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Miami Dolphins

Chase Your Young Quarterback, Not Elite Pass Rushers

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

If you are the Miami Dolphins, you do not draft Chase Young.

You don’t draft K’Lavon Chaisson.
You don’t draft A. J. Epenesa.
You don’t draft Yetur Gross-Matos.
And you don’t dare draft Derrick Brown.

In fact, with your first pick in the 2020 NFL draft, you refrain from selecting a defensive lineman, regardless of how athletic or elite that player is.

He can be a slam dunk Hall of Fame candidate, and I still wouldn’t select them.

It’s not because this team doesn’t need them – because it’s quite obvious that the Dolphins do need them – but because the Dolphins don’t need them as badly as they need a leader under center.

The Miami Dolphins are at a pivotal point where they NEED to transcend their franchise and change the mediocre narrative that has engulfed South Florida throughout the 21st century. And with the wealth of assets they’ve accumulated this year, they are in a very good position to accomplish that.

With three first round picks and two second round picks accompanying over $100m in cap space, the only thing preventing Miami from becoming a successful organization for a prolonged period of time is incompetence. We can brag all we’d like about the stockpile of assets Chris Grier has accumulated, but none of this means anything if the Dolphins don’t get the most important position on the roster right.

Settling For Leftovers

Now that the Dolphins have blown up their own tanking strategy and appear destined to select outside of the Top 3, the quarterback conundrum becomes that much more important.

Rather than comfortably selecting Tua Tagovailoa or Joe Burrow with one of the top 2 picks in the draft, the Dolphins are going to have to coach up one of the “Tier 2” quarterbacks coming out of college.

Someone in the group of Jake Fromm, Justin Herbert, Jordan Love or Jalen Hurts is going to be the savior for the Miami Dolphins, and ironically enough, most fans will mutiny if any of these players are selected with the team’s first (of 3) picks in the 1st-round of the 2020 NFL draft.

The prevailing thought is that a team is passing up on a cornerstone athlete for a player that may have to be replaced within a couple of years. If Miami gets the quarterback selection wrong, it’ll be viewed as a risky pick that should have been avoided so high in the draft. Me, I ask why the front office seems to make an annual tradition of misidentifying quarterback talent.

In 2017, the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans took a risk, and it turned into Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson. The Miami Dolphins sat put that year and selected Charles Harris.

Last year, the Baltimore Ravens traded two 2nd-round picks to move back into the 1st-round and select Lamar Jackson 32nd-overall. The Dolphins sat put and drafted Mike Gesicki 10 picks later.

While quarterbacks are commonly “overdrafted” due to their necessity, you can never overdraft championships.

We remember the 2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense or the 2000 Baltimore Ravens defense because they were some of the best in NFL history. Which position was responsible for the other 17 championships this century?

Transitional Defense

Since we fear that one of these Tier 2 quarterbacks may not be the answer, we might convince ourselves that the Dolphins best bet is to select the best player available and then settle on your quarterback later in the draft.

It’s not.

While elite players at other positions can turn a good team into a great team, they aren’t the reason you’re winning Super Bowls. Take a look at all of the defensive linemen drafted in the Top 10 between 2010 – 2018:

Note: I’ve included some notable defensive players that fell just outside of the top 10 as well

Which of these teams transcended from a perennial bottom-feeder to a top-tier franchise because of the defensive lineman they selected with a top-10 pick in the draft?

The most-prominent defensive lineman recently selected high in the draft that arguably “transcended” a franchise was Aaron Donald of the St. Louis Rams (13th-overall pick in 2014). That’s if you consider a 17-31 record (.347 winning percentage) during the first three years of his career transcending.

Coincidentally, it took until the Rams drafted Jared Goff (and removed Jeff Fisher as head coach) to finally win their division (in 2017).

No one is saying they wouldn’t want Aaron Donald on their team, but do you want the future Hall of Famer at the cost of 3 additional losing seasons? The Rams are on the verge of wasting Donald’s career just like the Detroit Lions (and Dolphins) did with Ndamukong Suh. Just like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did with Gerold McCoy. Just like the Cincinnati Bengals did with Geno Atkins.

I want all of these players, but I also want to win.

If Miami were in a position to draft complementary pieces to their quarterback, I’d be all over Chase Young or another stud on the defensive line…but the Dolphins are nowhere near that position. They need to find their signal caller first, and it needs to be with their very first draft pick.

