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2019 Scouting Combine Through a Dolphins Lens – Defense

Travis Wingfield

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Players, Traits, and Scheme Fits for the Miami Dolphins

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“If you removed all offensive players from the equation and only allowed defensive players to be drafted, New England would still get a great player with the 32nd pick in this draft. That’s the depth of this defensive group.”

Daniel Jeremiah made no qualms about the strength of the 2019 NFL Draft. With stars abound, particularly on the line, the Dolphins have an opportunity to inject Brian Flores’ young, ascending defensive personnel with blue chip talent.

First, some housekeeping as it pertains to one incumbent pass rusher.

 

Rumors have attached Trey Flowers to the Dolphins over the weekend, but a source close to Flores told me that he’d “be shocked if [Flores] overpays for Flowers…he was helped by the scheme.”

Before we dive into the rookie prospects, a brief review on the measurements and metrics of the 2018 Patriots defense. This will give us an idea of what Flores and company are searching for across all three levels of the defense.

Interior Defensive Line

Malcolm Brown 320 lbs. 5.05 40-yard dash, 7.84 3-cone, 32.5 arms, 98 broad, 29.5 vert
Lawrence Guy 315 lbs. 4.96 40-yard dash, 7.6 3-cone, 32.75 arm, 29 vert
Danny Shelton 345 lbs. 5.64 40-yard dash, 7.99 3-cone, 32 arm, 30.5 vert, 95 broad
Adam Butler 300 lbs. 5.23 40-yard dash, 7.51 3-cone, arm, 28.5 vert, 101 broad

Defensive Ends

Adrian Clayborn 280 lbs. 4.83 40-yard dash, 7.30 3-cone,32.5 arm, 113 broad, 33 vert
Trey Flowers 265 lbs. 4.93 40-yard dash, 7.34 3-cone, 34.25 arm, 121 broad, 36.5 vert
Derek Rivers 250 lbs. 4.61 40-yard dash, 6.94 3-cone, 32.75 arm, 35 vert, 123 broad
John Simon 260 lbs. 4.62 40-yard dash, 7.10 3-cone, 34.25 arm, 34 vert, 121 broad
Dietrich Wise 275 lbs. 4.92 40-yard dash, 7.07 3-cone, 35.5arm, 33 vert, 125 broad

Inside ‘Backers

Elandon Roberts 238 lbs. 4.60 40-yard dash, 7.23 3-cone, 36 vert, 120 broad

Outside ‘Backers

Dont’a Hightower 260 lbs. 4.68 40-yard dash, 7.55 3-cone, 32.5 arm, 32 vert, 117 broad
Kyle Van Noy 250 lbs. 4.71 40-yard dash, 7.22 3-cone, 31.5 arm, 32.5 vert, 112 broad
Brandon King 220 lbs. 4.49 40-yard dash, 7.28 3-cone, 38 vert, 127 broad
Albert McClellan 235 lbs. 4.81 40-yard dash, 7.24 3-cone, 36.5 vert, 119 broad

Cornerback

Duke Dawson 190 lbs. 4.46 40-yard dash, 7.02 3-cone
Stephone Gilmore 202 lbs. 4.40 40-yard dash, 6.61 3-cone, 31 arm, 36 vert, 123 broad
J.C. Jackson 198 lbs. 4.46 40-yard dash, 6.92 3-cone, 31.5 arm, 35.5 vert, 120 broad
Cyrus Jones 195 lbs. 4.33 40-yard dash, 7.25 3-cone, 30.25 arm, 36 vert, 123 broad
Jason McCourty 195 lbs.  4.3 40-yard dash, 6.67 3-cone, 36.5 vert, 125 broad
Obi Melifonwu 225 lbs. 4.40 40-yard dash, 4.58 3-cone, 32.5 arm, 44 vert, 141 broad

Safety

Devin McCourty 195 lbs. 4.48 40-yard dash, 6.70 3-cone, 32 arms, 36 vert, 126 broad
Patrick Chung 215 lbs. 4.51 40-yard dash, 7.11 3-cone, 34 vert, 119 broad
Duron Harmon 205 lbs. 4.51 40-yard dash, 7.02 3-cone, 36 vert, 125 broad
Nate Ebner 215 lbs. 4.51 40-yard dash, 6.59 3-cone, 39 vert, 128 broad

Defensive Edge (Options for 5-techs, 7-techs, and on-ball outside linebackers)

Montez Sweat (Mississippi State) stole the show with a 4.42 forty, but the jaw-dropping didn’t stop there. With 35.75” arms, a 36” vert, 125” broad, and 7.0 three-cone, Sweat might’ve worked his way ahead of Miami’s pick at 13. The tape and all-star performance (Senior Bowl) corroborates the impressive workout.

Another Senior Bowl standout, TCU’s Ben Banogu is a candidate to stand up and play on-the-ball linebacker in Miami. He testes through the roof at 250 pounds with 33.5” arms, 40” vert, and 134” broad jump. He’s quick as all get out and can drop into the flats and hook zone in coverage.

Rahsaan Gary (Michigan) isn’t likely to make it 13, but the Michigan product would be a plug-and-play impact player on day-one. 280 pounds, 34.25” arms, 38” vert, 120” broad, 7.26 3-cone, and a 4.58 forty, it’s safe to say Gary made some money Sunday.

Gary’s Michigan teammate Chase Winovich had a monster day in his own right. A master of the push and pull (stack and shed) technique, Winovich is all gas all the time. His athleticism is questionable on tape, but he blew the door’s off the combine with a sub 7.0 three-cone, 30.5” vert, 116” broad jump, and a 1.57 10-yard split. Winovich checked in at 260 pounds and could be a plug-and-play starter on day-two of the draft.

Son of a former Dolphins cheerleader, Boston College’s Zach Allen is a prototypical fit in Miami’s defense. A trophy case full of hardware, including the Campbell Trophy for academic prowess, Allen’s work ethic and intelligence jive well with Miami’s vision. He’s 281 pounds with 34.25” arms, 32” vert, and 112” broad jump.

