The Miami Dolphins let two perfectly good linebackers go this offseason in Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett, but are making a transition that rides the current flow of where NFL offenses and successful defenses are generally going. Miami possessed one of the better linebacking units and best run-stopping squads in the league and have now dismissed much of that for more blitz-effective personnel in signing former Baltimore Ravens inside backer Dannell Ellerbe and Oakland Raiders outside backer Phillip Wheeler in free agency.
Pro Football Focus gave a nice rundown on Twitter that doesn’t account for Ellerbe having many fewer snaps than his cohorts but include PRP — the site’s pass-rush productivity metric — that favors Ellerbe and Wheelers’ ability to get after the passer far more than either Dansby or Burnett.
It will be a massive weight of expectation for Ellerbe after getting $35 million over five years, hitting the midst of his prime at age 27 and having to show everyone what he learned playing alongside Ray Lewis, only the greatest linebacker of all time. At least the rings will hold the attention of his new teammates in training camp as this defense transforms its ethos from run-stuffing towards the quarterback-terrorizing end of the spectrum.
“The Ravens were all I knew, and I was supposed to be the guy who replaced Ray,” Ellerbe said, via USA Today Sports. “I wanted to be a part of leading a defense to a championship. (Dolphins Coach Joe) Philbin told me, ‘However you want to lead, by example or being vocal or however just be that leader, that’s up to you.’ I feel we have championship potential here. It’s just can you get the guys to focus and win those close games. … In order to make those plays when it counts, you have to have that chemistry. You have to have guys who want to work with and for each other, and I see that here.”