For the Miami Dolphins’ 50th Anniversary Team: Offense and how the team was formed, click here.
First Team — Jason Taylor
1997-2007, 2009, 2011 (Defensive Player of the Year, 4x All-Pro, 6x Pro Bowl, Honor Roll)
Notable stats: 204 games played (2nd), 131.0 sacks (1st), 43 forced fumbles (1st), 6 fumbles returned for TDs (NFL record), 8 interceptions (3rd most by a non-defensive back)
A third-round draft pick in 1997, Taylor was slow to get off the ground with “only” 16.5 sacks in his first three seasons. Everything changed in 2000 when he exploded for 14.5 sacks and received his first Pro Bowl berth and First Team All-Pro selection. His career highlights took off from there including leading the NFL in sacks (and tying Bill Stanfill’s franchise record) with 18.5 in 2002, and winning the 2006 Defensive Player of the Year with a season that included 13.5 sacks, two interceptions (both returned for touchdowns), and 9 forced fumbles. Despite spending most of his time as a defensive lineman, he has forced more turnovers than any other Dolphins player by a large margin, and has racked up nine total turnovers returned for a touchdown – an NFL record for a defensive lineman. While he did have stints with both Washington and the New York Jets (mostly due to Bill Parcells) he is still one of only two Dolphins to play over 200 games with the franchise, and started 130 straight games – a franchise record. He is probably the best defensive player in team history, and is on his way to Canton soon.
First Team — Cameron Wake
2009-Present (3x All-Pro, 4x Pro Bowl)
Notable stats: 67.0 sacks (3rd), 14 forced fumbles (5th)
At this point we are all familiar with Cameron Wake’s story: undrafted and out of football, he becomes one of the best defensive players in CFL history and manages to get a contract from the Dolphins where he becomes a multiple time All-Pro. Wake is one of the few major successes of the Dolphins over the past decade or so. He is as terrifying a pass rusher as the Dolphins have ever had, and has collected sacks at a faster rate than any Dolphins player (including Jason Taylor). He and Jason Taylor are the only two Dolphins players to have 14 or more sacks in two separate seasons. When he retires it is all but assured that he will pass Bill Stanfill for the second most sacks in team history. Though at this exact moment Stanfill has had a better career with the Dolphins, reasonably projecting ahead just one season allows Wake to leapfrog him.
Second Team — Bill Stanfill
1969-1976 (2x All-Pro, 5x Pro Bowl, Honor Roll)
Notable stats: 67.5 sacks (2nd)
Though Stanfill’s career with the Dolphins was relatively short he did have some very memorable moments. In his rookie season he had eight sacks (a team rookie record), blocked a kick, and preceded to return two interceptions (the only ones of his career) for touchdowns; he was thus awarded with a trip to the AFL All-Star Game. Several years later in 1972, he was named to his first All-Pro team, but was more impressive in the playoffs when he had 3.5 sacks over three playoff games. The next year he set franchise records with 18.5 sacks in a season and 5 sacks in one game against the Jets. Sadly, as with most players during that period, Stanfill was quickly felled by chronic injuries and was forced to retire at the age of 29 after being injured for most of the 1976 season.
Second Team — Doug Betters
1978-1987 (Defensive Player of the Year, 1x All-Pro, 1x Pro Bowl, Honor Roll)
Notable stats: 64.5 sacks (4th)
Doug Betters had been a relatively above-average defensive end for the Dolphins (think Oliver Vernon) for the majority of his career when he suddenly exploded during the early 1980s. In 1983, he was named a First Team All-Pro and Defensive Player of the Year when he accumulated 16.0 sacks. The very next year he followed that up with an additional 14.0 sacks, meaning that nearly half of his career sacks came in this two-year period. While other defensive ends might have had more consistency, none were able to capture the highs that Betters did.