If the Dolphins strikeout on Trey Flowers (or opt to save the cash), Charles Oeenihu (Texas) is comparable from a measurement standpoint. The Texas product is 275 pounds with an absurd 36 inch arms.

Eastern Michigan’s Max Crosby tested better than expected He’s 255 pounds with 33” arms, a 36” vert, 122” broad, and a ripping-quick 6.89 three-cone.

Interior Defensive Line (Options for 3-techs, 4i, 2i, 2, and nose tackle)

We can safely remove Quinnen Williams (Alabama) from this group. He played like Ndamukong Suh at Nebraska, tested like Suh, and will be draft as highly as Suh.

Christian Wilkins (Clemson) is well within the Dolphins range and will likely be squarely in their crosshairs. He had a great workout and checks every box Miami looks for in a player.

UCF’s Trysten Hill made a lot of money on Sunday. After starting every game for the undefeated 2017 team, Hill started just one in 2018, but flashed the big-time measurables that made him a wrecking ball inside. Hill’s explosion metrics (10-yard split, 35” vert, 115” broad) and length (34” arms) puts this specimen on the Dolphins’ radar. At 308 pounds, Hill fits the 4i, 3, 2i, and 2-techinuqe requirements.

Notre Dame’s Jerry Tillery tested off the charts, but antiquated scouting techniques could turn Miami away. Tillery has many interests outside of football, but that didn’t stop him from flashing elite potential in a few games (Stanford tape, four sacks) and blowing up the combine.

L.J. Collier, from TCU, fits the prototype inside. At 283 pounds, Collier jumped 30” in the vert, 118” in the broad jump, and measured with 34” arms. Collier can two-gap and might come off the board in the second round.

Ohio State’s Dre’Mont Jones fits the part. At 281 pounds with 34 inch arms, Jones has the heavy hands Dolphins DC Patrick Graham is looking for. Jones has the make-up to play all over the defensive line and cause havoc as an interior rusher on passing downs. His 31” vert showcases the explosion in his lower half.

Khalen Saunders of Western Illinois didn’t test well after making a name for himself in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. Knocking him back a round or two could benefit the Dolphins lack of depth on the inside.

Kansas’ Daniel Wise has the length and ability to lock out the edge in Miami’s new scheme. Daniel is the brother of Patriots Defensive End Dietrich Wise.

Florida’s Jachai Polite left the combine early and has been accused of faking an injury. Polite made headlines in the media portion of the combine for expressing his displeasure with the entire process – he torpedoed his value, but he’s a supremely talented edge rusher.

Linebackers 

This is not a great crop of linebackers. The two Devin’s (Bush and White, from Michigan and LSU respectively) tore the lid off the forty-yard dash. Hit, run, cover – that’s the new age of linebackers.

Miami are in a tricky spot with this position. Raekwon McMillan, Jerome Baker, and Chase Allen all fill specific roles in a defense that doesn’t rely too heavily on linebackers, but the unicorn that is Dont’a Hightower, and the catalyst of the Pats front-seven, doesn’t have a carbon copy on the market this year.

USC’s Porter Gustin might be the closest to that mark. He goes 255 pounds with a 4.71 forty, 35.5” vert, 119” broad, and a tremendous tape reel of blitzes. The medical is a concern, however, he’s missed games three out of four years at USC.

Former Safety Bobby Okereke (Stanford) tested as expected. At 240 pounds Okereke ran a 4.58 forty, with a 33.5” vert, 120” broad, 7.25 three-cone and 34.5” arms. He’s a tremendous blitz and cover prospect.

Utah’s Cody Barton is an impressive ball of clay. He went 237 pounds, 4.67 forty, 32” arms with a 32.5” vert and 116” broad jump.

BYU’s Sione Takitaki has been linked to the Dolphins since the Shrine Game. Takitaki’s explosive tape showed up in the workouts. He’s 240 pounds with a 37” vert, 125” broad and a 7.21 three-cone.

Notre Dame’s Drue Tranquil had himself a Sunday. At 234 pounds Tranquil ran a 4.57 forty, jumped 37.5” in the vert and 122” in the broad with a 6.94 three-cone time.

New Mexico State’s Terrill Hanks went from Senior Bowl darling to undraftable. Light and unrefined, Hanks was supposed to run like the wind but checked in with a dismal 4.98 forty.

Cornerbacks

At the start of the 2016 season the Dolphins traded for Byron Maxwell, drafted Xavien Howard and entered year-two of the Tony Lippett project. This signaled a change towards lengthy corners without much concern over timed speeds.

This prototype has become widespread across the NFL landscape. Corners aren’t pedaling but, rather, they’re playing with their butts to the sideline and preventing the big play via a lot of bail technique and off-coverage.

You’ll notice the size of a lot of these corners is rather imposing – and why wouldn’t it be? When Megatron Part Two (D.K. Metcalf) comes blazing down the field, someone’s going to have to put hands on him.

New England’s model of cornerbacks hasn’t followed this trend, however. The highest timed 40 on New England’s cornerback roster in 2018 was 4.46 seconds. The Patriots played more man-coverage than any team in football – an element Brian Flores will certainly bring to Miami.

Georgia’s DeAndre Baker is my top corner in the class. He has the confidence, the physicality and technique to go man-up with any receiver. He lacks long speed but his 4.53 40-time is good enough. He wasn’t a great tester but nobody will match his competitiveness in this class.

The only player that can give Baker’s competitive spirit a run for its money is LSU’s Greedy Williams. Williams oozes confidence, swagger, and play-making ability. He sometimes shies away from contact and that has always been a massive red flag under the Patriot Way. Greedy ran an impressive 4.38 at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds.

Rock Ya-Sin (Temple) is in that conversation with Baker and Williams. A two-time state champion wrestler, Ya-Sin was awarded a single-digit number in his first year at Temple (voted the toughest players on the team, by the team). He’s six-foot and 190, but plays much larger. His 4.53 40-time is good enough.