This article isn’t to diminish the value of a good defensive line or any of the players mentioned above. These statements are to reinforce the notion that a quarterback should be the only position that’s considered priority #1.

I would absolutely love to have just about every player mentioned.

  • At least 3 of these players are strong hall of fame candidates once they retire.
  • At least 5 of these players are going to be enshrined in their respective team’s ring of honor.
  • 14 of these players have made the Pro Bowl
  • 6 of them have been First-Team All Pro

These picks are predominantly successful, but how many teams that drafted players on this list saw their franchise evolve when a quarterback was finally selected rather than the freakishly athletic defensive lineman?

Dontari Poe was on the Chiefs for 6 years before Patrick Mahomes came along and transcended the Chiefs into one of the most-threatening teams in the NFL.

The Houston Texans drafted Mario Williams #1 overall in 2006. Though he was a great player for them, it didn’t seem to do much considering they drafted J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney with two very high draft picks relatively shortly after.

Yet, here’s Deshaun Watson, selected 12th-overall, transcending the Texans into a legitimate playoff threat.

As Easy As Hooked On Phonics

Your answer is a lot simpler than it needs to be.

It doesn’t matter if he’s viewed as a QB4 in the “expert’s” eyes, or a “darkhorse” no one else believes is good enough for the NFL, your answer at #4 (or #10, or wherever the Dolphins draft) is a QB; regardless of how high you have to “overdraft” him.

This regime needs to ensure they draft the right player, and if they aren’t competent enough to find an elite quarterback outside of Tua or Burrow, they need to trade up and obtain the guy they believe in, regardless of the cost.

Does anyone remember what the New York Giants traded the San Diego Chargers for Eli Manning back in 2004?

Anyone recall what the Philadelphia Eagles traded the Cleveland Browns to select Carson Wentz in 2016?

Remember what the Kansas City Chiefs gave up for Patrick Mahomes or how much Deshaun Watson cost the Houston Texans?

Of course not, because you don’t remember how expensive trades are when they pay off for your team.

There’s always a chance that you overpay for Robert Griffin III, Mark Sanchez or Mitchell Trubisky and sabotage your roster for a few years, but teams bounce back from these pitfalls shortly thereafter. It’s not like the Miami Dolphins are in a much better situation than the Washington Redskins after the RGIII debacle, and the New York Jets possibly have their franchise quarterback; assuming Adam Gase doesn’t ruin Sam Darnold‘s career.

Mistakes happen, but getting cute with the quarterback position has wasted all the other elite talent that has come through Davie.

Cameron Wake, Reshad Jones, Jarvis Landry, Davon Godchaux, Olivier Vernon, Lamar Miller, Mike Wallace, Brandon Marshall, Ndamukong Suh, Branden Albert, Karlos Dansby

Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, Sam Madison, Patrick Surtain, Tim Bowens, Adewale Ogunleye, Yeremiah Bell, Randy McMichael.

ALL wasted.

Do not risk this. Miami has not solved the issue since Dan Marino, and given their history of avoiding risk (or misidentifying quarterback talent), I have absolutely zero faith that they will solve the issue in 2021 if they push off the problem another year.

Watching Young chase quarterbacks would be a pleasure, but watching our franchise quarterback propel us to an easy 11-5 record every year is the climax we’re all waiting to witness.

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Erik Viel

    December 4, 2019 at 2:08 pm

    Dolphins front office has been a cellar-dweller in management/talent acquisition circles for decades… don’t expect them to get it right.

    • Avatar

      Donny

      December 4, 2019 at 2:47 pm

      The Dolphins can ill-afford to get it wrong. All the QBs have glaring flaws. Take the best player available i.e. Chase Young if he’s there. We gotta hit on all 5 1st and 2nd rounders we have. I say Chase Young, D’Andre Swift/Tee Higgins and Trey Adams in the first. Tyler Biadasz and Ben Bredersen in the second. We have to solidify the OL and DL. This team can win with Fitz or Teddy Bridgewater until we build the roster for a franchise QB hopefully in 2021.

  2. Avatar

    Rich McQuillen

    December 4, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    Great Article.

    One player alone isn’t going to turn around a bad team. A pro-bowl player might take over a game or 2, and add 1 or 2 wins. Teams with fewer than 8 wins have a lot of holes, or positions with starters who are ranked lower than 16 at their position.
    ********
    The Dolphins biggest needs in the draft are: They allow the most sacks, rush for the fewest yards, and their Defense has the fewest sacks in the NFL.

