The talent has been here all along, but the coaching hasn’t been, until now
Hot, muggy August mornings signal the best time of year for football fans in South Florida. As the Dolphins head to camp, the start of a new season looms on the horizon. This past August — Brian Flores’ first with the Dolphins — we saw a training camp in Davie unlike any before.
Individual drills, focusing on fundamentals and the core basics of the sport (blocking, defeating blocks, tackling, and drilling mental toughness and a mistake-free mindset), the practices featured very few team portions.
Boring as all get out for the fans in attendance, sure, but those foundational bricks have already laid the groundwork for the least-penalized team in the NFL. In the midst of a challenging season, those repetitive, grueling days have resulted in a team that ranks in the top 10 in tackling (9th-fewest missed tackles).
The 2019 Miami Dolphins training camp period was the most important month of Flores’ tenure as the man-in-charge, and it’s already paying massive dividends. The top-of-the-league rankings in the minute, yet crucial details of the game are tremendous, and even more valuable when considering the gems Miami discovered along the way.
Those gems aren’t exclusive to undrafted free agents and reclamation projects. The Dolphins are getting career years out of former top 50 picks in Devante Parker, Mike Gesicki and Raekwon McMillan.
Good coaching with premium talent is the best way to curate household names across the league, but a team without depth is a team that can’t succeed in this league. Uncovering both bonafide starters, and rotational parts from that scrap heap is the most encouraging aspect of Brian Flores’ first year in Miami.
Vince Biegel’s pass rush productivity marks are top 10 at his position from an efficiency standpoint.
Nik Needham was an undrafted free agent who’s gone from Conference USA to holding his own against NFL receivers. Needham’s coming off a two-game stretch where he made 14 tackles, and his first career sack and interception.
Jomal Wiltz was on the Patriots practice squad last season, and now he’s a valuable, versatile part of the defensive backfield. Ryan Lewis, Ken Crawley, Ken Webster have all contributed as in-season defensive back free agent signings as well.
John Jenkins was a cut-down day acquisition, and all he’s done is led Miami in overall Pro Football Focus grade.
Eric Rowe was signed for close to nothing — a one-year, $3.5 million deal back in March. He struggled at cornerback early on, but since moving to a strong safety role — where he covers tight ends and plays a lot in the box — he’s playing some of the best ball of his career.
That list is impressive in its own right, and certainly inspires confidence in the Dolphins ability to succeed in this rebuild going forward. Even for the fan apprehensive to trust Chris Grier and company, it’s impossible to deny the widespread individual growth.
That’s where this next list comes into play. The Dolphins have had talent, and that’s evident by the players that have departed South Florida, and gone onto successful careers elsewhere.
For the sake of continuity and time elapsed relevance, we’ll go as far back as the beginning of the Joe Philbin era. Grier has been in Miami since 2007, but his role in each individual acquisition is impossible to gage. And that remains true even today as Miami — and all NFL teams — act as a gigantic collaboration.
With more than 30 scouts, college and professional personnel directors, a General Manager, Assistant General Manager, and nearly 20 coaches all serving underneath Owner Stephen Ross, nobody outside the walls in Miami knows who is responsible for which move.
To borrow the famed Bill Parcells mantra, the front office buys the groceries. From there, it’s up to the coaching staff to best prepare those ingredients and cook up a winning recipe. From Joe Philbin to Adam Gase, Miami have done very little to take on talent and produce an even better product on the other side.
We start in 2012 with the decision to trade the biggest name receiver this franchise has employed since Chris Chambers left at the 2007 trade deadline.
Brandon Marshall – Marshall was an pro-bowl-level player at every stop except for Miami. His career fizzled towards retirement at the end, and he had a decent stretch in the 2011 season, but his two years in Miami produced the two worst statistical seasons out of the prime of his career. Marshall’s first year with the Bears resulted in a first-team All-Pro selection, a product of 1,508-yard season with 11 touchdowns — topping the two-year total (nine TD) with Miami.
Vontae Davis – The infamous grandma phone call request will never be forgotten, but Vontae got the last laugh on Miami. After three promising seasons with the Phins, Davis’ next four in Indianapolis produced two pro-bowls and 12 interceptions.