The winner for strange combine question of the week goes to Texas’ Kris Boyd. Asked if he still had both of his testicular, Boyd didn’t let that unnecessary, intrusive line of questioning stop him from destroying the workouts. Running a 4.45 at 5-foot-11, 205 pounds, Boyd’s 6.94 three-cone and 4.08 short-shuttle ranked near the top of the group.

Houston’s Isaiah Johnson (6-foot-2, 208 pounds and 4.40 forty) took a big leap up boards. He measured with 33 inch arms, a 36.5” vert, 133 inch broad, 6.81 three-cone and 4.06 short-shuttle.

Michigan’s David Long is going to be highly regarded by the Dolphins. Advanced on the white board and high-level recognition of route concepts, Long had the metrics to match. At 5-foot-11 and 196 pounds, Long ran a 4.47, jumped 120” in the broad and 39.5” in the vert. He clocked a sub-4 short-shuttle (3.97) and a ridiculous 6.45 three-cone.

Central Michigan’s Sean Bunting killed the tests. He comes in at 6-foot, 195 pounds, 31 ¼” arms, 41.5” vert, and a 126” broad. He’s a pure press-man corner.

Auburn’s Jameel Dean had the best forty (4.30) at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds.

The local product, Michael Jackson, made a case to stay in Miami. He measured 6-foot1, 200 pounds, and ran a 4.46 forty.

Safeties

The Dolphins are in a predicament at the position. A ton of money is tied up in Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald, but neither are long-term solutions for the defense. Eventually, Miami needs a match-up piece in the mold of Patrick Chung, and a middle-of-the-field safety cut from the same cloth as Duron Harmon.

Nov 22, 2018; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs safety Johnathan Abram (38) slaps Mississippi Rebels wide receiver A.J. Brown (1) during a fight at the end of the third quarter at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Juan Thornhill of Virginia fits the latter description. He won the day measuring 6-foot-1, 202 pounds, with a 4.43 forty, 44” vert, and an eye-popping 141” broad jump.

Johnathan Abram is a player the Dolphins will adore. The Mississippi State product plays angry, fast, and yet, somehow in control. He’s 6-foot, 211 pounds with a 4.5 forty, 33.5” vert, 117” broad, 7.03 three-cone, and a 4.2 short-shuttle.

Delaware’s Nassir Adderley did not work out due to an injury (he will at his pro day), but he’s in the fold for Miami in that 20-50 range.

Miami’s Sheldrick Redwine had a terrific day measure 6-foot, 190 pounds with a 4.47 forty, 39” vert, and 130” broad jump.

USC’s Marvell Tell didn’t run but he jumped out of the building. The former Trojan goes 6-foot-2 195 pounds, with a 42” vert, and 136” broad jump.

Saquan Hampton (Rutgers) measured 6-foot-1, 207 pounds and ran a 4.48 forty. He’s a pure ball hawk and an intelligent, dedicated player.

Dolphins Confirmed Defensive Player Meetings (Shrine, Senior Bowl, Combine):

Defensive Ends

Montez Sweat – Mississippi State
Nick Bosa – Ohio State
Jachai Pollite – Florida
Zach Allen – Boston College
Jalen Jelks – Oregon
Jordan Brailford – Oklahoma State
L.J. Collier – TCU
Charles Omenihu – Texas

Defensive Tackles

Quinnen Williams – Alabama
ED Oliver – Houston
Dexter Lawrence – Clemson
Armon Watts – Arkansas

Linebackers

Sione Takitaki – BYU
Joe Dineen – Kansas
Ben Banogu – TCU

Cornerbacks

Greedy Williams – LSU
Byron Murphy – Washington
Blace Brown – Troy

Safeties

Tyree Kinnel – Michigan

First Round Options:

The way I see it, Miami aren’t trading up unless something unforeseen happens with Kyler Murray. Dwayne Haskins likely comes off early as well, leaving Miami with options, among others, as follows:

Stay at 13 and select:

DE Montez Sweat
DE Ed Oliver
DE Clellin Ferrell
DT Christian Wilkins
CB Greedy Williams
SAF Johnathan Abram

Trade Back and select:

CB DeAndre Baker
OC Garrett Bradbury
DT Dexter Lawrence
SAF Taylor Rapp
SAF Chaunce Gardner-Johnson
SAF Nassir Adderly

Lastly, this from Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

@WingfieldNFL

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Taylor Hemness

    March 5, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Got a typo in the Banogu paragraph you may wanna fix. BIG fan of your incredibly in-depth work.

  2. Avatar

    Daniel Meehan

    October 5, 2019 at 10:42 pm

    If we don’t land TUA,the pick is Chase Young.Grier needs to get to Columbus.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins’ Jones and Howard land in top 10 CB rankings

Shawn Digity

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Xavien Howard
Image courtesy of Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – On Tuesday night, CBS Sports HQ revealed its power rankings for the best cornerbacks in the NFL.

And in their top 10 rankings, the Miami Dolphins landed two players: Xavien Howard and Byron Jones.

The rankings were created by Patrik Walker through the CBS Sports HQ Twitter account and are indicative of where Walker sees the league’s top corners as they enter the 2020 season.

Jones came in at six, and Howard landed at eight.

Howard was shut down for the most part in 2019 but saw his first Pro Bowl after the 2018 season, where he caught seven interceptions, tying for the most. Howard is going into his fifth year, all with the Dolphins.

Howard was selected in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

Byron Jones joined the Miami Dolphins earlier in 2020 after signing a five-year, $82.5 million contract and is slated to start across from Howard.

Jones is going into his sixth year in the NFL after originally being selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 2015 Draft, 27 overall.

Regardless of their positional rankings, there will be high expectations for the cornerback tandem as they are projected to be the starters and already have a proven track record in the NFL.

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Are the Dolphins Done Reshaping the Roster for 2020?

Kevin Dern

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Unless you’ve been in the deepest of quarantines by now you’ve familiarized yourself with Miami’s offseason moves. The Dolphins brought in 12 free agents, 11 draft picks, traded for a running back, and signed 10 undrafted free agents. That’s 34 new names on the 90 man roster as we [hopefully] gear up for training camp in a month and a half.  Despite all the moves, Miami currently has four roster spots open. That’s 86 spots, not counting Durval Queiroz Neto, who is roster exempt, so the question has to be asked: Are they done for now?

