Channeling Channing

Rookie linebacker Channing Crowder split time on the first-team defense in practice this week with veteran free agent acquisition Donnie Spragan, and it's quite possibly he'll be in the starting lineup when the Dolphins open the regular season Sunday against Denver. Clearly, Crowder has been the most impressive of the Dolphins' draft picks so far. But should that be such a big surprise?

If you recall, at the time of the draft most observers felt that Crowder was a first-round talent, but that questions about previous injuries and off-the-field issues would drop him in the draft.

Lucky for the Dolphins, that's just what happened. Crowder was there in the third round and Coach Nick Saban, who had seen what Crowder could do from their days in the SEC, was only too happy to grab him.

Ever since he showed up at Dolphins camp, Crowder has been as good as advertised in terms of his football ability, but it's his football intellect and his personality that have been most impressive.

Crowder has been a pleasure to deal with for the media, always cooperative, always with a smile on his face.

But more importantly for the Dolphins, he quickly pick up the team's complicated defensive scheme, doing so while spending training camp at two different positions.

Not that any of this is any surprise to Crowder, mind you.

"I'm a pretty good athlete, I would say. Not to be cocky, but I think I can play football pretty good," Crowder said this week. "I kept on the scheme and I just tried to pick it out. Zach and Junior, having them helped a lot because watching them do something, that's how it's supposed to be done with all the experience they have. So that helped me out a lot, knowing that they were there, I kind of expected to catch on quick because all I did when I was backing them up was watch them do what they were doing with the first team and I just tried to go do exactly what they did."

He has done it well enough that he's likely to make a big impact as a rookie. Fellow linebacker Jason Glenn, for one, was quoted as saying he thinks Crowder is going to be a star in this league.

Nothing we have seen so far would make us contradict that.

Back in April, Crowder was considered a gamble by many. If early indications mean anything, it's a gamble that's going to pay off big time.

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