of the NFL’s fiercest pass rushing duos. Vern Den Herder owns some of the most memorable sack performances in team history. He totaled four sacks on two separate occasions and unofficially shares the franchise record for sacks in a game (5) with his counterpart Bill Stanfill. He ranks fourth on the Dolphins’ all-time sack list with 64.5.

4. Doug Betters (1978-1987): In one of the finest seasons a Dolphins’ defender has ever enjoyed, Doug Betters captured the 1983 Defensive Player of the Year award with 16 sacks. Betters was also recognized with Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors in ’83. As a key cog in the “Killer B’s” defense, which derived its name from having six of their eleven starters with last names that started with B, Betters registered the third most sacks in Dolphins history (65.5).