We all know that changes will happen in camp. There could be a surprised UDFA or two that makes the roster. Someone could, and likely will, get injured to free up a spot. But, for right *NOW* are the Dolphins done?

I tend not to think so. So who might they be after? I don’t have any inside information, but from what media information we know, and some of my own speculation, I’ve got four names I suspect Miami might be onto. Two big fish and two guys that might be a little more under the radar.

Logan Ryan
The biggest name thus far Miami has been linked to is former Titans and Patriots Cornerback Logan Ryan. Sports Illustrated’s Alain Poupart had this story on May 14th.

https://www.si.com/nfl/dolphins/news/the-latest-on-the-status-of-logan-ryan-and-the-miami-dolphins-interest

Aside from the obvious connection to Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores, Logan Ryan checks a lot of boxes Miami’s looked for this offseason.  Ryan’s a smart, team-first guy. He’s got position flexibility – able to play on the perimeter or in the slot and he already knows Miami’s defensive system.

But, corners in this league are expensive. It appears that Logan Ryan wants a one-year “prove it” deal. He’s betting on himself and cited Titans QB Ryan Tannehill as one of the reasons why. And per the Miami Herald, Logan Ryan’s agents have told the Dolphins he wants $10M or more for a year. That’s pricey, but Logan Ryan might be worth it; let’s take a look.

In this first clip, you can’t see him at the snap, but he’ll come in from the slot on the offense’s left side and isn’t afraid to stick his nose in against the run and stops Nick Chubb for a short gain.

Later in the same game, he gets a sack on Baker Mayfield (Yes, this play was ruled a sack). Ryan will come in from the right side of the screen, again the offense’s left, on a slot blitz. He gets blocked but is able to redirect and chases Baker Mayfield down for the sack.

Finally, in this clip, he plays press man against T.Y. Hilton from the slot. That’s a valuable skill Miami will like. Hilton’s going to try and break outside, but Logan Ryan reads the play, and showcases a nice burst to secure the pick.

Ultimately, signing Logan Ryan gives Miami a proven slot player who can also play man coverage on the perimeter, allowing Miami to matchup their defense however they please. He’d also gives them a buffer from having to having to give Noah Igbinoghene a ton of snaps right off the bat, if they so desire. At worst, you could spoon feed Igbinoghene at first until he’s grasped his role, then you can increase his snaps. And with Ryan looking for a one year deal, that might be amenable to all parties.

Larry Warford
It’s not too often at this stage of the offseason there’s a 29 year old (turns 29 on June 18th), three-time Pro Bowl guard is available. But that’s just what Larry Warford is. Saints Coach Sean Payton once said that he likes his guards to “have mass and ass” in order to keep a clean, firm middle of the pocket for Drew Brees to operate. Well, if there’s one rookie quarterback this year that is built like and operates like Drew Brees, it’s Tua Tagovailoa. And, between you and me, I think Tua’s going to end up playing a lot sooner than people think.

What adding Larry Warford would likely do for Miami is solidify four of the five starting offensive line spots. If Miami signed him, I think it’s safe to assume Miami would have (from left to right) Austin Jackson, Ereck Flowers, Ted Karras, Larry Warford, and a battle between Jesse Davis and Robert Hunt. That’s a battle that Miami likely would want Hunt to win, as you can keep Jesse Davis as a swing tackle and guard. It would also allow them to bring Solomon Kindley along slowly. I didn’t watch it, but have heard that either Flores and/or Grier compared Kindley to Shaq Mason, who was a project that the Patriots brought along because he didn’t have much pass-blocking experience coming from Georgia Tech’s option offense. Well, with Kindley it gives you a chance to hone his game in total for a year or two while getting a veteran who walks in the door the best lineman the Dolphins would have.

Three quick clips of Larry Warford for you coming up.

First, we’ll see Warford and RT Ryan Ramczyk block up a T-E game. The DT is going to go outside and J.J. Watt comes inside to Warford. They switch it with relative ease and Warford is so big that J.J. Watt can’t generate a pop to knock Warford back and collapse the pocket.

Next, and this one is quick. It’s a jet sweep to Kamara going the other way, but look at Larry throwing bodies out the club! That kind of punch is something Miami haven’t had in a guard since Richie Incognito was in town.

Finally, we see a rep against DT D.J. Reader, who got paid this offseason. Reader’s listed at 347lbs, and someone that large shouldn’t be moved that easily.

Warford gives you size, smarts and strength inside. And, if Miami are going to possibly have a rookie RT in Robert Hunt, that kind of veteran presence can help bring him up to speed quickly. For my money, I’d sign Larry Warford over Logan Ryan since Miami’s Defensive Staff seemed to be able to bring in DBs off the street and get them up to speed enough to start in the same week. Kudos to Josh Boyer for that, but I think there’s more value in bringing in Warford now, and possibly for the next two or three years, than there is for Logan Ryan on a one year deal.

That said, both players would make the Dolphins better and I’m not opposed to Logan Ryan by any means.

Damon Harrison
Okay, so you’ve probably heard of “Snacks” Harrison before. But did you realize he was still out there as a free agent? Kudos if you did. Miami signing “Snacks” doesn’t seem like it’d be in the cards. Harrison is 31 years old, had a tough year last year with injuries in Detroit to the point he contemplated retirement, but hear me out.

Wind the clock back to 2018 when Brian Flores was calling the Patriots Defense. Same defense Miami’s running now. The Patriots had over 1,000 total snaps on defense that year. Danny Shelton played just 31% of them, with 324 total snaps. NT in this defense is a part-time position.

