Let’s harken back to the early 2000s, an epoch of the NFL where the pads were a bit bigger, smash-mouth offenses were more common, and brute force seemed to dominate the game. The era of elite signal-calling quarterbacks was only in its fledgling stages, and as a result aggressive pass rushers thrived.
The league became a target-rich environment for physical linebackers and defensive ends who produced consistent containment and pressure in clutch situations. From the dust of this era of the gridiron, a star was born: six time Pro-Bowler, 2006 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and 2017 NFL Hall of Fame inductee, Jason Taylor.
This year the Dolphins defensive leader for roughly a decade was enshrined into the NFL Hall of Fame along with other legends of the sport like Kurt Warner and LaDanian Tomlinson. Over ten years have passed since the peak of Taylor’s career, making it easy to overlook just how much defensive power he provided the Dolphins.
It is near impossible to find a defensive player who wielded the power to shift the entire dynamic of a game through consistent turnovers like Taylor did throughout his career.
A defensive goliath standing 6’6 and weighing 240 lbs, Taylor’s hulking size often made him seem clunky. In spite of this, he consistently happened to be at the right place at the right time. His size greatly benefited his overall presence as a defender, making him the bane of many quarterbacks throughout his career. He sacked Tom Brady alone 12.5 times and lead the league with 18.5 sacks in 2002.
Taylor remains famous not only for his 139.5 sacks over his career, but for his ability to consistently produce turnovers—often scoring in the process. He tied the record for fumble recoveries with 29 and holds the record for fumbles recovered for touchdowns with 6.
The kind of momentum he produced was invaluable for the Dolphins, even in the twilight of his 15-year career, the presence and expertise he carried onto the field was crucial for Miami’s defense.
It is also important to note that Taylor’s performance was spectacular even when his team as a whole floundered. The Dolphins had a dismal 2007 season going 1-15. However, Taylor still managed to produce 11 sacks and a defensive touchdown for the season. Regardless of the situation, Taylor performed as one of the league’s premiere defenders nearly every season of his storied career, but it’s fair to say he reached his climax in 2006.
Few defensive players have shown more determination nor have been more exciting to watch than Taylor during the 2006 season. Highlighted by a career high 9 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions returned for another career high 2 touchdowns, his season was nothing short of extraordinary.
With these new career highs it became easy to forget that Taylor was a 10-year veteran playing with more energy than he did entering the league in 1997. Taylor carried this momentum all season. The gargantuan linebacker arguably had his best game against the Minnesota Vikings, forcing two fumbles and returning an interception for a 51-yard touchdown.
However, Taylor’s terrific performance game after game was not enough to carry the team as they finished 6-10. Despite the Dolphins experiencing yet another disappointing season, Taylor’s outstanding performance would earn him Defensive Player of the Year and would provide some compensation for the team’s lack of production.
Spending 13 seasons of his 15-year career in Miami, Taylor is a legend of the Dolphin’s defense and shined during some of the franchise’s least successful seasons. Taylor’s ability to consistently produce turnovers, make crushing hits, and ultimately seize opportunities earned him a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame and solidified him as one of the greatest defenders to ever play the sport.