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Miami Dolphins 2010 All-Decade Team: Defense

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Associated Press

The Miami Dolphins crawl to the end of a futile decade with some abysmal performances, plenty of false hope, and lots of room for improvement. Who knew you could waste an entire decade and only make the playoffs (or sport a winning record) once, but the Dolphins certainly proved it was possible.

Though much hasn’t gone right for the Dolphins this decade, there are some players that deserve to be praised and rewarded for their productive performance; even though they were surrounded by ineptitude.

See which legends(?) made the 2010 All-Decade team on defense:

For our 2010-All-Decade Offensive Team, click here.

Note: only stats that apply to the 2010-2019 seasons – as well as the player’s respective position – apply. For example, Bobby McCain’s stats at safety and Cameron Wake’s stats in 2009 are not included.

Defensive End: Cameron Wake
Games Active: 132
Sacks: 92.5

Tackles-For-Loss: 91
QB Hits: 204

There’s no debating Cameron Wake‘s place on this list, in the Dolphins Ring of Honor or even in the Hall of Fame. A locker room leader who spoke as professionally as he played, Wake was a phenomenal pass rusher for the Dolphins.

Playing on a bunch of mediocre Miami teams kept him out of the national spotlight, but Wake’s stats are both gaudy and productive:

  • 2nd most sacks in Dolphins history (98)
  • 3rd-most tackles among defensive ends in Dolphins history (278)
  • 2nd-most tackles for a loss (97)
  • 1st with 213 QB hits

If you were to build a Mount Rushmore of 21st-century Miami Dolphins, the only debate is where Cameron Wake deserves to be in that pantheon. Chances are, he’s #1.

Defensive End: Olivier Vernon
Games Active: 64
Sacks: 29

Tackles-For-Loss: 43
QB Hits: 74

Originally drafted in the 3rd-round of the 2012 draft as a player with potential, Olivier Vernon proved your college resume doesn’t dictate future success.

After three seasons with the University of Miami, Vernon was plucked from the Dolphins’ backyard and blossomed into a top-tier pass rusher; earning him a $85m contract with the New York Giants in free agency.

Vernon could have formed a fearsome duo with Cameron Wake, had the Dolphins’ front office had any foresight to extend Vernon while he was still “cheap”. Instead, the Dolphins let Vernon walk and used the money originally intended for him on Andre Branch.

Vernon may have only averaged 7.25 sacks a season while with the Dolphins, but his 10.75 tackles for a loss and 18.5 quarterback hits per year were extremely impressive, and show how forceful he was at defensive end.

Defensive Tackle: Ndamukong Suh
Games Active: 48
Sacks: 15.5

Tackles-For-Loss: 37
QB Hits: 49

Some of you may be surprised to see Ndamukong Suh on this list and not Paul Soliai. Truth is, even if you include Soliai’s first two seasons (2008-2009), it doesn’t compare to what Suh was able to accomplish during his 3-year stint in Miami.

Just to show you how wide the gap is between them, Soliai accumulated 4.5 sacks, 160 tackles, 25 tackles-for-a-loss (TFL) and 18 quarterback hits during his 7-year tenure. Suh accumulated 15.5 sacks, 181 tackles, 37 TFL and 49 QB hits in just 3 years.

Soliai’s job was different than Suh’s – he was asked to absorb offensive linemen and open up lanes for the linebackers, but these numbers are too much to excuse.

Similar to players like Mike Wallace and Brandon Marshall, it’s not wrong of you to have expected more out of Suh. His hefty contract meant he was as valuable as a starting quarterback, and though he was productive, he did not dictate games the way other players on the field do.

But if we were to look at this objectively, and remove our expectations from the equation, Suh was one of the best defensive tackles the Dolphins have ever had. It’s just too bad his contract asked him to be the entire football team.

Defensive Tackle: Randy Starks
Games Active: 79
Sacks: 20.5

Tackles-For-Loss: 32
QB Hits: 42

Paul Soliai was busy absorbing double teams and opening up lanes that Randy Starks was able to cash in on.

