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Miami Dolphins 2020 Roster Building Preview – Down Defensive Lineman

Travis Wingfield

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Looking back, looking ahead, and everywhere in between ahead of a critical Miami Dolphins offseason

Foreword:

This publication has always fancied itself as an unaffiliated extension of the Miami Dolphins operation. In an attempt to arm fans with the researched clues about the team might do — and commentary on what they should do — we like to follow the same timeline as the coaches and decision makers at the facility in Davie.

The time for reflection is now. The coaching staff will be reviewing the 2019 season with an eye on self-scouting, and evaluating the job of every member that donned the Dolphins logo this past fall. The college scouting staff is buried in draft prep, and the pro personnel side is under water searching for potential free agent targets.

Since Locked On Dolphins is the most comprehensive Miami Dolphins outlet in existence, we’ll tackle all three subjects.

1. Reviewing the incumbents
2. Identifying free agent targets
3. Stacking the draft board

And we’ll do it for every position. It’s 10 days of offseason preparation, here on Locked On Dolphins dot com, as well as the Locked On Dolphins Podcast.

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends

Offensive Line
Defensive Line
Edge/Linebackers
Cornerbacks
Safeties

Defensive Line (Nose to 5-technique)

The modern day NFL is making positional distinctions antiquated — particularly on the defensive side. In a league full of complex, versatile schemes, few defenses are more ambiguous than Brian Flores’ approach. Name the defensive front, odds are the Dolphins ran it at some point during the 2019 season.

Because of Miami’s multiplicity, branding any player is difficult. For that reason, we’ll split the defensive front into two categories — the down defensive lineman that play anywhere from head-up over the nose, all the way out to the 5-techinqe off the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle.

The Dolphins had three players sharing significant reps across those varietal positions between the 0 and 5-techniques. Rookie Christian Wilkins, in the most fluid role, led the way in snaps. For long stretches, Miami would call on its Bear front, which utilizes a pair of 2-techniques (head-up up over the guard) and a nose (head-up over the center). Wilkins, Davon Godchaux, and John Jenkins were the pillars of those fronts.

For Flores and the Dolphins to deploy more of the creativity that exists inside that massive playbook, a true base 5-techinque is an essential need. On top of the help off the edge, Miami needs depth both inside and outside.

The Incumbents:

Davon Godchaux
Stats: 75 tackles, 2 sacks, 18 QB pressures (7 hits), 33 run stops
PFF Grade: 64.6 (97 of 199)
Snaps: 717 (64.1%)

It’s difficult for a defensive tackle to regularly impact games or pop on the tape, but Godchaux shows up in the backfield with as much regularity as any interior lineman. Pass rushing still isn’t his strong suit, but he made strides in that area.

Godchaux’s a run-stuffing maven, piling up better than two run-stops per game. He offers a strong initial punch and a powerful base to hold the point against double teams. He drew on his experience in a two-gap system in college to produce the best year of his professional career. Godchaux is a leader and loud voice in the locker room — he should be up for an extension this offseason.

Christian Wilkins
Stats: 56 tackles, 2 sacks, 30 QB pressures (4 hits), 29 run stops
PFF Grade: 64.4 (97 of 199)
Snaps: 730 (65.3%)

Christian Wilkins lead all rookie interior defensive lineman in tackles, and made a profound impact on that team behind the scenes — he’ll be a cornerstone for this franchise for years to come. Wilkins is exceptionally quick off the snap and made considerable strides in the crucial hand-fighting department of the game. Wilkins played the back-side 1, front-side three, he lined up as a 2-tech in bear fronts, and played plenty as the 4-tech as a big defensive end.

He’s consistent, he’s durable, and he’s an infectious leader. On top of consistently bubbling the offensive line (pushing it back), Wilkins was always the first player to greet touchdown scorers in the end zone with a full sprint from the sideline. He also showed his versatility catching a touchdown pass as a fullback in the goal line package against the Bengals.