Karlos Dansby – This move was a double whammy, as it was made to create space for all-time free agent bust in Dannell Ellerbe. Dansby didn’t make any pro-bowls after leaving Miami, but his first season in the dessert was a smashing success. He picked off four passes (two for touchdowns), broke up 19 passes, made 12 TFLs and registered his second-highest sack total of his career with 6.5.
Sean Smith – Smith infamously made a public comment during the Seahawks rise to prominence in 2012 about Richard Sherman and the freedom of Seattle’s cornerbacks within that scheme. Smith was promptly allowed to depart via free agency, but didn’t break the bank with the Kansas City Chiefs. Fresh off his new three-year, $18 million deal, Smith’s first year in KC resulted in an 84.7 passer rating against. Then, in 2014, Smith was PFF’s 6th-highest graded corner (Davis was 2nd.)
Tony McDaniel – Arriving via a conditional pick in 2009, McDaniel earned his way from the bottom of the depth chart into a rotational role. Then, in 2013, he left for Seattle and his career took off. His Pro Football Reference Approximate Value metric was never higher than 3 with Miami. His first two years in Seattle, McDaniel had an AV of 9 and 7. He made 94 tackles those two years, 12 more than his four-year total with the Dolphins.
Nolan Carroll – A fifth-round pick in 2010, Carroll took some time to develop his game. Just as he did, the Dolphins allowed the Maryland product to walk in free agency. Carroll never became a lockdown cornerback, but he was a key role player for three years with the Eagles, starting 27 games his final two years there. His contract with Philadelphia paid him $5 million over two years — plenty affordable for cornerback depth.
No notable losses. Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Charles Clay and Randy Starks never had jumps in production in their post-Miami careers.
Olivier Vernon – Vernon received a monster contract from the Giants, but an extension could’ve reduced Miami’s cost on the hometown product. Drafted out of The U, Vernon’s breakout season happened in his contract year, and pushed Miami out of the market to bring him back entirely. Vernon’s highest AV mark in Miami was 8; his first season with the Giants nearly doubled that with an eye-popping 15 approximate value figure.
Lamar Miller – Another Miami native, Miller never took the league by storm the way some assumed he would, but he signed a cheap deal to move to Houston after the 2015 season. This is more of a nod to the Dolphins scouting staff to find a good player in the fourth round.
Rishard Matthews – Miami used a first-round pick on Devante Parker the year before, but that premium pick could’ve been used elsewhere if Miami were capable of self-scouting their own receiver corps. Matthews first season in Tennessee was the best of his career. His 945 yards and nine touchdowns were both career highs.
Billy Turner – A left tackle at North Dakota State, Turner was shuffled about the offensive line before flaming out in embarrassing fashion through a difficult 1-4 start to the 2016 season. Turner went on to start for the Broncos, where he impressed the Packers to the tune of a four-year, $28 million deal this past offseason.
No notable departures
Ndamukong Suh – The original signing was probably never a good idea, but Suh was an integral part of the Rams run to the Super Bowl last season. Again, this piece is to prove that Miami has done plenty to acquire talent over the years.
Mike Pouncey – Pouncey was a shell of his former self at this stage. Injuries were always the primary issue with Pouncey, but he was a first-round pick in 2011 that played in four pro bowls. There isn’t a football fan on earth that wouldn’t sign up for that return on the 15th pick in the draft.
We can’t write the final story on Laremy Tunsil or Minkah Fitzpatrick yet, but those two, along with Kenyan Drake, provide Grier with quite the endorsement of the 2016 NFL Draft. Fitzpatrick wasn’t a part of that class, but Xavien Howard was, and he remains in Miami.
We might look back on these trades of Tunsil and Fitzpatrick as catastrophic failures, but both will always hold superiority to Miami’s decision to part with so many of the names we just mentioned. The Dolphins received premium compensation for both players, including quarterback prices for Tunsil.
Now, with almost no considerable resources on his roster, Brian Flores is getting similar production from his stripped-down squad than what Adam Gase got the last two years. And Gase did it with far more money and accolades scattered throughout the locker room.
These types of blunders stretch all the way back to Rob Ninkovich, and Evan Mathis before him. The hope, with Brian Flores and his unique ability to develop players acquired off the scrap heap, is that those days are gone.