That year the Patriots gave out the following snaps to interior defensive linemen:

Malcom Brown – 456 (43.7%)
Lawrence Guy – 519 (49.8%)
Adam Butler – 379 (36.3%)
Danny Shelton – 324 (31.1%)

With Miami’s drafting of Raekwon Davis, you sort of assume he and Godchaux are going to take on the roles of Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton. Christian Wilkins takes on the role of Lawrence Guy, and perhaps Raekwon Davis takes some of those snaps as well to keep him fresh. As of now, I’d expect Zach Sieler to take on Adam Butler’s workload, which was a rotational DT and someone who can be used on passing downs; Sieler has more skill there than Godchaux or Davis in my opinion.

But what if Miami were able to bring in “Snacks” Harrison to take on that NT role? It’d allow you to give Davis more focused snaps and let him use some of his upfield ability to help spell Godchaux and take on that Adam Butler role. It might mean the end for Zach Sieler in Miami, who is on an Exclusive Rights Free Agent Tender for this year. No harm if you move on.

So what would snacks bring to the table? First, like Logan Ryan, he knows the system to some degree having played under Matt Patricia in Detroit. There may be some differences here an there, but he can pick that up, and it’s a specialized role. Two, he’s a proven run-stopper. Even last year with the Lions with all his injuries he was still effective. Let’s take a look.

Here’s a back-to-back play sequence against the Eagles in Week 3.

First, Harrison’s actually lined up at 3-technique against Brandon Brooks, one of the most underrated players in the NFL. “Snacks” will never confuse for Aaron Donald and he doesn’t muster much of a rush, but he stays with the play and gets his hand up to deflect Carson Wentz’s pass.

The very next play is what he does best. Lined up as a true NT, he ushers Jason Kelce away with one arm, plays down the line horizontally and stops Miles Sanders for no gain. That’s what you like to see out of someone who is 6’3” and 350lbs.

Against the Packers you’ll see him as a 3-technique again and he defeats a double-team by Billy Turner and Bryan Bulaga and makes a run stop on Aaron Jones.

The final clip for “Snacks” comes when he gets a sack of Aaron Rodgers later in that same game. He’s going to work off a double-team by Billy Turner and Corey Linsley, gets around it, and though he’s out of his pass rush lane he keeps working and dumps Rodgers for a sack.

The knocks against “Snacks” are that he’s older than every player on the Dolphins roster save for Ryan Fitzpatrick. He battled through injuries, contemplated retirement and told ESPN that he was “hell-bent” on getting out of Detroit. Did he not like the system? The coaches? How does that parlay into Miami if he signs here considering Flores and Patricia’s backgrounds intertwine in Foxboro? While I think this signing might be more unlikely than both Logan Ryan and Larry Warford, it wouldn’t shock me given Miami’s defensive scheme and the players that Brian Flores has traditionally seen in that role.

Mike Weber
Going a little off the beaten path here. The Chiefs waived Mike Weber, who was a seventh round draft pick for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018. Weber rushed for 1,000+ yards as a redshirt freshman at Ohio State, replacing Ezekiel Elliott. An injury in summer workouts the next year opened the door and J.K. Dobbins passed him on the depth chart, but Weber still rushed for 626 yards and 10 TDs that year. He tallied nearly 1,100 yards and nine more TDs as Dobbins backup in 2018, and declared for the Draft.

Going to Dallas, Weber wasn’t going to get much of a shot behind Ezekiel Elliott, especially after Elliott’s contract extension. He also was beaten out by Tony Pollard in 2019 for the backup job. Weber spent time with the Chiefs on their practice squad during their Super Bowl Run.

Weber has yet to collect a carry in the NFL during the Regular Season, so I don’t have clips for you here. My rationale for Miami possibly being interested in Weber is that Miami had a strong interest in J.K. Dobbins during the Draft this year. Weber played in that same offense at Ohio State and put up big numbers as well. In my opinion, he was more physical as a runner, but lacked the explosiveness. He goes 5’10” 210lbs, so he’s bridging the gap in size between Jordan Howard and Matt Breida.

Kalen Ballage hasn’t proven very effective doing much of anything. Patrick Laird is a nice story, but is probably best served by playing on special teams. We didn’t see much of Myles Gaskin in 2019, save for the Bengals game in Week 16, so he’s still a bit of an unknown. With four open roster spots, what’s the harm in bringing in Weber for a look?

We’ll see what Miami does, and they could very well opt to do nothing. But Logan Ryan, Larry Warford, Damon Harrison, are three guys I think they ought to consider. Each of the three, in my opinion, makes the position group on the Dolphins better they moment they walk in the door. Mike Weber would be more of a reclamation project, but I like his odds of competing against Kalen Ballage, Patrick Laird, and Myles Gaskin for a potential roster spot.

Stay safe and FinsUp!

 

 

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Setting the Edge: Miami’s New Additions Up Front

Kevin Dern

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It’s no secret that Miami’s defense was bad last year. The Dolphins ranked 32nd in the league in points allowed, mostly due to giving up 102 points in the first two games alone. Their run defense, which was an eyesore under Vance Joseph and Matt Burke during the Adam Gase tenure remained problematic in Brian Flores’s first year. Miami gave up 135.4 yards per game, 27th in the league, and 4.2 yards per carry, 22nd in the league. Not good.

Miami’s pass defense wasn’t sterling by any means. Injuries to Xavien Howard, Reshad Jones and Bobby McCain hurt. Trading away Minkah Fitzpatrick didn’t help. But I think we all can appreciate that Miami’s passing defense progressed throughout the year despite having to field a secondary that consisted of: Eric Rowe playing two positions, Nik Needham, Ryan Lewis, Ken Webster, Tae Hayes, Nate Brooks, Adrian Colbert, Walt Aikens, and Montre Hartage at various points.

The Dolphins will have a hopefully healthy Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain back. They signed the premier free agent corner in Byron Jones, drafted Noah Igbinoghene in the first round and drafted Brandon Jones in the third. They also signed safeties Clayton Fejedelem and Kavon Frazier, who have some starting experience in the past with Cincinnati and Dallas respectively. Things are pointing up more solidly in the back end of the defense.

But what about the additions to the front?