Zach Seiler
Stats: 8 tackles, 1 sack, 4 QB pressures (1 hit), 6 run stops
PFF Grade: 76.2 (22 of 199)
Snaps: 78 (7.0%)

Keep this name at the front of your mind heading into camp, Sieler can play. He’s huge. The two-man sled was invented for players like Seiler for his ability to shoot the hands, lock out, and disengage as he reads the flow of the play. He was simply unblockable in the Cincinnati game.

Ravens fans weren’t too happy about moving on from Sieler, and his immediate impact showed us why that was. He has the good to play multiple positions and really excel within the type of line-play Miami wants up front.

Jonathan Ledbetter
Stats: 4 tackles, 0.5 sack, 2 QB pressures (1 hit), 4 run stops
PFF Grade: DNQ
Snaps: 51 (4.6%)

Perhaps the most forgotten name in Miami, Ledbetter climbed from undrafted rookie at the bottom of the depth chart to opening day starter — and he played well in his brief stint. Ledbetter is another ideal big defensive end type with the ability to condense inside on rushing downs.

This is likely an indictment on the rest of the Miami defensive line, but Ledbetter was the best pure edge run-defender on the team; his loss was impactful.

Gerald Willis
Stats:
2 tackles, 0 sacks, 2 QB pressures (0 hits), 2 run stops
PFF Grade: DNQ
Snaps: 19 (1.7%)

The former Hurricane saw minimal action and looked out of shape on those 19 reps. A developmental year that was split between the 53-man roster and the practice squad, Willis has an uphill climb ahead of him this offseason.

Unrestricted Free Agents:

John Jenkins
Stats:
34 tackles, 1 sack, 12 QB pressures (2 hits), 21 run stops
PFF Grade: 70.8 (49 of 199)
Snaps: 479 (42.8%)

Another gem discovered on the scrap heap for this Dolphins team, Jenkins is the quintessential role player that this team covets, and will need a handful of like-minded players to get the most out of the scheme.

Jenkins isn’t going to wow anybody with his pass rush, but he’s strong and can play anywhere from the nose all the way out to the 5-techinuqe.

Free Agent Market:

The Guy — Jadeveon Clowney

The Dolphins were involved in the Clowney sweepstakes this summer, only to find out the former number-one overall pick wasn’t interested in playing for a team in transition. Now, if the Dolphins can sell the idea of a much more competitive outfit in 2020 and beyond, perhaps this idea re-circulates.

At his best, Clowney is the type of player this system was built for. An elite edge run-defender capable of holding the point, or completely collapsing the edge against strong left tackles, Clowney is far from a one-trick pony. He’ll stand up off the ball, drop in coverage as a two-point, and he’s even played interior ‘backer. His best trait is the early-down run defense, and the lateral rush ability he exhibits anywhere from the 7-technique all the way inside to a 2i-technique.

Clowney is the potential crown jewel, but he’ll cost upwards of $20 million per year — a risky deal for a guy that has missed games in five of six years as a professional.

The Reasonable Route — Shaq Lawson

It’s been a slow burn for Lawson to arrive as an impact player, but he showed up in a big way for the Bills this season. Lawson, like Clowney, has an inherent skill set to hold the edge against the run. He’s long (33-inch arm), thick (265 pounds), and uses his eyes and hands to keep his frame clean in a two-gap defense.

Lawson measures similarly to former Patriots Edge, Trey Flowers. Lawson will likely call for second-tier money this offseason, and his connection to the defensive line coach in Miami puts the Dolphins on the list of potential suitors. Lawson played for Marion Hobby at Clemson.

The Sleeper — Danny Shelton

A different position than Clowney and Lawson, Shelton would serve a specific function for this Dolphins defense. After a slow start in Cleveland, Shelton made good on his first-round potential in New England. He saw a considerable jump in workload this season and justified his coaches for the promotion with his performance.