If they are, with all the premium resources Chris Grier, Marvin Allen, Reggie McKenzie and the entire front office has to work with, the Dolphins can quickly become a team to be reckoned with for years to come.
Miami Dolphins meeting with Jordan Love at the Senior Bowl
Mobile, Alabama (Locked On Dolphins) – Senior Bowl week is underway, and Tuesday set into motion the first practice.
The Senior Bowl is scheduled for Saturday, January 25, at 1:30 p.m. Central Time.
Tuesday featured weigh-ins and measurements, and as per usual, the quarterback hand sizes became a viral trend on twitter.
As it relates to the headline, Jordan Love’s hands were measured at 10 5/8 inches, which was the biggest of all the quarterbacks.
It might not necessarily matter since coaches and analysts can go either way on a prospect’s hand size. But it could matter for someone who was already on the fence about Jordan Love.
It could’ve been the dealbreaker, too, for those who were already on the fence.
I mention the conflicting perspectives on hand sizes because it’s a perfect segue into the controversy and questions surrounding Jordan Love’s draft stock and pro prospects.
Now here’s the kicker.
The polarizing quarterback from Utah State will be meeting with the Dolphins at the Senior Bowl, per Joe Schad.
Utah State QB Jordan Love says he’s meeting with the Miami Dolphins at Senior Bowl
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) January 21, 2020
Hand sizes aside, it’s certainly worth noting that the Dolphins want to meet with Love.
It’s almost a certainty that the Dolphins want to and will address the quarterback position in the 2020 Draft, and Love offers a lot of desired characteristics for the job.
And there’s already been interest before from the Miami Dolphins, according to Tony Pauline.
Pauline has stated that the team was intrigued by the Aggie quarterback after his breakout 2018 season.
While Jordan Love’s 2019 season was tumultuous, to say the least, the moldable potential as a pro is evident.
Jordan Love is a likely draft riser now that the 2019 season is behind him. A good showing during the practices and the Senior Bowl will further help his cause, but Love is already looking at being selected in the teens or 20s.
The meeting, it’s fuel on the fire. In preparation for a scenario where the Dolphins cannot or do not get Tua Tagovailoa, the team could be exercising their due diligence to formulate a Plan B in that event.
It never hurts to be overprepared.
The content and reasoning of the meeting itself will remain surreptitious but will invite hypotheses regarding a Miami Dolphins-Jordan Love marriage.
Could he be the face of the franchise?
Is he the next Patrick Mahomes?
Can he make it as a pro?
Sure, there’s uncertainty with drafting Love, but the thing is, the connection makes sense. There’s a lot to like about Jordan Love, but he needs breathing room going into the NFL. The Miami Dolphins can offer him that, which would be favorable for his development.
It’s a good fit. And the logic is there.
It’s worth keeping tabs on Jordan Love’s draft journey, and we’ll see what unfolds from the meeting, if anything.
There’s a real shot that Jordan Love is the Miami Dolphins guy moving into 2020 and beyond. The meeting could be the first step in that process…
Or maybe they just want to talk about his hand size.
Senior Bowl 2020 Preview Through Miami Dolphins Lens – Defense
Best Dolphins scheme fits, and the price to acquire said players, taking the field this week at the Senior Bowl
By the time the popcorn is popped, the ball is teed up, and the fans have filed into the Ladd-Pebble’s stadium, most of the scouts, evaluators and decision makers have vacated Mobile, Alabama, the home of the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
It’s not that the game is devoid of value; it just pales in comparison to the value of the entire week of practices. Simulated situations pit college football’s best players against one-another in true tests of their abilities.
Change-of-direction, clean mechanics, competitiveness, all of these important traits are readily apparent in the padded practices that occur from Tuesday through Thursday in front of everyone who is anyone in the National Football League.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to prospect evaluation. Even after a nine-month process that begins at summer camp for area scouts, the best-drafting teams in the NFL still only hit on roughly half of their picks. But if there were a way to expedite the process of rifling through the hundreds of draft-eligible players, these practices are it.