Honorable Mentions: Vern Den Herder, Jeff Cross, Trace Armstrong
First Team — Bob Baumhower
1977-1986 (5x All-Pro, 5x Pro Bowl, Honor Roll)
Notable stats: 39.5 sacks (T-8th, most by a DT)
I’m not going to mince any words here: Baumhower is the most underrated Dolphin of all-time. He is so underrated that, unlike Bob Kuechenberg, he has never once been a finalist for the Hall of Fame – despite the fact he was one of the best nose tackles of his era. During the entire decade of the 1980s only two defensive tackles made at least four Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams: Randy White (in the Hall of Fame) and Bob Baumhower. In 1979 Baumhower amazingly had 146 tackles in a season, by far the most by any defensive lineman in Dolphins history, he then followed it up by leading the team in tackles the next year with 135. The fact he once had a nine sack and an eight sack season as a nose tackle is even more impressive. To put that in perspective Haloti Ngata’s career high for sacks as a nose tackle is 5.5, Vince Wilfork’s career high is only 3.5. Not to mention he is tied for the fourth most blocked kicks in Dolphins history (4). While his greatness has been mostly been ignored, Baumhower still remains far and away the greatest defensive tackle in franchise history.
First Team — Tim Bowens
1994-2004 (2x Pro Bowl)
Notable stats: 22.0 sacks
Beginning his career as the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1994, Bowens served as a major cog of the defensive line for nearly a decade. He started 155 total games with the Dolphins, the sixth most starts in team history and ahead of players like Bob Griese and Larry Little. While he wasn’t fearsome as a pass rusher, he clogged up the middle of the line and became a run stuffer at the point of attack. While tackles were shoddily and inconsistently recorded until 2002, Bowens’ numbers stand out and far and away better than any other defensive tackle in Dolphins history besides Baumhower.
Second Team — Randy Starks
2008-2014 (2x Pro Bowl)
Notable stats: 30.5 sacks (3rd by a DT), 4 interceptions (most by a DT)
Randy Starks does not seem like an all-time Dolphin great, he has toiled mostly in obscurity, but his career achievements make him just as qualified as any other defensive tackle. His two Pro Bowls are tied with the much more famous Bowens for second most by a defensive tackle, and his knack at disrupting plays with his sacks, pass defenses, and even interceptions are admirable. While he also spent time as a 3-4 defensive end, Starks’ duties as an interior rusher meant his game was much more akin to a defensive tackle no matter which base defense. While his career will be forgotten by most, Starks remains one of the most accomplished and well-rounded defensive linemen in team history.
Second Team — Manny Fernandez
1968-1975 (Honor Roll)
Notable stats: 35.0 sacks (2nd by a DT)
Recently inducted into the team’s Honor Roll, Fernandez’s career was marked by a lack of recognition. He was initially brought to Miami as an undrafted free agent because his heritage was supposed to attract the Hispanic population – he did not speak a word of Spanish. During Super Bowl VII, he recorded 17 tackles (still a Super Bowl record by a defensive lineman) and shut down the running game of the league MVP Larry Brown, but was not voted the MVP of the Super Bowl – the voter, by his own admission, voted for safety Jake Scott based on the box score since the game itself was so boring to watch (in his defense, I’ve watched it, it was excruciatingly boring). And despite his role as the run stuffer on one of the greatest defenses of all time, he never once made a Pro Bowl. Though he never got enough national recognition, the fact he is the only one of two players in the Dolphins Honor Roll to never make a Pro Bowl (along with Jim Mandich who had a role with the team beyond his playing days) shows how valued his talents were to the franchise. It also helps that he used to wrestle alligators in the Everglades for his own amusement – would you want to leave him off the Honor Roll?
Honorable Mentions: Brian Sochia, Paul Soliai
First Team — Bryan Cox
1991-1995 (1x All-Pro, 3x Pro Bowl)
Notable stats: 529 tackles, 31.5 sacks, 14 forced fumbles (4th)
Much like the tight end position, the Dolphins all-time depth at outside linebacker is very questionable. Cox is the only outside linebacker in Dolphins history to be named a First Team All-Pro. His one All-Pro season occurred during his second year in the league when he accumulated 14 sacks, a Dolphins record among linebackers until Joey Porter broke it in 2008. After spending the first three years of his career playing outside linebacker, he would later make two more Pro Bowls as a 4-3 middle linebacker. Bryan Cox would lead the Dolphins in tackles every year he was in Miami except his rookie year. Cox is most memorable for his outrageous personality. Famous instances include greeting Buffalo fans with a double-barreled salute, and charging the Bengals bench after a borderline dirty hit on special teams.