The interior players from last season remain largely intact with Davon Godchaux, Christian Wilkins, Jerome Baker, and Raekwon McMillan all returning. Zach Sieler only played in three games but looks promising and his Week 16 performance against the Bengals was arguably the best game for a Miami defensive lineman since Cameron Wake was still on the roster. Kyle Van Noy will likely play a good chunk of his snaps off the ball, as he did under Brian Flores in 2018. Elandon Roberts will at the very least be good depth up the middle.

And the edges of the defense?

First, I think it’s important to distinguish that Miami uses both defensive ends and outside linebackers as edge defenders in different formations. So, to label them all as EDGE players, as seems to be common practice these days, is a bit misleading as it relates to the Dolphins defense. My purpose for this article is to breakdown how the Dolphins got better on the edges this offseason and what we can expect from them in 2020.  Here’s whose on the roster right now:

Defensive Ends
Shaq Lawson
Avery Moss
Emmanuel Ogbah
Jason Strowbridge
Curtis Weaver

*Emmanuel Ogbah, Jason Strowbridge and Shaq Lawson all can play tighter techniques to the ball when called upon (ex: 3, 4i, 4 and in some cases 0).

Outside Linebackers
Vince Biegel
Trent Harris
Andrew Van Ginkel
Kyle Van Noy

*Kyle Van Noy will very likely see snaps off-the-ball as a traditional ILB in addition to edge reps as an OLB. Biegel and Van Ginkel will also get snaps as stand-up DEs (ex: standup 5 or 6 tech in a 3-3-5 Bear front)

If you’ve read my articles on LockedOn before, you’ll know that I believe we’ll see Brian Flores defense really take shape this year. When Flores ran the Patriots defense in 2018, his most used formations were the 4-2-5 (307 snaps), 3-3-5 (226 snaps), 3-2-6 (132 snaps), and 4-3 (97 snaps). Last year’s use of the 3-4 I think was more built out of necessity. Miami’s edge players were bad at setting the edge, and with their ever-changing personnel I think Patrick Graham used more 3-4 looks because it was easier to coordinate. I think this year, with the improved personnel, we’ll see more of what Brian Flores was running in New England in 2018.

One note to consider is that prior to the bye week, we saw more examples of the 4-2-5 and 3-3-5 formations, often with the same personnel. Below are several screenshots from Miami’s games in Weeks 1-3.

Standard 4-2-5
DL:  Moss, Godchaux, Wilkins Harris
LB:  Baker, Eguavoen

3-3-5 formation with 4-2-5 personnel
D-line: Moss, Godchaux, Wilkins, Charlton (OLB)
LBs: Baker, Eguavoen

3-2-6 formation with three DEs (Ruby)
D-line: Biegel, C. Harris, Moss
LBs: Baker, Eguavoen

4-3 Over
D-line: Moss, Wilkins, Godchaux, C. Harris
LBs: Eguavoen, McMillan, Baker

* Note Miami will play under and even looks out of 4-3 personnel.

Let’s get one thing straight. Miami’s defense is very multiple. They will play these formations with non-traditional personnel. For example, if we go back to 2018 when Brian Flores was calling the Patriots Defense, watch their Sunday Night Game against the Packers. New England opens that game with 4-2-5 personnel but using three DEs in the grouping. They used Trey Flowers as a 3-technique on 1st and 2nd downs that drive. Miami will do similar things, for instance, they had Taco Charlton line up as an OLB in their 3-3-5 look seen above.

My gut feeling is that this year, Miami’s defense will more closely resemble the 2018 Patriots in terms of what they deploy, both in formations and in personnel packages, than it will resemble anything Miami ran last year post-bye week.

For a more in-depth look at that, I’ll reference you to this piece I wrote in February of 2019 shortly after Brian Flores was hired. Inside the Film Room.

The remainder of this piece will cover the following additions Miami made this offseason and how they will fit: Emmanuel Ogbah, Shaq Lawson, Kyle Van Noy, Jason Strowbridge, and Curtis Weaver.

As a whole, this group should give Miami much improve ability up front on the edges of the defense. Primarily, Ogbah, Lawson, Van Noy and Strowbridge should provide an immediate shot in the arm for the run defense. The first three and Curtis Weaver should all prove to be better pass-rushers than anyone Miami deployed on the edge last year, be it a DE or OLB.

Emmanuel Ogbah
First things first about Ogbah. He’s big. And he’s long. At 6’4” 275lbs he’s got 35.5” arms and 10” hands. He’s got power and some explosiveness – 35.5” vert and 121” broad jumps. These are things to note about him. Ogbah was having a really nice year with the Chiefs notching 5.5 sacks before an injury cut short his 2019 campaign. He uses that length and power really well to set the edge against the run, and those long arms have come in handy as he’s got 20 career deflected passes.

In this first clip, you’ll see Ogbah (#90) at LDE for the Chiefs. His play recognition here is excellent as he feels the tackle release to setup for a screen. Ogbah slows his rush immediately and looks to get into the pass lane. The Jaguars had a double screen called and Foles goes the opposite way.

Clip number two shows Ogbah’s ability to affect the passing lanes. His rush against Ronnie Stanley seems a bit off, and I think this may have been a game-planned spy attempt as the Chiefs blitz a corner from that side. If it’s not, then Ogbah has good recognition to stop his rush and drop into the passing lane and get his hands up to deflect Lamar Jackson’s pass for an incompletion.

Against the Packers, Ogbah showcases his length and speed in this pass-rush. He uses his long arms well to engage Bryan Bulaga in a bull-rush move. He’s able to start to turn the corner and executes a rip move to free himself and sack Aaron Rodgers.

In our final clip of Emmanuel Ogbah, we’ll see him against the Vikings. Here he’s able to set a hard edge against LT Riley Rieff and he’s able to get upfield enough to force Dalvin Cook to cut inside into traffic where he’s stopped for a short gain.

