The Dolphins linebacking corps always winds up making a lot of tackles because of the scheme the team has been using, and that was again the case this season until injuries started causing problems. First it was veteran Junior Seau, who was lost for the season after the second Jets game because of a chest injury. And then Zach Thomas missed several games because of a troublesome hamstring problem. When they were healthy, both Thomas and Seau were very productive, and Morlon Greenwood also continued his steady progress. What the injuries did was give the Dolphins a chance to get a good look at youngsters like Eddie Moore and rookie Derrick Pope.
Zach Thomas: Thomas appeared on his way to another Pro Bowl before his season was derailed by the hamstring injury. Thomas was as active and productive as ever.
Junior Seau: After a solid but unspectacular first year in Miami, Seau was making a lot of plays in 2004 before he went down in the ninth game of the season.
Morlon Greenwood: As stated before, Greenwood continued to improve in 2004, and the only complaint remains that he just doesn't produce any big plays.
Brendon Ayanbadejo: An absolute stud on special teams, Ayanbadejo didn't do all that much at linebacker except for a huge interception that set up the game-winning touchdown in the Monday night victory over New England.
Corey Jenkins: Waived in September and then brought back after injuries hit, Jenkins didn't really get a shot on defense and remains a project.
Derrick Pope: Perhaps the biggest surprise on the team this season, Pope got extensive playing time because of Thomas' injury and was very impressive, although interim head coach Jim Bates made it a point to say he still had a lot to learn.
Billy Strother: A late-season acquisition who got on the field only on special teams.
Eddie Moore: The Dolphins' top pick of 2003 was considered by many to be a bust until he finally got his chance after Seau went down. And Moore acquitted himself quite well, certainly a lot better than many would have expected.
Tony Bua: He didn't get a chance on defense, but Bua made his mark on special teams, especially with that "SportsCenter" block against Rams defensive end Bryce Fisher.
The linebacking corps could, and probably will, have a new look in 2005. Seau is a logical candidate to be released because of his age and a heavy contract. Greenwood is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and the Dolphins probably won't get into any bidding war to keep him. Thomas should be back to anchor the group, and Pope and Ayanbadejo certainly should be back, as should Bua. Beyond that, nothing is certain.