J.T. for MVP?
Even though his team faces a long road when it comes to making the playoffs, Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor's performance in Sunday's 24-20 victory over Minnesota is further proof that he deserves consideration for NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors despite his team's 4-6 record.
"I can't remember anybody who's made any more (plays) than he's made in my time coaching on any team that I've been a part of," Dolphins coach Nick Saban said. "I can't make comparisons to other players. But in my opinion, the way he's played in the last three weeks, I don't know how anybody could play any better and do any more for their team."
Taylor enters Thursday's game at Detroit as one of the league's hottest players. Taylor's 51-yard interception return of a Brad Johnson interception against Minnesota marked his second defensive touchdown in the past three games.
Taylor also has tied the retired George Martin of the New York Giants for the NFL's all-time record for touchdowns by a defensive lineman with seven.
Taylor's impact against Minnesota didn't end there. He also registered five tackles, two forced fumbles, two passes defensed and a sack, raising his season total to nine. Taylor, though, tried to deflect personal praise for his recent performances that have helped spur Miami's thee-game winning streak.
"I am not going to sit here and pat myself on the back," Taylor said. "I have guys that make it a heck of it a lot easier for me."
In turn, Taylor has recently made things much easier on an offense that has only produced two touchdowns in two home games.
"Having guys like that on defense makes our job unbelievably easy," Dolphins quarterback Joey Harrington said. "We know that all we have to do is put them in a good situation."
Taylor may be the only member of the Dolphins defense to land a Pro Bowl berth this season.
"He's on another level," Dolphins middle linebacker Zach Thomas said. "I'm glad he's on our team. He's been playing like that all year. He makes big plays at the times that we need it."
The Dolphins (4-6) will need to lean on Taylor heavily once again against Detroit, as heavy pressure on Lions quarterback Jon Kitna would help a secondary that could potentially be missing starting cornerback Will Allen (groin), reserve cornerback Michael Lehan (nose) and backup safety Travares Tillman (hand). All three players were injured against Minnesota, causing the Dolphins to shuffle their secondary to such a point that Saban said the unit was "all over the place."
Even so, Renaldo Hill — who alternated between starting free safety and nickel cornerback — made the play that put Miami ahead for good by returning a Chester Taylor fumble 48 yards for a touchdown with 9:27 remaining.
"We knew we had to try to make a play, try to get the ball out and make something happen," Taylor said. "Renaldo picked up the next fumble and ran it back. That was a big swing in momentum in the game. That was a big play by him, not just to jump on the ball but to pick it up and have the wherewithal to get in the end zone."
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