Pre-Camp Analysis: Linebackers

As we start heading closer to the 2007 training camp, we break down the Dolphins position by position, analyzing what they did in the offseason and what to expect in the upcoming season. We continue our series with a look at the linebackers.

Who's new: Kelvin Smith (draft), Akbar Gbaja-Biamila (free agent), Edmond Miles (undrafted free agent), Joey Porter (free agent), Abraham Wright (draft)

Who's gone: None

Who's back: Channing Crowder, Robert McCune, Zach Thomas, Derrick Pope, Donnie Spragan, Jim Maxwell

What happened in the offseason: The Dolphins made very few changes to their linebacking corps in the offseason, but there was one big move, a move that could give the defense the type of pass-rushing complement to Jason Taylor that's been lacking. We're talking, of course, about the signing of Joey Porter after he was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Porter will step into the starting lineup in the spot occupied last year by Donnie Spragan, who re-signed with Miami after drawing little interest as an unrestricted free agent.

What to expect: The starting linebacking corps certainly has a lot of credentials, with Porter joining Pro Bowl regular Zach Thomas and former third-round pick Channing Crowder. Thomas has yet to show signs of slowing down despite being in his early 30s, while this could be the year Crowder makes a big move and starts becoming a playmaker for the defense.

What we think: There's no question that the Dolphins paid a big price for Porter, very likely too high a price, but there's also no denying his pass rushing could make life miserable for opposing offenses if they have to worry about more than Taylor coming at the quarterback from the outside. We're expeting big things from Crowder in 2007, and it's clearly a big year from him because if he doesn't progress, it might be time (or close to it) that he'll be just a serviceable starting linebacker in the NFL, and not the difference-maker it once appeared he might be. The other thing about the linebacking corps is that the depth is nonexistent, and there would be clear cause for concern if injuries hit. Derrick Pope always has done a good job whenever he's played, but the other backup linebackers are unproven commodities.

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Alain Poupart is the Associate Editor of Dolphin Digest and To read him every day, visit and become a Miami Dolphins insider.