    So priorities are OLine and DLine. Specifically OT and DE. Kilgore is old and below average, so drafting a center is also a good idea. Some of these positions can also be filled in FA.
    ********
    On Pass-rushers, we had Pro-bowlers Cameron Wake and Jason Taylor for most of the last 20 years, without success. QB is a more important position.

    Fitzpatrick hasn’t been bad, registering a 90 QB rating since replacing Josh Rosen. I don’t think any rookie is going to improve over that number.

    As for Tua, he is injured…. he could drop to pick 10 or 20. I think the injury will make him available, no matter where we pick. Even if we have 6 wins.

    Tua’s backup just scored 45 points against Auburn(in a loss). So that offense is not a one-man show. Maybe Tua is less good than advertised.

  3. Avatar

    Mark Holland

    December 4, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    We have a 22 year old young quarterback who was drafted in the first round 2 years ago whose developing behind a solid veteran quarterback who’s teaching him.

    Too many are obsessed at a position that there’s more misses than hits with so many needs the team needs to stick with the plan set your draft board take the best player available at each opportunity you have on your board.

    I would love to have Chase Young over any quarterback in this year’s draft That’s just a fact

  4. Avatar

    Steve

    December 4, 2019 at 6:17 pm

    I am more on board of trading the 1st pick and moving back. Still selecting a QB if the right guy is there and than selecting another QB next year. Call me crazy, but that is what my strategy would be.

  5. Avatar

    Papapickett

    December 4, 2019 at 8:17 pm

    How many QBs drafted at the top fail and keep a team bogged down for 5 years? Tannehill screwed us for 7. Winston and Mariota are both struggling Jones will suck, Darnold and Rosen have awful trajectories, the list goes on. Reaching for a QB is worse than taking a sure fire Jadaveon Clowney. It is undeniable. If the Dolphins love a guy, of course they go get him. But drafting a guy because hes the only one left like Herbert or Fromm? Thats not smart. If Miami loves Tua even after his injury Ill reserve judgment until its in the past but taking a QB just because we need a QB is an awful idea.

    We’ll be needing an Oline anyway. Just ask Josh Rosen when he was pronounced the starter and benched the rest of the season after pulling his eyes down and looking for where the pressure was coming from on every play. Id like to see any young guy be successful like that.

  6. Avatar

    Daniel Meehan

    December 4, 2019 at 11:38 pm

    It’s real simple folks the pick is TUA. I’ve seen Herbert and have never been impressed. Jordon Love would probably have to sit next year. But having said this, I fully expect Grier to mess this up and draft Herbert.If this happens we will be looking for QB, five years from know.

  7. Avatar

    SS

    December 5, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    QB is the most important position, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that taking one at the top of the draft is always the right-est thing to do. I think we’re doing the right things in the right order: right coaching and culture? check. Now, get a conviction about a QB – doesn’t necessarily have to be the consensus top pick – and do what it takes to get the one about whom you have a conviction. That may mean trading down…trading up…picking another position with your top pick and then trading around to get in the right spot.

    You are spot on, though, that the way the league is now, passing on an elite QB to take an elite defender or player from any non-QB position is not good business. And sometimes you’re the Seahawks and take 2 defenders before you take Wilson and luck into having your cake and eating it too, somehow.

  8. Avatar

    T

    December 9, 2019 at 9:55 am

    Houdini could not escape from the rush our o-line will let in. Tua is probably a great person however he is small stature, left handed quarterback who is fragile. Put him behind our current o-line and he doesn’t make it out of preseason. Round 1 best o-line; best o-line and best d-line/LB available. Round 2 – best wide receiver and best running back available. Do NOT trade down.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins meeting with Jordan Love at the Senior Bowl

Shawn Digity

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Jordan Love Miami Dolphins interest
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

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.

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.

 

 

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Senior Bowl 2020 Preview Through Miami Dolphins Lens – Defense

Travis Wingfield

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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.

Offensive Preview

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.

Defensive Line

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.

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.

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.

Linebackers

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.

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.

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.

Defensive Backs

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.

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.

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.

@WingfieldNFL

Wednesday-Friday — Senior Bowl Practice Recaps

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Miami Dolphins

Kevin’s Senior Bowl Defensive Brain Dump

Kevin Dern

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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). 

DL Prospects

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.

LB Prospects

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.

DB Prospects

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.

Final Word

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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