Overall, Ogbah’s a guy that is going to set a hard edge and has some pass-rush ability. While I get that Dolfans may be upset that 91 isn’t “retired” the way 54 and 99 are, I think it’s fitting as he’ll be deployed like how the Patriots deployed their #91 Deatrich Wise. Ogbah can play on the edge all three downs. He’s long enough and strong enough to play tighter techniques inside. There are a number of reps of him at a 4i-technique being able to stop the run. It wouldn’t surprise me if Miami tries to utilize him as an inside rusher on 3rd downs, much like the Patriots did with Wise. The plus for Ogbah is that he’s a better athlete. He’ll be able to collect some wins as a pass-rusher from 6, 7 and 9 technique looks on 1st and 2nd downs in addition to setting the edge against the run.

Shaq Lawson
Another player coached by Marion Hobby here. Shaq is a player that’s had an odd start to his career. Drafted by the Rex Ryan coached Bills, he wasn’t a super scheme fit there and dealt with some injuries. Starting only 17 career games, none in 2019, Lawson carved out a nice niche for himself in the rotation-happy Bills D-line last year. My thought is that he is going to get opportunities to replicate some of the looks that Trey Flowers did for the Patriots and continues to be put in with the Lions, coached by Matt Patricia, who runs another Patriot-styled scheme.

Our first clip of Shaq is against the Dolphins in Week 11. He’s going to be lined up outside RT Jesse Davis in what you’d call a wide-5 technique. Lawson’s a bit slow off the snap, but he’s able to make himself small and is able to cross Jesse Davis’s face with a quick swipe move and makes a tackle for no gain.

The second clip isn’t necessarily a great pass-rush rep, but the reason I want to showcase it is because of where Lawson’s aligned. He’s in a 3-technique look against RG Evan Boehm. Lawson does a nice job hand-fighting with Boehm, eventually getting free inside despite giving up more than 50lbs to Boehm. This is important because Miami incorporates a lot of the 3-3-5 looks and 3-2-6 looks in passing situations that necessitate DEs being able to play inside. A lot of the pass-rush games, which we’ll see when I talk about Kyle Van Noy, come from a wider edge player coming around into the backside A or B gap. Lawson’s ability to get push in the pocket here is key in executing those games, and in this rep he’s able to get in Fitzpatrick’s face to help force an incompletion.

We’ll move to Buffalo’s week 12 matchup against the Broncos for our next rep. Part of the pass-rush games that is so important in this defense it the ability for players to be able to rush inside and get into A and B gaps. Here Lawson is lined up in a 4-technique over Broncos LT Garrett Boles. He gets a good jump on the snap and is able to cross into the backside A gap, beating the LG across his face to get middle pressure and a sack against Brandon Allen.

Our final clip of Shaq Lawson comes from the Bills vs. Patriots Game in Week 16. You probably already know what it is. Lawson’s lined up in a 5-technique and reads the fake jet sweep play and is able to stop Sony Michel for a big loss. He’s able to fight inside of the double-team block by the LT and WR from a nasty split. This shows Lawson’s get-off and is play recognition skill. He makes a great play tracking this down from inside. At worst, even if he misses the tackle, he’s mucked the play long enough for the CB to be able to force this back inside where it’s going to get a very minimal gain if anything.

Overall, I think Emmanuel Ogbah might end up being the better of the two DEs signed for Miami. Especially at the start. But I think there’s more to unlock with Shaq Lawson. If Marion Hobby can get him to work on his explosiveness of the snap and getting that more consistent, that will go a long way toward helping him. He’s a strong end capable of lining up in tight techniques like 3, 4i and 4. He’s shown ability to rush interior gaps, and that ability may lend itself to doing some, let’s say unique, things that Trey Flowers got to do with the Patriots, like playing a 0-technique in some of their LB heavy nickel looks and in their “playground”/radar defense. While I’m not sure Lawson will get looks like that off the bat, I think that’s something feasible down the road a bit if he can make his get-off more consistent and continue to develop his hand fighting abilities.

Kyle Van Noy
The Dolphins had to, HAD TO get better on the edges of the defense. Case in point they signed two DEs and drafted two more. Brian Flores spoke after the Draft about how players not filling the stat sheet doesn’t mean they had a bad game.  I believe that was in reference to Miami drafting Raekwon Davis. But it could be applied to Kyle Van Noy.

Van Noy may be the most important free agent signing and his impact will likely be rivaled only by Byron Jones for the hidden benefits they bring to the defense.  Why do I say this? It’s because of the many different things Brian Flores and Josh Boyer will be able to do on defense because of Van Noy.

First, he’s able to play ILB, and play it quite well. He can do this in 4-2-5 looks where he’s paired with someone. He can do it in 3-3-5 looks where he’s the guy.

Here you can see him lined up behind Adam Butler in a 3-3-5 look. The interesting thing to note here is that the Patriots had 4-2-5 personnel on the field with Deatrich Wise, Butler and Adrian Clayborn up front. They used Trey Flowers as an OLB in this look opposite Dont’a Hightower.

You want him to rush off the edge? No problem. Here in this GIF you can see the Patriots “playground” defense. Van Noy will be on the left side and rushes outside the left tackle.

In this clip against Dallas from 2019, we’ll see the Patriots in a 2-4-5 look (which is a 4-man front, but with OLBs instead of DEs. Miami rain this a lot against Philly and in Week 17 against the Patriots last year). Jason Witten shifts over to Van Noy’s side and Kyle is able use his arms, get extension and maintain good leverage to set the edge and help with the tackle as other defenders arrive to make the stop. Textbook!

Going back in time to 2018 against the Vikings, I want to give you two plays that were back-to-back in the game. First, we see Van Noy lined up over the RT. At the snap he’s going to drop into the short middle and read Kirk Cousins. He follows Cousins’ eyes to TE Kyle Rudolph and Van Noy just sits down in the zone right in front of him and Adam Butler gets a sack. That’s a hidden play there because Rudolph was open until Van Noy flowed that way.

