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Akeem Spence’s Fit in Miami’s Defense

Travis Wingfield



Dolphins acquire snap-eating defensive tackle Akeem Spence for a conditional 7th round draft pick –

“Some of my best conversations in the Lions’ locker room were consistently with Akeem Spence. His availability and insight will be missed – a fitting winner of our media Good Guy Award.”

Lions’ reporter Nate Atkins scratched the surface on the type of human Miami is getting in Spence. Continuing the theme of adding high-character players, the Dolphins also acquired an interior rush threat and serious snap-eater in an area that was lacking in both departments.

Spence played 662 snaps for Detroit in 2017 – significantly greater than previously projected starters Jordan Phillips (402) and Davon Godcaux (500). Spence is a one-gap, aggressive penetrator that joins Dolphins’ new defensive line coach, Kris Kocurek, in a joint-pilgrimage to Miami.

Kocurek’s hiring original led fans to believe a remade role for all-pro Ndamukong Suh was imminent. Suh’s departure, however, opened up a need and this trade shores up the biggest concern remaining on Miami’s roster.

Per Pro Football Focus, Spence ranked 16thin the NFL in 2017 in run-stop percentage at 8.6%. These are tackles that occur within two yards of the line-of-scrimmage (Damon Harrison was number 1 at 13.4%). His pass rush productivity was even better, ranking 14thin the NFL with a 6.3 PRP (Suh was 10that 6.8).

Detroit’s return compensation might send up red flags, but it’s as simple as a coaching change introducing a new scheme. The Lions were even kind enough to rework Spence’s deal to lighten the cap hit on Miami.

Miami gets a substantial contributor for two years with minimal cap hits. There is zero dead money on the deal and his 2018 figure will carry a $3 million cap hit and $2.5 million in 2019.

Spence came on late in the season for the Lions. 16 of his 29 quarterback pressures occurred in the Lions’ final six games. Per the image below (provided by PFF), Spence had positive grades in five of those last six games.

In Matt Patricia’s defense, his interior guys are asked to two-gap and play more of a read-and-react style of defensive line. Notice the lack of urgency to get up field. In this defense, with a nose tackle splitting a pair of three techniques, the goal is to create opportunities for linebackers.

Matt Burke’s scheme, he wants to cause disruption with his defensive lineman – more of a play-the-run-on-the-way-to-the-quarterback style. Ndamukong Suh was the best in this technique. A low pad-level, shooting his gap with a quick crossover step and winning with burst, he was able to consistently play in the opposition’s backfield.

Of course, against a zone-blocking scheme, stacking and shedding is an integral part of the job as well.

Elite players can beat double-teams and make the play. Miami won’t replace Suh in that regard, but you can see what they ask from a player that can fill the roles of three-technique, one-technique and the coveted 2i position.

Spence offers versatility among a litany of traits. He’s light on his feet, offers a deadly counter move with his hands, and he possesses a savvy feel for setting his man up for later in the game. This crossover step and swim move are about as bad as it gets for an offensive lineman’s reel.

Anchoring against the run and eating double teams is something Miami had to replace with the loss of Suh. Here, the Packers briefly double Spence with a chip, but his base allows him to anchor after shooting his hands instantly to control the right guard. As the play works back towards him, he disengages to cause a pile-up.

Simply a dominant one-gap penetrator on these plays.

With positively no down-side to this trade, Dolphins’ fans have to be happy with yet another bargain-buy. A conditional seventh-round pick with a peanuts contract to fortify the thinnest position on the roster, the Dolphins’ brass continues to win the off-season.


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  1. Scott Cohen

    May 4, 2018 at 12:37 am

    Nice read. You have talent.

  2. O.Z.

    May 4, 2018 at 12:54 am

    Great write up

  3. Herb

    May 4, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    Awesome write-up, can he jump offsides twice a game.

  4. Mark Wolf

    May 4, 2018 at 9:35 pm

    Good job breaking down how Spence will play on Matt Burke offense This is a under rated players who will help the Dolphins run defense and a few sacks to boot.

  5. MG

    May 6, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    Great blog!

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