Signing Jason Taylor was only the first step. Now the Dolphins must figure out exactly how to get the most bang for their buck. They must figure out how to make Taylor the valuable defensive weapon he was for many years but did not come close to resembling in a forgettable 2008 season with the Redskins.
Guess what? The Dolphins have a plan.
And the plan has been explained to me by team sources so this is it in a nutshell:
First of all, forget about whether Taylor starts or doesn't start. Coach Tony Sparano doesn't care about that and, soon, Taylor will probably be echoing a similar sentiment. The idea is not to give Taylor starts. The idea is to make sure Taylor finishes -- finishes sacks, finishes games, finishes the season.
Understand plans can always change given a change in circumstances such as injuries and individual game strategies, but initially the Dolphins plan to use JT as a situational player. That means someone will start ahead of him and play on obvious running downs ahead of him.
The way the Dolphins figure it, there's no sense asking a soon-to-be 35-year-old guy to play 60 snaps a game and find out he's effective in maybe only 25 of them. So the idea is to pick and choose the right spots to use Taylor. The idea is to give him maybe 20-25 snaps per game.
That useage of Taylor as a scalpel rather than a hacksaw will save his body, keep him fresh, and limit the chances of getting him injured. It will also mean he'll be full-throttle on every passing down because he'll be rested and because he'll be wanting to make the most of his limited opportunities. Rushing the passer is what Taylor has always done best. And that's what the Dolphins will ask him to do almost exclusively.
Taylor gives the Dolphins great versatility. At his core he is good odd-front player. He plays best on his feet so the Dolphins will use him exactly that way. Remember how Taylor came from every angle when Nick Saban was coach? The plan, initially at least, is to use him in a similar role again.
The idea is to limit the offense's ability to identify and recognize what the Dolphins are doing on defense and with Taylor in particular. The idea is to confuse the offense. The idea is to gain the greatest strategic advantage with a pretty good player executing the plan.
Taylor was terribly miscast in a Redskins system that didn't know how to maximize his gifts. Yes, he wanted to escape Washington for family reasons. But from a football standpoint, he needed to escape that 4-3 scheme the Redskins buried him in.
One more thing: All these plans assume Taylor earns the right to be used in this manner. Nothing is going to be handed to him.
He doesn't have to win a starting job because he's not going to be starting. But he's got to win the right to be that situational headache for opposing offenses. He has to earn those 20 snaps per game. He's got to beat out guys like Cameron Wake and Eric Walden and Matt Roth to earn his way on the field.
The Dolphins think he'll do exactly that. But that will be up to him.