We get a first-hand look at how players fare against elite college competition, repeatedly. Game-speed is on display. Lateral agility and movement skills are tested. The bounce back from a bad rep and jumping right back into the fire gives us insight on how players respond to adversity in short order. The clues we find in Mobile sends us back to the tape to re-evaluate our boards, and ultimately spit our final rankings and evaluations.
In case you’re new to Locked On Dolphins, this is how we covered the Senior Bowl last January.
Since everything we do is Dolphins specific, we’re looking at scheme fits. We’ll track which players the Dolphins meet with, and who impresses the most at the biggest positions of need.
In addition to projecting best possible scheme fits, we’ll factor in draft value when selecting the best possible player from each group for your Miami Dolphins. For instance, neither Justin Herbert or Jordan Love will be the top QB selected simply because of their high-end first-round draft status. If Miami selects Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth pick, Herbet and Love are off the board entirely.
It’s one of my personal favorite weeks of the year, so let’s get into part-two, the defense.
Senior Bowl Defense
The defensive side of the ball is loaded this week in Mobile. Gap-control rushers, interior pocket collapsers, on-and-off-ball linebackers and a secondary chock full of ball hawks, there are multiple future Dolphins in this group.
By now, we know that Miami are one of three teams in the league — four now with Joe Judge at the top of a program — that shops from an exclusive store. Bigger, stronger edge players that make up for a lack of athleticism with brute power and gap integrity. Versatile defensive backs that must excel in man coverage. Linebackers that can rush the quarterback from a variety of positions. These are the core tenants of the Patriots, Lions, and Dolphins defense, and perhaps the Giants under new management with Patrick Graham.
It’ll be impossible to highlight just a couple of players, so unlike the offensive side, we’ll discuss multiple players at each spot. As always, we’ll have even more detail on the Locked On Dolphins Podcast.
Bradlee Anae (UTAH), Darrion Daniels (NEB), Marlon Davidson (AUB), Raekwon Davis (ALA), Leki Fotu (UTAH), Neville Gallimore (OK), Trevis Gipson (TULS), Jonathan Greenard (FLA), Davon Hamilton (OSU), Trevon Hill (MIA), Benito Jones (MISS), Javon Kinlaw (SC), Larrell Murchison (NCST), Alton Robinson (SYR), Jason Strowbridge (UNC), Kenny Willekes (MSU), Robert Windsor (PSU), Jabari Zuniga (FLA)
Best Fins Fit — Bradlee Anae, Utah
Anae is a 6-foot-3, 260-plus-pound edge that Miami will covet in this year’s draft. He’s a refined rusher with multiple moves in the arsenal, and the ability to angle inside as a rusher to expand the stunt game on the defensive line.
I'm surprised Bradlee Anae isn't getting a lot more national attention as a draft prospect. One of the best technicians in this EDGE class. (Beat top OT prospect Austin Jackson here). Love the violent finish. pic.twitter.com/ebvkgN6gSl
— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) January 10, 2020
He’s not the most athletic rusher, but that’s not part of the prerequisites of playing edge in this scheme. New England never valued athleticism at end, and I don’t suspect Brian Flores will either. Dig-out or kick-out blocks are often a futile effort against Anae because of his long arms and ability to disengage quickly.
Projected Required Investment — Mid-Round Pick, Rounds 3-4
Where He Fits on the Roster — Starting Base 5-Tech, Kick Inside in Nickle Rush Packages
Hardly a far cry from former Patriot, current Lion, and once a Near-Dolphin Trey Flowers, Anae is a power run defender that can redirect as a pass rusher on his way to stopping the ground game.
The moment the card is turned in, Anae becomes the best base defensive end on the team. While that’s an indictment of Miami’s roster, it’s also a testament to Anae’s skill set. He provides the versatility to kick inside on long yardage situations.
Area of Intrigue This Week — Pit Drill
This will be an area to either showcase Anae’s impressive heavy hands, or an opportunity to expose his limited athleticism. Again, the Dolphins don’t care much about the latter, and typically it’s the players with better moves in their arsenal that win in this drill.
Keep an Eye On — Jason Strowbridge, North Carolina
Something of a tweener for the rest of the league, Strowbridge fits right in at home in Miami. He entered college as a 245-pound end, and now he’s nearing three bills on the scale. Accordingly, Strowbridge has some explosion and wiggle that is unique to a player of his size.
