Jason Taylor was a 6'6" defensive end from Pittsburgh, PA. He was a three year starter with the University of Akron Zips in college. He was an All-American selection in his junior season. Miami selected him in the third round of the 1997 NFL Entry Draft with the 73rd overall pick. At 255 pounds, Taylor was small for the defensive line, but his remarkable strength more than made up for any shortcoming in size. Pound for pound, Taylor may have been the strongest defensive lineman in the NFL. Upon joining the Dolphins, Taylor would don the number 99 jersey, wearing it throughout his Miami career.
As a rookie in 1997, Taylor started 11 of the 13 games in which he appeared at right defensive end, where he would start for the next 11 seasons. He made 42 tackles with five sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Miami allowed an NFL fourth lowest nine rushing touchdowns. The team qualified for a wildcard berth in the postseason with a 9-7 record, losing to the New England Patriots, 17-3.
In 1998, Taylor started 15 of 16 games. He finished the season with nine sacks, on three occasions collecting two in a game. He led the defensive line with 52 tackles and three forced fumbles. Miami led the NFL by allowing a league low 265 points and an NFL third-best 4,435 yards, leading the league with 29 interceptions and with six rushing touchdowns allowed. Opponents rated league lows with 50 percent of their passes completed and with a 57.4 opponents passer rating. Miami earned a playoff spot with a 10-6 record, winning the wildcard game 24-17 over the Buffalo Bills.
1999 would see Taylor start 15 games, making a career low 2.5 sacks on the season along with 40 tackles. He also intercepted his first pass and recovered two fumbles, returning one for his first career touchdown in a 38-14 win over the Denver Broncos in the season opener. Miami placed third in the AFC East with a 9-7 record, returning to the playoffs as a wildcard and beating the Seattle Seahawks 20-17. Miami's defense placed fifth in the NFL by allowing 4,404 yards. They also led the AFC by allowing opposing quarterbacks a completion rate of 52.7 percent.
In 2000, Taylor was selected to his first Pro Bowl, also earning a selection to the All-NFL first team. He started every game, making an NFL fifth best 14.5 sacks on the season. He sacked Buffalo Bills quarterbacks three times in a week 13 victory, 33-6. He led the defensive line with 63 tackles, intercepting a pass and recovering four fumbles. He returned one 29 yards for a touchdown in a 31-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in week five. Miami finished the season on top of the AFC East with an 11-5 record. The defense placed third in the NFL by allowing 226 points on the season, leading the league with 28 interceptions. Opposing quarterbacks managed an NFL low 57.5 rating against the Dolphins.
Taylor started all 16 games in 2001, collecting a team best 8.5 sacks on the season with a defensive line best 69 tackles. He also intercepted a pass, forced four fumbles and recovered four more. He scored a touchdown on one against the New England Patriots in week four, as Miami won the game, 30-10. The Dolphins finished with an 11-5 record, good enough for a wildcard berth. Miami's defense ranked fifth in the NFL with 4,608 yards allowed. The passing defense led the league by allowing only 2,829 yards. Miami's 11-5 record qualified them for a fifth straight playoff berth with a wildcard. It was the third time in Miami history that the franchise made the postseason for five consecutive seasons.
2002 would see Taylor lead the NFL with a career high 18.5 sacks. He made more than one sack in seven different games, collecting three against the Oakland Raiders in a week 14 victory, 23-17. He led the defensive line with 69 tackles. Miami posted a 9-7 record, missing the playoffs despite a three-way tie for the AFC East division lead. Miami's defense led the AFC by allowing 301 points and 4,656 yards. They also led the conference with 21 interceptions, an opposing QBR of 72.7, and nine rushing touchdowns allowed. Their 47 sacks ranked second in the AFC. Taylor was selected to the Pro Bowl and the All-NFL first team for the second time.
