Taylor Time?

Jason Taylor said very clearly upon his return to the Dolphins that he was miscast as a left defensive end last season in Washington, but in the early part of training camp he's been getting virtually all of his work at left outside linebacker. And he's been getting good reviews from head coach Tony Sparano.

It's interesting to note because after Taylor was signed, the immediate impression was that he would be used as a pass-rushing specialist whose number of snaps would be limited to keep him fresh.

In simpler terms, it was suggested that he probably would come off the bench while Matt Roth continued to start at that strongside linebacker spot.

But, in one of the most bizarre developments of camp so far, Roth has been absent since failing the team's conditioning test, so Taylor has been lining up with the first-team defense opposite Joey Porter.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Taylor is a much better pass rusher than Roth; in fact, it's not even close between the two.

The one question about Taylor in terms of starting him opposite Porter has been whether he can be strong enough at the point of attack to hold his own against the run. Yes, Taylor is a former defensive end in a 4-3, but even when he made plays in run defense, more often than not they came from the back side and not as the result of him standing up the tight end or offensive lineman trying to block him.

That said, Sparano said Wednesday Taylor is "getting better and better every day at what we're asking him to do."

Inside linebacker Akin Ayodele told reporters the left or right side makes no difference in the Dolphins defense when it comes to the outside linebackers, but the left outside linebackers usually will have to deal with the tight end since most teams are right-handed offensively (meaning the tight end lines up on the right side).

Sparano has complimented Roth's performance last season on more than one occasion, and he indeed did a solid job against the run. But the Dolphins need for someone to complement Porter's pass rushing, and that's where Taylor can make a difference.

What the Dolphins can't have is a major liability in run defense when it comes to their outside linebackers.

Pittsburgh is the benchmark when it comes to 3-4 defenses, and they got superior production from their two starting outside linebacker last year, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.

The stat that stands out is that both reached double digits in sacks, but one can't be understated is that Woodley is a 265-pound strongside guy who was a defensive end at the University of Michigan.

That's the ideal strongside outside linebacker in a 3-4; Taylor doesn't have that kind of bulk, so it's fair to wonder whether starting him opposite Porter is the way to go.

In Roth's absence, the Dolphins also have looked at Tearrius George and Quentin Moses at strongside linebacker, but neither of them looks like a viable candidate for major playing time, let alone a starting job.

Sparano said Wednesday he had no timetable for Roth's appearance at practice, so there are beginning to be whispers that maybe the injury is significant.

If that's the case, the Dolphins may not have a choice but to have Taylor start opposite Porter. But who knows, it might happen regardless of when Roth returns.

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