First Team — Bob Brudzinski
Brudzinski started his career as a first round pick with the Los Angeles Rams, and was considered to one of the future pieces of their defense. However, a contract dispute after the 1980 season forced the Rams to trade the promising linebacker to the Dolphins. His next two seasons in Miami were considered his finest. In 1981 he set a then-career high with 90 tackles and 2 interceptions, the very next year he accumulated 4.5 sacks in only a nine-game season. In 1983 he led the team in tackles with 104 of them. Brudzinski was never glamorous, but he was a model of longevity and consistency that was key to Miami’s Killer B defense.
Second Team — Kim Bokamper
1977-1985 (1x Pro Bowl)
Notable stats: 39.5 sacks (T-8th)
Like Bryan Cox, Kim Bokamper did spend not spend the entirety of his Dolphins career playing outside linebacker. When the Dolphins traded for Bob Brudzinski in 1981, the pool of outside linebackers grew a little too big and Bokamper was forced to play defensive end to get playing time. However the majority of his starts and sacks occurred when he played an outside linebacker, and he was named to his only Pro Bowl as an outside linebacker, so I’ve decided to count him as one here. While he only led the team in sacks for one year – he tied A.J. Duhe with a paltry 5.5 sacks in 1980 – Bokamper actually owns the team record for most playoff sacks (8.0).
Second Team — Larry Gordon
Gordon’s career was short, but he was infamous as a tackling machine. Tackles were not officially recorded by the NFL until 2002, with generally reliable data existing for the 1990s, but before that team statisticians generally kept spotty records of tackles. Despite the lack of completely reliable records, his accomplishments still jump off the page. He unofficially totaled 100 or more tackles in three of his first five seasons (without ever having less than 90), and arguably had his best season during the strike shortened 1982 season. Sadly, Gordon passed away during the 1983 offseason while jogging in Arizona due to heart failure.
Honorable Mentions: Doug Swift, Mike Kolen
First Team — Zach Thomas
1996-2007 (7x All-Pro, 7x Pro Bowl, Honor Roll)
Notable stats: 168 games (5th), 1,633 tackles (1st), 19.5 sacks, 17 interceptions (most by a non-defensive back), 16 forced fumbles (T-2nd)
Tying Larry Little for the most All-Pro selections by a Dolphins player, Thomas was an absolute terror on the field. He was not particularly adept at intercepting the ball or sacking the quarterback, and he infamously went in the 5th round of the draft because he was undersized. Yet Thomas found ways to be disruptive. His four interceptions returned for touchdowns are a Dolphins record, and he accumulated 100 tackles in ten of his twelve seasons with the Dolphins. Amazingly his place in NFL history is also rare. Only 15 linebackers (including Thomas) have been to seven Pro Bowls and were five-time First Team All-Pros. Twelve of them are in the Hall of Fame, two are not yet eligible, and the last one is Thomas himself. In other words, Thomas has all the credentials to be in the Hall of Fame, but the voters are dragging their feet with him. Very disappointing for one of the best defensive players in Dolphins history.
First Team — Nick Buoniconti
1969-1976 (Hall of Fame, 2x All-Pro, 3x Pro Bowl, Honor Roll)
Buoniconti’s draft story is very similar to that of Zach Thomas. They were both considered undersized (both were 5’11’’), and thus fell to the very late rounds of the draft. Buoniconti’s best years were with the Patriots where he made five All-Pro teams, but when he came to Miami for the second half of his career he proved to be invaluable. He had over 100 tackles in all but his final season in Miami; he even owned the unofficial Dolphins record of 162 tackles in a season until it was broken by Steve Towle. Buoniconti was also known for his clutch interceptions. During the 1972 perfect season he picked off Terry Bradshaw to seal a Dolphins win during the AFC Championship, and then returned a Billy Kilmer interception 32 yards to set up the game-winning score in Super Bowl VII. He proved to be a vital veteran leader, and only Hall of Famer, for the No-Name Defense.