In 2003, Taylor started every game, finishing the season with 58 tackles and an NFL fourth best 13 sacks. This includes three against Buffalo in week 15 as Miami won, 20-3. Combined with left defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, the two combined for 28 sacks on the season. He also forced three fumbles and recovered two, returning one 34 yards for a touchdown in a 40-21 win over the Dallas Cowboys in week 12. Miami's 10-6 record did not gain them access to the playoffs for the second season in a row. The Dolphins defense allowed an NFL third lowest 261 points and a third highest 44 sacks on the season, placing second in the NFL with 12 passing touchdowns and 3.3 yards per rush allowed.
Taylor would earn his third Pro Bowl selection in 2004, starting every game and leading the team with 9.5 sacks while leading the defensive line with 68 tackles. He made three sacks in a week 11 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, 24-17. Miami posted a 4-12 record, their first losing record in 16 years and only their third since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970. The Dolphins still managed to lead the AFC by allowing only 2,592 passing yards on the season.
In 2005, Taylor finished fifth in the NFL with 12 sacks on the season, getting his fourth Pro Bowl selection, and second in a row. He led the defensive line with a career high 73 tackles, forcing four fumbles and recovering two, returning one 85 yards for a touchdown in a season opening 34-10 win over the Denver Broncos. He collected three sacks on two occasions, a week 11 33-21 win over the Oakland Raiders, and a 24-20 week 14 victory over the New York Jets. Miami's 9-7 record was not enough for a playoff spot. Miami's sack attack was the AFC's best, with 49 on the season.
2006 would see Taylor named the AP Defensive Player of the Year, earning his fifth Pro Bowl selection and his third go round on the All-NFL first team. His 13.5 sacks were the fourth most in the NFL, and his 62 tackles again led the defensive line. He also forced a mind-boggling nine fumbles on the season, recovering two. He also intercepted two passes, returning them both for touchdowns. In week eight he returned one 20 yards against the Chicago Bears in a 31-13 win, and in week 10 he took one back 51 yards as Miami beat the Minnesota Vikings, 24-20. The Dolphins finished the season with a 6-10 record, allowing an NFL fourth lowest 260 points while allowing an NFL third best seven rushing touchdowns.
Jason Taylor career highlights (via
In 2007, Taylor was named to his sixth Pro Bowl, his fourth in a row. He started all 16 games, and was selected as the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner. He led the team with 11 sacks while leading the DL with 55 tackles. He forced three fumbles and recovered three more. He also returned another interception for a touchdown, for 36 yards in a 49-28 loss to the New England Patriots in week seven. Miami finished with a franchise worst 1-15 record.
Taylor departed for greener pastures in 2008, joining the Washington Redskins for one season. Washington moved him to left defensive end and gave him number 55. Taylor responded with his least productive season to date, making 3.5 sacks in eight starts over 13 games.
In 2009, Taylor rejoined Miami, appearing in every game and starting 15 at left outside linebacker. He made 42 tackles and seven sacks on the season, including 2.5 in a week four 38-10 victory over Buffalo. In week seven, Taylor scored his ninth career defensive touchdown, returning a fumble 48 yards in a week eight win over the New York Jets, 30-25. His six career fumble returns for touchdowns is an NFL record. Miami finished the season with a 7-9 record.
Taylor left Miami again in 2010, joining the archnemesis New York Jets (documented on HBO's "Hard Knocks"). He made five sacks on the season, appearing in every game and starting five.
In 2011, Taylor came back to the Dolphins for what would be his final NFL season. He appeared in every game, starting two at linebacker. He finished second on the team with seven sacks. He also made 19 tackles and forced a fumble. Miami finished the campaign with a 6-10 record.
Taylor retired after the season with an NFL sixth-highest career 139.5 sacks, 131 of them as a Dolphin. He started 186 Miami contests, appearing in 204 overall. He intercepted eight passes, forced 43 fumbles, recovered 27, and finished with 712 Dolphins tackles. He is a no-look slam-dunk first ballot Hall-of-Famer, and we may never see another defensive lineman with his power, speed, and work ethic again.