Before the start of the free agency signing period on Feb. 28, we will examine every position on the Dolphins, grade each player's performance in the 2002 season and evaluate the prospects for the 2003 season. We continue this series with the defensive line.


Jason Taylor — What can you say about the guy? Led the league in sacks. Finished second in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting. Simply put, Taylor was sensational. Grade: A+

Tim Bowens — Like Taylor, Bowens earned a Pro Bowl invitation in 2002. Bowens again was a force against the run and did a decent job at times of collapsing the pocket, finishing with 13 hurries. On the down side, he had no sacks and no fumbles forced or recovered. Grade: B+

Larry Chester — The free agent acquisition was just about every bit as good as Daryl Gardener had been. Like Bowens, he was strong against the run. He also wound up leading all Miami interior defensive linemen in tackles. Chester also had a sack and a half and a fumble recovery. Grade: B+

Adewale Ogunleye — After being inactive throughout the 2001 season, Ogunleye burst onto the scene with 9.5 sacks last year. Pretty good stuff for his first full season. Ogunleye could have been more consistent as a run stuff and he could have been more of a factor as a pass rusher in some road games, but overall it's tough to be picky with his work. Grade: B+

Jermaine Haley — Haley backed up Chester and Bowens at DT, but it's honestly difficult to notice much of a difference with him in the lineup. He did the same things at Bowens and Chester, and also chipped in an interception. Grade: B+

Jay Williams — Acquired from Carolina for a fourth-round pick, Williams quietly had a very good season as a defensive tackle in pass-rushing situation. Did you know Williams finished with six sacks, third-best on the team? The Dolphins had great depth along the defensive line last season, and Williams was a major contributor. Grade: B+

Rob Burnett — Burnett battled some nagging injuries throughout the season, but he still finished with 17 quarterback hurries and four sacks. As a designated pass rusher, Burnett did a good job of putting some heat on the quarterback. Grade: B

David Bowens — A relentless pass rusher, Bowens was lost in the shuffle a little bit because of the team's depth up front and because of time lost with an injury. But Bowens usually made his presence felt when he was in the game. Grade: B-

Dario Romero — Romero beat out a couple of promising other youngsters to land the final spot at defensive tackle, but he was inactive for all 16 games. Grade: Incomplete.

OUTLOOK FOR 2003 — Don't expect many changes at this position next season. The Dolphins had every reason to be happy with their defensive linemen in 2002, so it's just a matter of maintaining the status quo.

The only question marks are David Bowens and Rob Burnett. David Bowens is an unrestricted free agent, and he might wind up wanted to go elsewhere to get more playing time. But you can bet the Dolphins gladly would welcome him back.

As for Burnett, there was some talk late last season that he might retire, but he is signed through the 2003 season and there's a possibility he could be back.

Haley is a restricted free agent, but he's a big part of the Dolphins' run defense and they aren't likely to let him go.

If Bowens and/or Burnett leave, the Dolphins could go looking for a replacement, but it would be for depth purposes only.

Vonnie Holliday of the Packers is a high-profile free agent at defensive end, but the Dolphins aren't going to spend that kind of money at that position. Somebody like former Dolphin Rich Owens would make more sense.

In the draft, it would be a major surprise if the Dolphins spent anything more than a very-late-round choice on a defensive lineman.

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