Second Team — John Offerdahl
1986-1993 (2x All-Pro, 5x Pro Bowl, Honor Roll)
If you were to look at the beginnings of Offerdahl’s career and compared it to that of Zach Thomas, the similarities would be striking. For his first five years in the league, Offerdahl made the Pro Bowl every single time. He did not rack up very many interceptions or sacks, but was a tackling machine. His 116 tackles in 1990 resulted in a First Team All-Pro selection, but his career sadly took a nose dive after that. For the next three seasons, Offerdahl only managed to play 24 games due to injury, and finally retired due to his declining health and durability.
Second Team — A.J. Duhe 1977-1984 (1x Pro Bowl)
Notable stats: 38.0 sacks (10th)
What pops off the page when looking at Duhe’s stats is his sack total; while the first two years of his career were at defensive end (for a total of 13 sacks), he was abruptly shifted to be an inside linebacker where he excelled. He still managed to pressure the quarterback (his career high of eight sacks came from when he was a linebacker), and was even named a Pro Bowler at his new position. The most memorable moment of his career was during the 1982 AFC Championship (aka “The Mud Bowl”) where he intercepted Jets quarterback Richard Todd three times in route to a victory. To put that game in perspective, Duhe finished his career with, you guessed it, three interceptions during the 108 regular season games he played.
Honorable Mentions: Earnest Rhone, Steve Towle
First Team — Sam Madison
1997-2005 (3x All-Pro, 4x Pro Bowl)
Notable stats: 31 interceptions (3rd), 9 forced fumbles (T-1st among defensive backs)
Drafted in the second round of the 1997 draft, Madison only served as a reserve defensive back his rookie year. The next year he was propelled into a starting job where he managed to snag an incredible eight interceptions (tied for 2nd in the league with fellow starter Terrell Buckley) in route to his first All-Pro selection. The next year he led the league with seven interceptions and was named to the first of his four consecutive Pro Bowls. From 2000-2005, Madison primarily went up against #1 receivers as the right cornerback and kept Miami’s defense either first or second in fewest passing yards allowed three times.
First Team — Patrick Surtain 1998-2004 (2x All-Pro, 3x Pro Bowl)
Notable stats: 29 interceptions (T-4th), 6.5 sacks (T-2nd among defensive backs)
Patrick Surtain was never quite as accomplished as his partner on the right side of the field, but proved to terrorize quarterbacks nonetheless. As quarterbacks started to throw away from Madison they noticed a problem: Surtain was just as much of a threat. From 2002-2004, Madison only managed to notch 6 interceptions, not so coincidentally Surtain notched 17 interceptions and all of his Pro Bowl appearances during this time frame. The presence of one another made each other better, and Madison and Surtain remain one of the most prolific cornerback duos of all time.
Second Team — William Judson
Notable stats: 24 interceptions (T-6th)
After beginning his career in a reserve role during the strike-shortened 1982 season, Judson started his career with a bang in 1983 when he intercepted a career high six interceptions – three of which came in one game against the New York Jets. Judson was very durable during his time in Miami, the only games he missed before his final season in 1989 was during a four game period in 1987 when most NFL players went on strike. He also was a disruptive special teams player; he blocked five kicks with the Dolphins tied for the third most in team history. Although he never made a Pro Bowl team, Judson always had at least two interceptions in every season besides his rookie year, and he led the team in interceptions three separate seasons. The only Dolphins cornerbacks with more career interceptions are Madison and Surtain.