But the real treat to Van Noy’s game is his prowess with pass-rush games. This is the very next play. The Patriots are in their 3-2-6 look, Diamond, but have RE Adrian Clayborn lined up head-up on TE Kyle Rudolph, whose got a short split. Clayborn helps reroute him at the snap then rushes (something we could see Ogbah and Lawson do?). But watch Van Noy here. He’s going to be lined up off-ball over the Vikings RT. He feints a rush upfield, stops and then loops around to the backside A gap. Adam Butler and Dont’a Hightower crash towards the strongside to effectively set “picks” (Ogbah, Lawson, Raekwon Davis, Wilkins) to allow Van Noy the free run at Cousins. Van Noy unloads on him and forces an incompletion.

He doesn’t notch a tackle, sack or pass deflection. Merely a pressure here. But his ability do run these pass-rush games is OUTSTANDING. Watch the 2018 AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl victories.

Want one more? Okay, fine you’ve got me! This is in the Super Bowl victory over the Rams on a 3rd down in the first half. The Patriots are lined up in a 4-2-5 look, their marble concept (DB inserted over the nasty split or TE) and Van Noy is the MLB. He simply sits in the underneath zone and takes away two different receivers – almost like a spy. Then Jared Goff scrambles and Van Noy explodes to chase him down for a 14 yard loss on a sack!

I expect Kyle Van Noy to be featured in multiple roles in this defense. Remember the picture of Miami’s 4-2-5 look way at the beginning? He can play either LB spot in that look – outside where Eguavoen is or as the MLB where Jerome Baker is. He can play ILB in 3-3-5 looks. He can set the edge as an OLB in 2-4-5 looks. You can use him in all manner of ways in pass-rush games. And regardless of where he plays, he’s very smart! You’re going to get good reps out of him. Knowing this system already will likely propel him into a leadership role on the defense, which in my view, will help younger guys like Jerome Baker, Raekwon McMillan and Andrew Van Ginkel. He can make sure they’re on top of their alignments and assignments and give them a living, breathing example of what it means to be a smart, tough and physical player. Do I sound like Coach Flores yet?

Jason Strowbridge
If you’ve followed me on Twitter leading up to the Draft, you know I’ve mentioned Strowbridge frequently as someone I’ve liked for Miami. And getting him in the 5th round is a bit of a steal in my opinion. He took on a role as a DT and 3-4 DE at North Carolina, getting minimal reps as a DE in a four man D-line. With the Dolphins, I think he’ll slot into the same position as Emmanuel Ogbah and be a part of the rotation behind him.

His experience playing tighter techniques as a Tar Heel will be one thing Miami will likely try to build on in pass-rush packages. Here’s a clip from Voch Lombardi’s film review of the Senior Bowl with Strowbridge rushing as a 3-technique.

Our next clip of Strowbridge comes from the Tar Heels Bowl Game against Temple. We’ll see Strowbridge lined up at LDE in a 4-man line. He’s able to use an arm over move to defeat the TE and uses his explosion to get into the gap ahead of the pulling guard and help make a TFL.

In this clip against Virginia Tech he’s able to use quickly recognize that both the RG and RT down block and he’s able to get inside of the TE who’s trying to reach him and gets inside of the backside guard pulling. That play recognition is key and he’s able to make a tackle for no gain. Strowbridge doesn’t always exhibit the greatest get off/explosiveness off the snap, but when he does, his eyes take him to the ball well.

In our final clip, we’re looking at something subtle that I think the Dolphins will appreciate. Remember Kyle Van Noy’s pass-rush against the Vikings from above? Well, it’s plays like this from the front line that allow those pass-rush games to happen. Here we see Strowbridge lined up at 3-technique to the near side. He rushes from the B gap to the A gap and is able to occupy the RG and the C, allowing the LB to have a free run at the QB. While the LB fails to make the sack, you can see how this translates to what Miami will be wanting to do.

Jason Strowbridge will need some coaching up, there’s no denying that. But his length, power and experience playing tighter techniques will come in handy. I think his workload will steadily increase as the season moves on. But at first, I think he can help spell Ogbah at Big DE in 4-man lines and might give Miami something as an interior player on 3rd down pass-rush packages.

Curtis Weaver
I think most people are aware of the “good player, bad body” stigma that Curtis Weaver’s carried throughout the Draft process. Daniel Jeremiah said as much when Miami selected him. Weaver could be a tremendous value pick for the Dolphins. I haven’t seen Boise State a lot, but Weaver seems to be strictly a stand-up DE, and I’d think that he’d be that for Miami starting off. Think Chris Long at the end of his run with the Patriots. Weaver can be a 3rd down pass-rusher right off the bat. But I think he’ll need to learn to play the run better in order to earn more snaps.

In our first clip we’ll see that Air Force brings a wing-back into pitch phase to fake an option play. Weaver is the stand-up DE nearest to us. He’s able to read that the motion player isn’t getting the ball before he fully steps into his rush. He uses a rip move to get around the RT and does a nice job turning his rush path into the QB.

This clip showcases Weaver’s strength. Here he’s able to split a double team for a sack.

In the final clip with Curtis Weaver, we’ll see him use his length to set the edge against the run. Marion Hobby will be charged with coaxing this ability out of him more consistently. But when he does, this will help him see more reps.

How all these pieces come together should be very fun to watch. Miami now has a pair of Big DEs – Ogbah and Strowbridge and a pair of Rush ends in Lawson and Weaver. Kyle Van Noy will be playing himself. We’ll also likely see guys like Vince Biegel, Andrew Van Ginkel and Raekwon McMillan get some snaps on the edge as Brian Flowers wasn’t shy about having those three play on the edge last year.

Another added benefit to this, could be that we see Christian Wilkin’s pass-rush potential unlocked more in his second season. With some of these new edge additions able to rush from multiple spots, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Wilkins benefit on twists across the line.

While I won’t make any predictions on which of these guys leads the Dolphins in sacks, I will make two others:

1) These edge defenders will help Miami’s run defense improve. A lot.

2) In terms of pass-rush and the totality of the defense, this group of guys will allow Brian Flores and Josh Boyer to run the defense the way they want to and not be constrained into boiling it down like they did in 2019.

That final point is something we as Dolfans should all be very excited about! #FinsUp

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