Ridiculous play in a phone booth from UNC senior DT Jason Strowbridge. Watch #55
Push/pull the OT, then the awareness that a backside puller is coming, avoids that block, and finds the RB 👀
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) September 24, 2019
He won’t be a base defensive tackle, but he is more than capable of fulfilling the 4-tech spot in bear fronts, or play the play-side 3-tech in even fronts. Leki Fotu is a Danny Shelton clone and Neville Gallimore and Javon Kinlaw are explosive, powerful interior rush presences, but will likely require a first-round selection. Strowbridge is a day-three player.
Zack Baun (WIS), Francis Bernard (UTAH), Jordyn Brooks (TT), Cameron Brown (PSU), Carter Coughlin (MIN), Akeem Davis-Gaither (APP), Troy Dye (ORE), Malik Harrison (OSU), Khaleke Hudson (MICH), Anfernee Jennings (ALA), Terrell Lewis (ALA), Kamal Martin (MIN), Davion Taylor (COL), Darrell Taylor (TEN), Josh Uche (MICH), Evan Weaver (CAL), Logan Wilson (WYO), D.J. Wonnum (SC)
Best Fins Fit — Zack Baun, Wisconsin
Baun, just like Vince Biegel and Andrew Van Ginkel before him, has the same traits that attracted Miami to the pair of Badger ‘Backers. Baun is the best of the three. He’s especially adept at executing games (stunts, twists, slants) because of his lateral agility.
Wisconsin EDGE and Senior Bowler Zack Baun is probably the player who has exceeded my expectations most on final film review.
Bend isn't great, but when you can soften rush angles and force OTs into recovery position as quickly as Baun does, you don't need elite bend!
— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) December 28, 2019
He’s not the most fluid edge rusher, and isn’t going to line up in the wide alignment and win the corner, but he’s effective defending the pass as a flat and hook zone dropper. His rush move arsenal is already refined like that of a seasoned pro.
Projected Required Investment — Late-First, Early-Second, Pick 26 or 39
Where He Fits on the Roster — Starting On-Ball Linebacker
Biegel almost never left the field last season upon showing his worth across a variety of formations. Baun could do the same and give Miami a pair of consistent Badger backers off either edge, in what could be a linebacker-driven front-seven this year. Drafting Baun would certainly suggest that to be the case, with Van Ginkel serving as the sixth-man — so to speak — first off the bench.
Area of Intrigue This Week — Pit Drill
My apologies for a lack of variety between these trench players, but nothing beats the pit drill; nothing. This is an area Baun will probably excel because he’s such a refined technician, and he’ll draw some smaller school players and athletes that aren’t great football players just yet.
Keep an Eye On — Anfernee Jennings, Alabama
Jennings has the requisite measurements to intrigue the Dolphins before even flipping on the film. Then, once you see him play, you see him actively engage those long arms and thick frame to bully the man across from him. He’s extremely stout against the run with the heavy hands to shed blockers en route to the tackler.
Anfernee Jennings fits the mold for an edge in this defense. Watch him defeat the block and make the TFL on the keeper. pic.twitter.com/TyC7iqR61l
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) October 12, 2019
Cal’s Evan Weaver lacks speed and rush ability, but he’s the most reliable downhill run defender in the entire draft. Joshua Uche has some versatility to his game. He played for current Dolphins Linebackers Coach Anthony Campanile in college.
Damon Arnette (OSU), Essang Bassey (WAKE), Julian Blackmon (UTAH), Antoine Brooks Jr. (MAR), Terrell Burgess (UTAH), Jeremy Chinn (SoILL), Brian Cole (MISS ST), Ashtyn Davis (CAL), Kyle Duggar (Lenoir-Rhyne), Jalen Elliot (ND), Kristian Fulton (LSU), Alohi Gilman (ND), A.J. Green (OKST), Darnay Holmes (UCLA), Lamar Jackson (NEB), Dane Jackson (PITT), Brandon Jones (TEX), Jared Mayden (ALA), Josh Metellus (MICH), Michael Ojemudia (IOWA), Troy Pride Jr. (ND), Reggie Robinson (TULS), Kindle Vildor (GEO SO), K’Von Wallace (CLEM)
Best Fins Fit — Ashtyn Davis
There are a few defensive backs in this class that match the prototype for what Brian Flores looks for, and Davis is certainly that, but he has one thing most of the other guys don’t. The sheer passion and love for playing the game the correct way. Not to say the others don’t, but Davis is a temperature changer that immediately improves the work environment around him.
