Here's a position-by-position look comparing the defensive personnel for the opener at Tennessee last year to the one the Dolphins will bring into Sunday's game against Detroit (unless they make more moves, which certainly is possible).
2002 — Starters: Jason Taylor, Adewale Ogunleye; backups: Rob Burnett, Jay Williams, David Bowens.
2001 — Starters: Jason Taylor, Kenny Mixon; backups: Lorenzo Bromell, Adewale Ogunleye.
Analysis: Mixon was the best run defender among all the players listed above, but the Dolphins have a lot more pass-rushing options this time around because of the improvement of Ogunleye and the addition of Burnett. The bottom line is that this is clearly a deeper unit than last year's group.
2002 — Starters: Tim Bowens, Larry Chester; backups: Jermaine Haley, Dario Romero.
2001 — Starters: Tim Bowens, Daryl Gardener; backups: Jermaine Haley, Damian Gregory, Ernest Grant.
Analysis: The big issue here is whether Chester can perform up to the standards of Gardener (when he was healthy). Chester won't provide the kind of pass-rushing presence Gardener could bring at times, but early indications are he'll be just as good against the run. As for the backups, neither Gregory nor Grant were much of a factor last year, so Romero doesn't have to do much to surpass them.
Verdict: Looks like a wash.
2002 — Starters: Zach Thomas, Derrick Rodgers, Morlon Greenwood; backups: Twan Russell, Tommy Hendricks.
2001 — Starters: Zach Thomas, Derrick Rodgers, Twan Russell; backups: Morlon Greenwood, Tommy Hendricks, Scott Galyon.
Analysis: The names have remained the same minus Galyon, who could be back on the roster before too long. This is still not a great unit, though.
2002 — Starters: Patrick Surtain, Sam Madison; backups — Jamar Fletcher, Lloyd Harrison, Ray Green, Omare Lowe.
2001 — Starters: Patrick Surtain, Sam Madison; backups: Terry Cousin, Jamar Fletcher, Ben Kelly.
Analysis: The Dolphins have more bodies on their roster at this point, but unless they can add former Detroit first-round pick Terry Fair, they don't have anybody as solid as a third corner as Terry Cousin. And that's a big concern at this point.
2002 — Starters: Brock Marion, Arturo Freeman; backups: Shawn Wooden, Trent Gamble, Scott McGarrahan.
2001 — Starters: Brock Marion, Brian Walker; backups: Arturo Freeman, Shawn Wooden, Trent Gamble, Scott McGarrahan.
Analysis: This is the same crew, except that Walker is gone. If Freeman performs the way the Dolphins think, they will be just as good. But he still has to prove it.
Verdict: Minor downgrade.
2002 — Kicker: Olindo Mare; punter: Mark Royals.
2001 — Kicker: Olindo Mare; punter: Matt Turk.
Analysis: Turk had a tremendous season last year, but Royals was just as good during the preseason.