How they did: As has been the case since 1996, it was pretty much Zach and the rest in 2005. Zach Thomas resoundingly answered questions about whether he could fit in a 3-4 scheme by turning in perhaps the best season of his brilliant career. The Dolphins also got a boost from rookie Channing Crowder, who made the starting lineup and even showed enough knowledge of the defense to line up at both middle and outside linebacker. Donnie Spragan did a solid, if unspectacular job, after coming in as a free agent acquisition, while Junior Seau's season never got going because of a training camp calf injury that eventually landed him on injured reserve. The other backups, meanwhile, contributed mostly on special teams, while it was another washout season for former second-round pick Eddie Moore.
What's ahead: Zach Thomas will be an anchor for the defense again next season, while Crowder should be a force for years to come. Beyond that, there isn't a whole that's certain at this position. Moore figures to be back for another look, but it might be time to forget about him ever being a factor for the Dolphinse defense. Seau has said he wants to play again in 2006, but his age and his injuries over the last two seasons make it unlikely he'll be invited back. The Dolphins have a lot of guys who are good special teams players, but they need at least one more starting-caliber linebacker, if not two.
The bottom line: The Dolphins got a decent performance out of their linebackers in 2005, but there wasn't anybody outside of Thomas making big plays. For the Dolphins defense to take the next step, it will need the linebackers to become more dominant and it's unlikely the Dolphins have that kind of personnel right now. It's not often talked about as a position of need, but, make no mistake, the Dolphins have a clear need at linebacker.