Found one of my early draft crushes….Safety Ashtyn Davis
Drops down into the slot, takes outside leverage, lulls Herbert to sleep then breaks on the throw with incredible acceleration. Fearlessly catches the ball in traffic and returns it for a big gain! pic.twitter.com/sBV0TZ4HfK
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) January 9, 2020
Davis is a former track star, so when he tests in Indianapolis, it’s possible he elevates his stock into the first round. Hopefully that’s not the case, and Miami can pick up a round-two steal with this do-it-all safety. He can play the single-high role, cover in the slot, and is more than willing to hit somebody much larger than himself.
Projected Required Investment — Day 2, Pick 39
Where He Fits on the Roster — Starting Free Safety, Slot Corner
Davis‘ best trait is the paired combination of instincts and range. Because of that, he fits Miami’s press-man, single-high defense as well as anybody. He can also come down and cover the slot with the best of them — just the ideal defensive back for Brian Flores.
Area of Intrigue This Week — Live Team Period
Tackling hasn’t been the best trait for Davis in his collegiate career. It’s not that he’s not willing, he just lacks the size and frame to do it consistently. I want to see how he wraps and finishes in the live team periods when he has to come down and make a stick.
Keep an Eye On — Damon Arnette, Ohio State
Overlooked because of the presence of Jeff Okudah and Shaun Wade in that Buckeye defensive backfield, Arnette took considerable strides this season in Columbus. He’s a long, aggressive press-corner that plays the ball exceptionally well.
Damon Arnette Pick Six 🙌 pic.twitter.com/yhcl3AQxIn
— Buckeye Videos+ (@BuckeyeVideos) September 14, 2019
Arnette will challenge every route at the three critical points — off the line, at the top of the stem, and at the catch point. He’s a sound tackler, but isn’t real interested in fighting off blocks. He’s more athletic than most players with his play-style which should bump his draft stock.
Utah’s Terrell Burgess is a good option in the middle rounds to play primary backup to Eric Rowe, and also serve as a core special teamer.
It would be quite a surprise if multiple players from this group don’t wind up with the Dolphins. There are so many potential scheme fits, and players that come from programs that stress the same core tenants that Miami’s system calls for. With all these Utah Utes, all these versatile defensive backs and multi-talented front-seven players, this is quite a week for Brian Flores and company.
Wednesday-Friday — Senior Bowl Practice Recaps
Kevin’s Senior Bowl Defensive Brain Dump
As we head into Senior Bowl week, I just wanted to do a quick brain dump on some of the prospects I’m most interested to see on defense this week at the Senior Bowl. One of my favorite prospects, Notre Dame DE Khalid Kareem, appears to have dropped out of the Senior Bowl for some reason (I’m looking into that, but if anyone knows, please comment below). To keep this simple, I’m just going to go DLs, LBs and DBs with quick notes on the guys I like.
Quick Glossary of Dolphins positions:
Big DE – bigger guy, usually 6’3”+ and 270lbs+ with 34”+ arms. Usually plays some 4, 4i, 5 and 6 techniques, with the ability to reduce inside on passing downs.
Rush DE – think Trey Flowers. Plays wider, usually 5, 6, 7, 9, and 8 (head up on a dual TE, pretty rare).
Off-Ball LB – a LB that’s usually playing off the line of scrimmage. Think Jerome Baker and Sam Eguavoen.
On-Ball LB – a LB who is playing the edges, akin to a 3-4 OLB, but may be playing in a 4-man line. Think Vince Biegel and, especially late in the season, Andrew Van Ginkel.
Safety Position – Miami breaks their safeties into three categories: MOF (Middle of the Field – a deep FS), split safety (someone who can play ½ field in tandem with the FS), and box safety (think Patrick Chung for New England or Tavon Wilson for Detroit. For Miami it was mostly Reshad Jones and Eric Rowe in this role in 2019).
