Now, they know they’ll have to go at the whole season without him. And beyond. The 35-year-old decided yesterday to hang ’em up, calling it quits after 13 NFL seasons.
Does this affect the AFC East race?
Let’s look at how Miami’s run defense — where Ferguson’s biggest contributions come — did with and without the nose tackle last year. “Big Ferg” played in nine games, and missed seven, and here are the per-game averages for opposing offenses in one circumstance versus the other …
WITH FERGUSON: 26.3 carries/game, 105.6 yards/game, 4.01 yards/carry
WITHOUT FERGUSON: 28.3 carries/game, 126.4 yards/game, 4.46 yards/carry
It should be noted that both the Patriots’ games were played with Ferguson sidelined, and the teams split.
Since the nose position’s an important one in the 3-4 (Remember how differently the Patriots looked with Vince Wilfork sidelined last winter?), this certainly puts the spotlight on Paul Soliai, the 26-year-old, fourth-year nose that has been Ferguson’s replacement, and Randy Starks, who will be kicking inside from the 5-technique spot. And it’ll be interesting to see how an otherwise improving, young defense can build around that spot under new coordinator Mike Nolan.
One other interesting fact on this one — With Ferguson gone, the Dolphins’ youth movement is further highlighted. This Dolphins regime was largely responsible for loading up the Dallas roster with talent in the middle of the decade, and turning that team into a wagon. This offseason, that group emphasized putting the team further in the hands of its young, which is what they did with the Cowboys, and it’s apparent. There are now just six players on the roster (QB Chad Pennington, RB Ricky Williams, S Yeremiah Bell, LS John Denney, C Jake Grove and CB Will Allen) over the age of 28.