Signed as a free agent after spending the first four years of his career with the Tennessese Titans, Starks became a reliable and fearsome player for the Dolphins. He was active for all but one game throughout his Dolphins tenure, and seemingly never missed a tackle. His aggressive playing style turned him into a fan-favorite, while his versatility meant the coaches loved him.

Starks was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2010 and 2012, though you can argue 2009 and 2011 were his best years with Miami.

Ironically, Starks was released after the Dolphins’ deal with Suh became official.

Linebacker: Kiko Alonso
Games Active: 46
Tackles: 354

Tackles-For-Loss: 14
Forced Fumbles: 6

Kiko Alonso‘s Dolphins’ career was as tumultuous as Ryan Tannehill‘s.

Both admired and loathed by many, Alonso was a smart and determined football player, but he was also grossly overpaid. Still, his bloated contract shouldn’t take away from the production he provided this team.

Statistically, Alonso was an average linebacker. He amassed plenty of tackles, but they were typically beyond the line of scrimmage or after an opposing receiver achieved a first down.

That being said, Kiko is the only Dolphins player to have annually accumulated over 1000 snaps each year he was on the team:

  • 2016: 1,049
  • 2017: 1,008
  • 2018: 1,004

Though you can knock him for taking valuable cap space away from other potential players, the Dolphins don’t get to the playoffs in 2016 without Alonso on defense.

Overall, I think Dolphins fans are happy with the Alonso for Vince Biegel trade that occurred this prior offseason, but we can’t forget that Alonso was one of Miami’s better linebackers this past decade.

Linebacker: Karlos Dansby
Games Active: 46
Tackles: 332

Tackles-For-Loss: 26
Forced Fumbles: 5

At the time, Karlos Dansby signed the richest contract for an inside linebacker in NFL history at $43m. Such an honorable designation comes with hefty expectations, and though Dansby was a very good linebacker for the Miami Dolphins, he was unable to change the game the way you expect the richest player in NFL history to do.

From his first year to his final year, the Dolphins went from being the 7th-best rushing defense to the 13th-best rushing defense. Statistically, Dansby was performing well, but Miami’s inability to cover opposing tight ends was as prominent as ever, and teams feasted on the middle of the field throughout his tenure.

Expectations aside, Dansby was a solid contributor and reliable performer for this team. His legacy is tarnished by his bloated contract, but his overall performance should be commended, especially when you look at the other results this decade.

Linebacker: Koa Misi
Games Active: 84
Tackles: 352

Tackles-For-Loss: 37
Forced Fumbles: 2

His final years in a Dolphins’ uniform cloud what was otherwise a productive career for Koa Misi.

Originally drafted in the 2nd-round of the 2010 NFL draft, Misi was a very good linebacker throughout his rookie contract. After completing three successful seasons with the team, he was extended for 4 years and $17m right before the start of the 2013 season.

Though he was never dominant, Misi performed well for three more seasons before injuries began to derail his career. 2015 was the first of three successive years in which Misi would land on injured-reserve (IR), with each season costing more time than the one before it.

  • 2015: active for 15 games before landing on IR with a back injury
  • 2016: active for 3 games before landing on IR with a neck injury
  • 2017: didn’t make it to the regular season before landing on IR with the SAME neck injury

It was evident during training camp prior to 2017 that Misi’s neck wasn’t entirely healed, and the chances of him playing that year were very slim to begin with. Still, this didn’t stop the Dolphins from renegotiating his contract and dedicating $2.8m of salary cap space to Misi, even though he wasn’t going to play another down in the NFL ever again.

Injuries aside, Misi was very productive as a starting linebacker for the Miami Dolphins. He may not have made a ton of highlight-reel plays, but he was always where he needed to be, and given Miami’s production at linebacker this past decade, we couldn’t be more thrilled with that kind of “generic” performance.

Cornerback: Xavien Howard
Games Active: 40
Passes Defended: 35
Interceptions: 12

The recent domestic battery accusation puts a stain on Xavien Howard‘s character, but his performance as a player can’t be debated.

After trading up in the 2nd-round of the 2016 draft to select the Baylor cornerback 38th-overall, the Dolphins coached and blossomed Howard into the elite cornerback he is today.

Originally being deemed a bust, Howard made a name for himself towards the end of his sophomore season when he intercepted Tom Brady twice in the same game. It was that game that made Dolphins fans realize they had something special with Howard.