DE – Jason Strowbridge – N. Carolina – Really excited to see him play in Mobile. Was a 3-tech DT for the Tar Heels at 6’5” 285lbs. Has length Miami will covet, experience playing inside. Flashes some explosion in pursuit. Plays well down the line (horizontally) against the run. Violent hands. Miami will like that. Fits with the Dolphins as a
DT Javon Kinlaw – South Carolina – Long and explosive. Can play anywhere on interior and may be able to play some Big DE in Miami’s scheme. Wins with length and speed more than physicality; will have to be more consistent with leverage and pad level at NFL level.
DT DaVon Hamilton – Ohio State – Solid all around. Physical, hustles, uses his hands. Was part of a heavy rotation at Ohio State with Rob Landers, Jashon Cornell, Haskell Garrett, and Tommy Togiai. Probably more set for a true 4-3 defense, but a solid player you can get in the mid-rounds. For Miami, he’d likely fit as a backup to Christian Wilkins – someone who can play 2i, 2, 3, 4, 4i techniques.
Really Intrigued: Marlon Davidson – Auburn – Was more hybrid 3-4 DE/stand-up edge player at Auburn. Has good size. Will be interesting to see how he plays as a DE in the game. Would be a Big DE for Miami.
Want to see more of: Leki Fotu – Utah – Got manhandled by Oregon in the Pac-12 Title Game. Thought he was an intriguing prospect for a NT spot in Miami’s defense, but after that game…Yikes. Can he rebound? Has some potential to play other techniques aside from a pure NT. Is he strong enough at the NFL Level?
Others I like:
Bradlee Anae – Utah – Rush DE from Utah who seems to fit the parameters, but just isn’t quite there for me. I want to see how he holds up against this level of competition. Did well until he ran into Penei Sewell of Oregon. Did notch some wins against USC’s Austin Jackson.
Jonathan Greenard – Florida – Another Rush DE candidate who had a fantastic season. Had a tremendous season for the Gators and has solid size for what Miami will likely look for. Does he have an arsenal of pass-rush moves or is he too reliant on speed-rush?
Darrell Taylor of Tennessee, Josh Uche of Michigan, and Alton Robinson of Syracuse also bear watching. The first two might be more OLB candidates for Miami. Robinson had a lot of hype heading into 2019 but didn’t have the best season with 2.5 of his 4.5 sacks coming against Liberty and Western Michigan.
Malik Harrison – Ohio State – Just a good, smart, physical football player. Can he play on the ball? Probably a little bit light for what Miami wants in someone who can play the off-ball and on-ball LB spot, but he’s so good. Secure tackler. Delivers pop when he squares up. For Miami, if he can bulk up a bit and still retain his speed, he’s got a chance to play that off-ball ILB and on-ball OLB hybrid role, like Kyle Van Noy. Guys like Biegel and Van Ginkel are pretty strictly on-ball guys, who fit the hybrid OLB/rush DE role for Miami.
Evan Weaver – California – Strictly a MLB in Miami’s system, but he may be more dynamic there than Raekwon McMillan; creates a logjam there if you take him though. Can play in coverage, good tackler, deceptive quickness.
Really Intrigued: Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis are both listed as ILBs for the Senior Bowl; not OLBs or edge players, which is what I think they’d be better suited for in the NFL and with Miami. Is this a real thing?
Want to see more of: Logan Wilson – Wyoming – Evan Weaver heavy. Wilson isn’t as polished as even Weaver, but he’s got good size and moves will for it. I’ve only seen one Wyoming game, so I myself want to watch Wilson this week.
Others I Like:
Carter Coughlin – Minnesota – He’s listed as a DE for the Senior Bowl, but for Miami’s purposes, they’d likely view him as another OLB/DE hybrid. Not that they need another at this point with Biegel and Van Ginkel, but it’s worth doing the due diligence on Coughlin.
