Karlos Dansby, Linebacker
THE TRADE for wideout Brandon Marshall was the biggest news of the Dolphins' off-season, but their main focus was clear: revamping a 3--4 defense that ranked 25th in points allowed last year and was the central reason why the team regressed from 11--5 and AFC East champions to 7--9 and also-rans. By the time executive vice president Bill Parcells used eight of his nine draft picks on defenders—including first-round end Jared Odrick out of Penn State and second-round linebacker Koa Misi out of Utah, two of six probable defensive starters who are 24 or younger—he had already brought in a veteran to lead them. The hulking (6'4", 250 pounds) Karlos Dansby, Arizona's leading tackler since his rookie year in 2004, became a Dolphin on March 5, the first day of 2010 free agency. The five-year, $43 million contract the Dolphins dangled, at the time the largest ever for an inside linebacker, surely expedited Dansby's decision, but even more alluring, Dansby insists, was the opportunity to be the centerpiece of a young and rising unit. "It's an organization that's on the turn, and I wanted to be part of a winner," he says. "S---, we rollin' right now."
Dansby, 28, represents a significant upgrade over last year's starter, the departed Akin Ayodele, who had neither a sack nor an interception in 2009 and whose 71 tackles were not even in the top 50 among linebackers. Dolphins coach Tony Sparano repeatedly called Dansby the most impressive player in training camp this year. "This guy gets his hand on the football constantly," says Sparano. "Sometimes when he's out there, he looks like he's 12 feet tall."