His 2018 season was dominant, ending the year as the league-leader in interceptions and earning a nod to the Pro Bowl.

A knee injury ended his 2019 prematurely, but Dolphins fans are excited to see what Howard can do with this coaching staff when he’s finally healthy.

That’s if he’s still around next year…

Cornerback: Brent Grimes
Games Active: 47
Passes Defended: 43
Interceptions: 13

The curious case of Brent Grimes gets weirder and more-convoluted by the year.

Signed as a “project” player with upside after tearing his achilles tendon with the Atlanta Falcons, Grimes came to Miami with a chance to prove that he was still the #1 cornerback he portrayed at the beginning of his career.

Consistently overlooked and notably undersized, Grimes regained his form and excelled as an elite, #1 cornerback for this team.

His one-handed interception off Matthew Stafford is the most-beautiful interception you’ll witness in Dolphins history. If you weren’t sure how much of a fan-favorite Grimes was, just look at his place as one of the top-50 Miami Dolphins of all time – that should tell you all you need to know about his place in Miami lore.

Then, his wife was tackled outside of Hard Rock Stadium after becoming belligerent. She decided the team was at fault for who knows what, and went on a crusade against them, which included:

  • Bashing the team’s starting quarterback
  • Attacking the fans
  • Threatening members of the media

It was clear she (and by obvious extension, Brent) wanted out of Miami, and successfully made such a scene that the team was all-but-forced to release him.

Grimes was revered, ostracized and despised by Dolphins fans everywhere. He was seen as malcontent and a reason for the organization’s overall failure.

His wife couldn’t stop the hate-fueled rants as she attacked Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross with anti-semetic slurs (not realizing….or not caring….that her husband’s new bosses in Tampa Bay were also Jewish), declared she was thankful her husband was with Jameis Winston and not Ryan Tannehill (how’d that work out), and became so unhinged that she was suspended from social media on multiple occasions.

Since then, plenty has come out about the toxic locker room culture that was brewing in Davie, and, to be honest, we can’t blame Brent for wanting out. The thing is, he took the most-public and, at times, immoral route to make it happen – and fans took his departure personally.

It’s one thing to have a family member make comments about an organization; Eli Apple and Kevin Durant‘s moms are two notorious examples of this. It’s another thing to have a family member vehemently burn a bridge to an organization that simply rooted for their success.

Today, you can still find Brent Grimes at Hard Rock Stadium, just in a much more subtle manner than he was in the past.

Stories aside, Brent Grimes was an elite player for the Miami Dolphins. With 3 Pro Bowl nods in 3 seasons, Grimes was recognized locally and nationally as a feared #1 cornerback. It’s just too bad his Dolphins’ tenure ended the way it did.

Slot Cornerback: Bobby McCain
Games Active: 48
Passes Defended: 17
Interceptions: 3

I’m not even sure if you can put Bobby McCain here anymore, but if you look back this decade, there aren’t many other players that can supplant McCain from this position.

Drafted as an outside cornerback and exposed early in his career, McCain found a niche in the slot and excelled towards the end of his sophomore season and throughout his third year in the league. McCain’s inclining performance, charismatic personality and leadership qualities earned him a 4-year, $27m contract extension to go along with the honor of being elected a team captain by Adam Gase.

Since then, both Matt Burke and Patrick Graham have continued to experiment with McCain in an attempt to evolve him into a versatile, Swiss army knife-type of defender. This constant shuffling has hindered McCain’s progress, and at the moment, the Dolphins have neither a versatile defender nor an excellent slot cornerback.

With all of that said, McCain has been the team’s best slot cornerback in recent history, and all of these “what ifs” further frustrate Dolphins fans looking for some kind of sustained success.

Free Safety: Michael Thomas
Games Active: 56
Passes Defended: 6
Interceptions: 1

Most of you are going to put Reshad Jones here, but contrary to where Jones has lined up the majority of his career, he is predominantly a strong safety. Which means we have to find a free safety to add to this list. And that’s why you see Michael Thomas.

Often confused for his counterpart in New Orleans, Thomas was a stellar special teams player who was also a reliable safety (when needed) on defense.