Damon Arnette – Ohio State – One of the few CBs I’ve seen multiple times and paid attention to. He was the starter opposite Jeff Okudah and had a nice season. He’s physical and is an excellent tackler for a corner. Had to play with his hand/wrist in a cast for a chunk of the season and became a bit grabby, much like current Dolphin Xavien Howard when he was at Baylor. With Arnette, as it relates to Miami, I think the tape is fine, but it may come down to the physical measurements. Namely, does he have the long speed to play a lot of man coverage?
Dane Jackson – Pittsburgh – It seems like every year there’s a dirty, grimy football player from Pitt that just tends to stick in the league. I thought Dwayne Hendrix had a chance for Miami last year, but he ended up with the Ravens after being on the practice squad. Dane Jackson is another kid I can see Miami taking a liking to. Though, like Arnette, I’m concerned if the speed is there or not.
Antoine Brooks Jr. – Maryland – I noticed him when the Terps got thumped by Ohio State. He’s big, 5’11” 215lbs, and plays slot, SS and split safety. I think his best position is probably playing in the Patrick Chung/Tavon Wilson role, if Miami is convinced, they can play Eric Rowe as a split safety when required. Clicks & Closes quickly, like Reshad Jones. Good tackler in space. Physical. 67 solo tackles in 2019. Displays good closing speed (watch the play against Penn State). For the Dolphins, he’s on my short list of guys who can pay the Chung/Wilson role. While he’s not in Mobile, keep an eye on SMU’s Patrick Nelson. Hat tip to Chris Kouffman for turning me onto Nelson.
Alohi Gilman – Notre Dame – Antoine Brooks lite. Better coverage player, but not as dynamic close to the LOS. Good tackler who makes plays on the ball. 3 FFs in 2019, 6 total in his career at Notre Dame (3 years of playing time). 58 solo tackles in 2018 (better team defense). Interested to see if he’s more of a slot player or can play SS in the NFL. Versatility is something Miami will like.
Intrigued: Kyle Dugger – Lenoir-Rhyne – Division II player at the Senior Bowl. I know Jim Nagy really likes him. Intrigued to see his size on display. 6’2” 220lbs.
Want to see more of: All the CBs. Other than Jeff Okudah, Damon Arnette and A.J. Terrell, I haven’t watched many corners throughout the year. Curious to see if any stand out.
Others I Like:
Ashtyn Davis – California – I know Travis has, or is very likely to, talk about him a lot this week. He’s one of the few ideal candidates in this year’s draft of the MOF FS spot in Miami’s defense. They may be comfortable with Bobby McCain for that role, but in my eyes, moving McCain back to the slot and tabbing a guy like Davis would improve the secondary as a whole.
I also think it’s funny that we’ll see corners named Lamar Jackson and A.J. Green in Mobile this week.
If I’m pressed into picking five names I think Miami will really like from this year’s Senior Bowl, I’d probably stack them as:
1) Ashtyn Davis – FS – California
2) Malik Harrison – LB – Ohio State
3) Jason Strowbridge – DE – North Carolina
4) Damon Arnette – CB – Ohio State
5) Evan Weaver – LB – California
I left off several guys like Darrell Taylor, Terrell Lewis and Anfernee Jennings. They’re all guys Miami will like, but with Biegel and Van Ginkel in the fold, are they really going to be that interested? Especially with a guy like Yannick Ngakoue lurking in free agency, who he himself has already teased some things about Miami and Jason Taylor on his Twitter timeline? Yeah, give me Ngakoue there.
As for my guy, Antoine Brooks Jr., I think he’d be a really nice fit for Miami. But with Eric Rowe’s capability, I have to wonder whether or not they’d look at someone in that role or tend to focus on guys who can play FS and be able to play in split safety looks. There’s also some intriguing names out there in free agency like Justin Simmons and Von Bell to watch out for.
It’ll be a fun week to watch, and feel free to @ me at @KevinMD4 if you have any questions about these guys.
- Miami Dolphins meeting with Jordan Love at the Senior Bowl January 21, 2020
- Senior Bowl 2020 Preview Through Miami Dolphins Lens – Defense January 20, 2020
- Kevin’s Senior Bowl Defensive Brain Dump January 19, 2020
- Senior Bowl 2020 Preview Through Miami Dolphins Lens – Offense January 19, 2020
- Miami Dolphins 2020 Roster Building Preview – Safeties January 17, 2020
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