Piling up run stops, and even adding some pass rush to his game, Shelton is an ideal candidate to take 400 snaps in specific situations for the Dolphins.

Other Notable Free Agent Defensive Tackles:

Player 2019 Team
iDL Vernon Butler Panthers
iDL Timmy Jernigan Eagles
iDL A’Shawn Robinson Lions
iDL Javon Hargrave Steelers
iDL Adam Butler (RFA) Patriots
DE Jabaal Sheard Colts
DE Arik Armstead 49ers
DE Chris Jones Chiefs
DE Mike Pennel Chiefs

 

The Draft

The Guy — A.J. Epenesa

Epenesa comes back with a first-round grade before the tape even goes on. He’s massive with unrelenting power, and smooth enough transitions to twist, slant and stunt inside, or win on pure outside rushes.

Iowa played Epenesa everywhere, including dropping into the hook zone in coverage. At 6-6, 280 pounds, he’s going to measure with the longest arms at the position. He can line up in a two-point, three-point, four-point and explode off the football, dent the edge or force it to bubble, and run through chips and doubles as well as anyone.

The Reasonable Route — Curtis Weaver

Another big-bodied edge that can play all over the line, Weaver has a thick, powerful base that presents a strong anchor against the run, and a quality bull rush move. He’s not the most-fluid edge rusher, but his get-off often oversets the tackle allowing Weaver to go to work with his heavy hands to get underneath inside.

He’ll need to work on his speed rush. Too many times Weaver runs right past inferior right tackles, and sometimes works himself out of the play altogether. In the NFL he’ll have to introduce more counter moves and stay true to his rush lane. Weaver is 6-3, 265 pounds.

The Sleeper — Bradlee Anae

Notice a theme here? Anae is another 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 none of the guys in this portion are. 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.

Travis Wingfield’s 2020 Down Defensive Lineman (5-tech and in) Draft Rankings:

(Rank) Player School
1. Derek Brown Auburn
2. A.J. Epenesa Iowa
3. Yetur Gross-Matos Penn State
4. Neville Gallimore Oklahoma
5. Curtis Weaver Boise State
6. Javon Kinlaw South Carolina
7. Bradlee Anae Utah
8. Raekwon Davis Alabama
9. Leki Fotu Utah
10. Davon Hamilton Ohio State

 

This is Dolphins specific, so if you’re looking for Chase Young, K’Lavon Chaisson, Terrell Lewis and the like, they’ll be in tomorrow’s piece on stand-ups and on-ball linebackers.

This position group is loaded with plug-and-play options. Of the 10 on that list, there is a role on the Dolphins front to take 70-80% of the snaps straight away in the 2020 rookie campaign. Epenesa, Gross-Matos, and Weaver are first-round options — likely in listed order for each of Miami’s three first-round picks — to take on a similar workload that Christian Wilkins saw this season.

Those three players start outside at the five, and condense inside based upon the defensive package. Derek Brown is the best player out of all of them, and he spearheads a strong group of players that start inside — from play-side 3-technique to a back-side 1-shade, or straight up over the nose — and could fill valuable reps in Miami next season.

The depth of the class creates value. With all of Miami’s premium picks, and the need for versatile parts on the defensive front like the ones this draft offers, it would be a surprise to come away from Vegas without one of these college stars.

2020 Down Defensive Line Prediction (Listed in Order of Snaps):

1. Christian Wilkins
2. Shaq Lawson
3. Davon Godchaux
4. Bradlee Anae
5. John Jenkins
6. Zach Sieler
7. Bravvion Roy

@WingfieldNFL

Tomorrow: Edge (Ends, Stand-Up/On-Ball Linebackers)

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  1. Avatar

    Cory Benton

    January 15, 2020 at 8:16 pm

    If I were taking a DE in Round One, my feeling is that Yetur will be special. The two cents’ worth of a loyal follower. Fins Up!

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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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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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