Second Team — Brent Grimes
2013-Present (1x All-Pro, 2x Pro Bowl)
I hesitated to put Grimes on this list because of the brevity of his career with the Dolphins. The problem was that beyond Surtain and Madison, Grimes is the most decorated corner in Dolphins history: after Surtain and Madison he is the only Dolphin cornerback to be named to either a Pro Bowl or All-Pro team. Sure I could pick plenty of corners that played longer and had more interceptions than Grimes in a Dolphins uniform, but then I would be putting a less deserving player on the team. Only Terrell Buckley has grabbed more interceptions at a faster rate in Miami than Brent Grimes. His feats of athleticism in spite of his size are incredible, and it is fair to imagine that his resume will only continue to improve over the coming years.
Honorable Mentions: Tim Foley, Curtis Johnson, Terrell Buckley
First Team — Dick Anderson
1968-1977 (Defensive Player of the Year, 3x All-Pro, 3x Pro Bowl, Honor Roll)
Notable stats: 34 interceptions (2nd), 792 interception return yardage (1st)
The Dolphins teams of the 1970s were fortunate to have two safeties known for their ball-hawking abilities. While Anderson had one fewer interception with the Dolphins than fellow safety Jake Scott, Anderson made up for it with his amazing ability to return interceptions for massive chunks of yardage. In his rookie year Anderson returned an interception 96 yards for a touchdown, a record that stood for nearly 25 years. He amassed eight interceptions in three different seasons, including his rookie year and in 1973 when he won Defensive Player of the Year honors. Like many players of his era, his career came to an inglorious end. He missed the entirety of the 1975 season, and spent the next two seasons primarily as a backup. Though he averaged over 5 interceptions a season over his first seven seasons, he only amassed one more interception after 1974.
First Team — Jake Scott
1970-1975 (4x All-Pro, 5x Pro Bowl, Super Bowl MVP, Honor Roll)
Notable stats: 35 interceptions (1st)
While Anderson was certainly more skilled when it came to maneuvering after an interception, there is no doubt that Scott remains the greatest Dolphins player when it comes to pure interception numbers. Though he never led the league in interceptions, unlike Anderson, he also never intercepted fewer than four passes in his Dolphins career. His best game came in the most important game, Super Bowl VII, when he intercepted Billy Kilmer twice to secure the win and the Super Bowl MVP trophy. Scott was also prolific as a punt returner, he once lead the league and punt return yards, and he still owns the Dolphins record for most career punt return yardage. Unfortunately, Scott’s career ended poorly with the Dolphins. Scott had a falling out with Don Shula over Scott’s ability to play hurt, and he ended up finishing his career in Washington. It was not until very recently that the two reconciled, and it explains why Scott had to wait four years after Anderson to be inducted into the Dolphins Honor Roll.
Second Team — Brock Marion
1998-2003 (3x Pro Bowl)
Notable stats: 20 interceptions (12th)
Marion initially started his career in Dallas where he won two Super Bowls, mostly being used as a third safety. In 1998 Marion decided to rejoin his former coach Jimmy Johnson and proceeded to have the best years of his career in Miami. For the next six seasons in Miami he was named to all three of his career Pro Bowls, and only missed one game. In 1999 while serving double duty as a kick returner he led the league in kick return yardage, and set a single season franchise record in that category as well. In 2002 he snagged five interceptions on his way to his second Pro Bowl where he joined Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison – the first and only time in franchise history that three members of the same secondary were all named to a Pro Bowl together.
Second Team — Louis Oliver
1989-1993, 1995-1996 (1x All-Pro)
Notable stats: 24 interceptions (T-6th)
Oliver was a very solid safety for the Dolphins of the 1990s, in his rookie year he managed to snag four interceptions even though he only started thirteen games. His best year came in 1992, the same year he was named a Second Team All-Pro. He intercepted five passes including one against the Bills that he returned 103 yards for a touchdown – it was his first career pick-six and remains a Dolphins record for the longest returned interception. In the playoffs Oliver managed to snag an additional two interceptions. Sadly injuries began to derail his career, he missed several games in 1993 and after a yearlong stint in Cincinnati he returned to Miami where he could not manage to start more than 12 games in his two remaining seasons in the NFL.
Honorable Mentions: Glenn Blackwood, Yeremiah Bell
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