The Dolphins’ linebackers came into this season with a lot of question marks. Koa Misi had off-field issues to compound his underwhelming play, and many people thought that Karlos Dansby was not playing up to his contract.
But the starters came in and put together a very respectable season, and should all return as starters next season. There’s a serious need for depth, but the starters were impressive.
MDD Staff Writer: Garrett Baker
If Misi had a poor season, he most likely would have been let go this off-season and Miami would be looking for a new outside linebacker in free agency or the draft. But Misi, in his third season since being taken in the second round, put together a solid 2012 campaign. He still didn’t have a great season, but he exceeded expectations. The fact that he took a step forward in his third season is a positive to his long-term future with the team. Misi had 50 tackles and 15 assisted tackles, to go along with 3.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He was solid both in run support and pass coverage, and showed an extra effort that was lacking previously. He did miss two of the final three games of the season though, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Miami brings in another linebacker to challenge Misi, although it isn’t a pressing need at this point.
Burnett had another solid season, his second as a Dolphin and eighth of his NFL career. Burnett is just a tackling machine, and does a solid job holding his ground, pursuing the ball, and wrapping up. But he isn’t dynamic at all, and can be a liability when he has to cover running backs or faster tight ends. He also isn’t much of a playmaker, and didn’t force a fumble, recover a fumble, or intercept a pass this season. But he does what is asked of him, and is valuable for the experience he brings to the defense.
In his third season with Miami, Dansby finally proved why he was signed as a free agent to a big contract in 2010. Dansby stepped up as the leader on defense, and was a force all season. He was strong against the run, but also made some plays in coverage as well. He finished with 134 combined tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, and an impressive nine passes defended. If he can repeat this year’s performance next season, it will be a big plus for Miami’s defense. He brings a lot of experience and heart to the team, and plays with an edge that rubs off on the rest of the unit.
The only backup linebacker to make even a slight impact this season, Trusnik is more of a special teams player but filled in valiantly at linebacker when called upon. He doesn’t bring much in terms of pure athleticism, but is strong at the point of attack and never gives up. The seven-year veteran started two games, played in all 16, and had 25 total tackles.