Traylor's Longevity Will Help The Dolphins
For defensive tackle Keith Traylor, his release from the New England Patriots on May 4 marked yet another beginning in an enduring fourteen-year career. Now a Miami Dolphin after being signed to a two-year contract by the Fins on May 23, Traylor has played for six different teams, including Denver (1991-92, 1997-2000), Green Bay (1993), Kansas City (1993-96), Chicago (2001-03) and New England (2004). Although Traylor has not been able to find a permanent home in the NFL, he has been followed by success from city to city.
The soon to be Thirty-six year old Traylor, who grew up in Malvern, Arkansas before becoming a star for two years at Central State University in Oklahoma, was selected by the Denver Broncos as a third round draft pick in the 1991 NFL draft. After playing the linebacker position for his first three years in the NFL, Traylor moved to defensive line. The 6'2, 340 pound tackle was in his prime when he won his first two Super Bowls as a member of the 1997 and 1998 Denver Broncos. In the two year title stretch run with Denver, Traylor managed four sacks and seventy total tackles in thirty-two games, his best numbers in back-to-back seasons. Last year with the Patriots, Traylor started in ten of sixteen games while making thirty-three tackles. He was also on the field to open two playoff games for the Pats on the way to winning his third Super Bowl.
Miami will need all the run-stopping success that has been provided by Taylor in his career. After losing Pro Bowl running back Ricky Williams to early retirement, the Dolphins finished the 2004 season in last place in the AFC East with a 4-12 record. Miami ranked twentieth in the NFL in points allowed in 2004 with 354, but the problems weren't in the secondary. Dolphins opposing quarterbacks had the worst completion percentage in the league at about fifty-six percent. Miami allowed just 2592 passing yards, second fewest in the NFL. But against the run, the Miami defense was helpless, giving up the second most rushing yards in the league.
New coach Nick Saban hopes the addition of Traylor will help to strengthen the Dolphins defensive line and improve a defense that is usually one of the best in the league. Traylor, who replaces waived linebacker Billy Strother on the roster, will also provide veteran leadership as he did last year for the Patriots. After losing Ted Washington to free agency, the Pats brought in Traylor to give then rookie nose tackle Vince Wilfork time to develop and learn from the veteran. Now in his second year, Wilfork is ready to assume the starting role for the Patriots, while other young defensive lineman Ty Warren and Jarvis Green are also expected to contribute.
Traylor is likely replacing Larry Chester or Tim Bowens, who are both recovering from injury plagued seasons. After tearing ligaments in his knee at Cincinnati in the second game of the 2004 season, Chester had surgery but has recently said he expects to be ready to go this year. Bowens played just one game last year for the Fins due to back problems. Traylor should also flourish under the defensive schemes of Saban, who is a well known proponent of the 3-4 defense. Traylor played in the 3-4 for much of last season under Belichick, who like Saban, favors the 3-4.
"He believes that he will be a starter," said Traylor's agent, Jordan Woy. "He likes Nick Saban's system very much because it's very similar to what Keith played in with the Patriots."
Keith Traylor has never found a home in the NFL. His longest stretch with one team was four years, which he did with Kansas City and Denver. After fourteen years of moving around, Traylor has indicated that Miami could be his last stop. Traylor will look to build on an already impressive career in 2005. The big run-stopper has a resume that includes three Super Bowls, 459 tackles, thirteen sacks, two interceptions, eleven forced fumbles and three recoveries. In Miami, there is substantial room for improvement, and the Dolphins and their fans are hopeful that Traylor is one piece to rebuilding what was one of the worst run defenses in the league last year.
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