TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: DL

As the Dolphins head to training camp, we break down every position, with its strengths and weaknesses, as well as which players figure to be on the 53-man roster. What follows is a look at the defensive line.

The Dolphins defensive line suddenly became a question mark in the eyes of many after the release of Daryl Gardener.

But like the offensive line, the biggest issue at this spot is whether the Dolphins can get significant contributions from a couple of key players coming back from injuries.

The two who quickly come to mind fitting that description are end Rob Burnett and tackle Larry Chester.

Burnett is important to the pass rush. The Dolphins plan on using him in the same role Trace Armstrong filled two years ago when he led the AFC in sacks and went to the Pro Bowl. Burnett had 10.5 sacks in 2000, but he battled various injuries last season and went sackless.

If he can goes sackless again, the Dolphins are in trouble.

As for Chester, he is coming off a leg injury similar to the one that knocked Mark Dixon out last season. Chester, a weightlifting phenom, is crucial to the Dolphins' ability to stop the run, an area where the Dolphins really struggled late last season.

If healthy, Chester should team with Tim Bowens, to give the Dolphins the type of run-stuffing presence they need in the middle of the D-line.

The Dolphins have a couple of promising backups in Jermaine Haley and Ernest Grant, but both were slowed by injuries last year and didn't do much when called to action last season.

At defensive end, the Dolphins are set on the right side with Jason Taylor, but there will be a battle for the starting spot on the other side between newly acquired Jay Williams and David Bowens.

Bowens really played well after joining the Dolphins last season, and he presents interesting pass-rushing possibilities.

Williams, who can also play inside in passing situations, had six sacks two years ago but his total dropped to one last year when the Carolina Panthers usually took him out on third down.

The Dolphins could also use a contribution from Adewale Ogunleye, who is in the David Bowens mold: strong pass rusher, a bit raw, question marks concerning run defense.

In terms of who will make the roster, this could be one position where almost everything is set. The nine players mentioned above all figure to make the team.

If the Dolphins decide to keep 10 defensive linemen, which isn't likely, the most likely candidate to make the team would be tackle Henry Taylor, who joined the team late last season.


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