Though there aren’t too many highlight-reel plays to bolster Thomas’ standing as a safety, he never allowed a big play to happen on his watch – which is essentially what a safety is there to do.

He is the definition of reliable.

Both smart and professional, Thomas was a well-deserved team captain for the Miami Dolphins.

The way he engaged with the fans, the organization and the community all deserve to be commended, and his recent contract with the New York Giants is a well-deserved reward for one of the most underrated Miami Dolphins in the history of the organization.

Strong Safety: Reshad Jones
Games Active: 128
Tackles: 766

Sacks: 10.5
Turnovers: 23

Reshad Jones has been in the process of quietly establishing a Hall of Fame-worthy career while being mightily overlooked in South Florida.

Calling Jones a two-time Pro Bowler is an insult to his entire career.

Annually snubbed the deserving reward, Jones inexplicably remained out of the spotlight for the majority of his career because he played on such mediocre teams. Place Jones in the conversation with other elite safeties, and casual NFL fans would look at you with a perplexed glare.

To an extent, I can’t help but feel bad for Jones as he watched less-deserving individuals make the Pro Bowl based on name or team recognition alone. However, down in Miami, you would have a hard time finding a Dolphins fan that didn’t know who Reshad Jones was.

He was elite. He was fierce. He was ferocious. And most importantly, he was all ours.

But of course, the longest-tenured Miami Dolphin of the 2010s is marred with drama.

Jones infamously quit in the middle of a game because he wasn’t happy with the way defensive coordinator Matt Burke was rotating him in and out of the game. He followed that up by purposely avoiding this year’s voluntary mini camp, even though it would have helped Brian Flores integrate his coaching philosophy and defensive style as a rookie head coach.

These may be some of the lasting impressions we have of Jones, but this shouldn’t negate the fact that he was a game-changing safety for an entire decade.

When Jones’ career is finally over, and we’re able to properly reflect on what he meant to our organization, fans will forget these minor incidents and realize that they were able to witness one of the greatest safeties in Dolphins’ history.

Honorable Mentions

Jimmy Wilson:
Games Active: 45
Passes Defended: 11
Interceptions: 3

Jimmy Wilson‘s road to Miami also tells a bit of an interesting story.

Originally expected to be drafted much higher in the 2011 NFL Draft, Wilson faced character concerns after being acquitted in 2009 of murdering his Aunt’s boyfriend. After nearly falling out of the draft entirely, the Dolphins selected him in the 7th-round, 235th-overall.

Wilson was shuffled all around the secondary. Acting as an earlier version of Bobby McCain, Wilson shifted from cornerback, to slot corner to safety throughout his tenure. He didn’t assume a full-time starting role until his forth (and final) season in Miami, in which he started 13 of the 14 games he was active for.

His performance that year earned him a 2-year, $4.85m contract with his hometown team, the San Diego Chargers, in 2015. He was released before the season ended.

Truth be told, it’s pretty difficult to pinpoint Wilson’s stats because he moved around so much. Though he was ultimately reliable in coverage, fans still felt a bit queasy when the ball was thrown in his direction.

Still, it’s hard to ask for much more out of your 7th-round draft pick, and fans felt a tad disappointed when he left in free agency because they had grown to like him so much.

Isa Abdul-Quddus:
Games Active: 15
Passes Defended: 5

Interceptions: 2

If Isa Abdul-Quddus hadn’t suffered a career-ending neck injury in Week 16 of the 2016 season, he would most likely still be a Miami Dolphin.

Instead, Miami has attempted to solve the position by drafting Minkah Fitzpatrick, rotating Bobby McCain, and signing Eric Rowe in free agency.

Originally signed to a 3-year, $12.75m contract, Abdul-Quddus was a reliable performer and a playmaker for the Miami Dolphins. As we approached the end of the 2016 season, it was evident the Dolphins found themselves a “steal”.

Then suddenly, one random play that resulted in a freak injury cut his entire NFL career short.

If he had played more than 15 games for Miami, he’d most likely be on this list. Instead, I hope Abdul-Quddus is doing well in his life after football. It’s yet another reason to enjoy every day and to not take life (or your health) for granted.

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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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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NFL Draft

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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