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Miami Dolphins 2020 Roster Building Preview – Edge/Linebacker

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

Edge and Linebackers (5-techniques and Out (Rushers, Off-Ball Linebackers))

Once more, our positional conventions are tested as we marry two groups of players into one piece for the sake of continuity. While Miami aren’t in need of classic stack linebackers (playing off-the-ball, searching for their run fits, and coming off the field on passing downs), the team could certainly use more versatility from players of that prototype.

Dont’a Hightower gives the Patriots one of the more unique linebackers in football. His ability to play inside or out, and rush from any position, is a rare skillset. Kyle Van Noy continues that trend with his length, and inside/outside versatility. The Dolphins could use one of each of those, but might have to say goodbye to a non-scheme fit, albeit a stalwart, in Jerome Baker to make it happen.

We pair the linebackers with the edge defenders (defensive ends that will kick outside and stand up as linebackers opposed to the base 5-tech ends that will condense inside) in recognition that it’s a massive need for this football team. Trey Flowers was a plug-and-play fit last season, and apparently Miami were in on his services. We got confirmation that the Dolphins were hard after Jadeveon Clowney, which makes an abundant amount of sense given his glove-like fit for the scheme.

Then there are the players that are more rush-and-cover types. The second-best option from the draft will fall into this category (Chase Young excluded since we believe he’s going off the board too early for Miami to get a crack).

Miami have many options with this group, and one of those is spending big on a classic 4-3 end-type in Yannick Ngakoue. The reason Ngakoue would be in-play for Miami, is his versatility to play more than just a true speed-rush position. We’ll largely remove those players — the Cam Wakes of the world — in search of thicker, heavy-handed types that make up for a lack of athleticism with brute strength and devastating weapons for hands.

Above all, length is the key. Flores will want rushers that can face up, initiate contact, and shed blocks in a gap-oriented rush scheme that prioritizes contain principles over speed rushers.

Making accurate predictions requires an understanding for which direction the Dolphins might take at the second level of the defense. With the fluid situation with defensive coordinators, and the promise of even more ingenuity, we’ll do our best to forecast this group.

The Incumbents

Jerome Baker (Off-Ball LB)
Stats: 124 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 2 FF, 16 QB pressures
PFF Grade: 46.1 (145 of 179)
Snaps: 1,080 (96.6%)

After a sensational camp and preseason, fans expected a big year-two jump from Baker, but it never materialized. Baker was the leader of the defense. He communicated the signals and rarely left the field, but film savants realized their fears as Baker was often caught in a position that doesn’t suit his skill set.

For Baker to be a long-term stalwart, he needs to feature a better rush skill set than what we saw in 2019. At his peak, Baker is a chase-and-tackle linebacker with exceptional speed, and the requisite instincts to disrupt the passing game.

Raekwon McMillan (B-Gap-to-B-Gap Off-Ball LB, Sam ‘Backer)
Stats: 72 tackles, 6 QB pressures
PFF Grade: 63.8 (61 of 179)
Snaps: 516 (46.1%)

Every day at camp, Flores spoke about the importance of defeating blocks. “You can’t make the tackle if you don’t first defeat the block,” coach said, and nobody on the team embodies that hard-nosed mentality like Raekwon McMillan.

Before injuries reduced his workload and effectiveness, McMillan was among the league’s best stopping the run. He attacks pulling guards with unmatched aggressiveness, and rarely misses once he arrives. McMillan serves a distinct purpose in this defense that nobody currently on the roster is capable of, outside of the continued growth of Calvin Munson.

Andrew Van Ginkel (On-Ball Edge, 6-tech and Out)
Stats: 11 tackles, 1 sack, 6 QB pressures
PFF Grade: 58.2 (129 of 182)
Snaps: 197 (17.6%)

Starting the season on injured reserve, Van Ginkel’s early-camp emergence was put on hold until the holiday season. Finally earning a shot, Van Ginkel posted some gaudy box scores down the stretch, and provided refreshed tape excelling in the same areas that made him a college standout.

Adept at reading route concepts, and finding his way into the coinciding passing lane, Van Ginkel has an opportunity to be Miami’s most valuable passing down linebacker in the near future. He’s a talented edge rusher that showed more bite absorbing back-side pulls than what his Wisconsin tape demonstrated.

Sam Eguavoen (Off-Ball LB, Coverage Specialist)
Stats: 40 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 23 QB pressures
PFF Grade: 50.6 (126 of 179)
Snaps: 621 (55.6%)

The surprise star of training camp, the adjustment curve was steep for the former CFL star. Early, Eguavoen looked over-matched, eating up pancake block after pancake block.

Eguavoen was always going to struggle to hold the point against the run, but he proved his value against the pass late in the year. He might’ve been the best blitzer of all the off-ball ‘backers, and his ability to drop and locate in coverage shined through in December.

Charles Harris (On-Ball Edge, 6-tech and Out)
Stats: 23 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 14 QB pressures
PFF Grade: 62.5 (102 of 182)
Snaps: 429 (38.4%)

The B-word is in full effect for Miami’s 2017 first-round selection. Harris was a healthy scratch more often than not late in the year, and his production continues to flat line through three years. He might get a shot in camp to provide Miami with a rotational piece, but since this staff didn’t bring him on, he might be out of opportunities in South Florida.

Taco Charlton (On-Ball Edge, 5-tech and Out)
Stats:
21 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 FF, 19 QB pressures
PFF Grade: 51.7 (161 of 182)
Snaps: 397 (35.5%)

Much like Harris, Charlton was inactive in December despite being absent from the injury report. He was cut from the Cowboys after two disappointing seasons, and aside from some clean-up sacks, did very little to change the narrative on his career.

Avery Moss (On-Ball Edge, 5-tech and Out)
Stats: 25 tackles, 1 FF, 3 QB pressures
PFF Grade: 49.8 (170 of 182)
Snaps: 348 (31.1%)

Early in the year, Flores praised Moss for his versatility, but that trait waned down the stretch. Moss was responsible for leaving the gate open on some long runs, and he rarely applied pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

James Crawford (Off-Ball LB)
Stats: 1 tackle
PFF Grade: (DNQ)
Snaps: 17 (1.4%)

After multiple additions are made to the position group, it’ll be an uphill climb for Crawford to carve out a role.

Futures Contracts: Terrill Hanks, Jake Carlock
Unrestricted Free Agents: Mike Hull
Restricted Free Agents: Deon Lacey, Chase Allen

Vince Biegel (On-Ball Edge, 5-tech and Out — RFA)
Stats: 57 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT, 34 QB pressures
PFF Grade: 69.8 (52 of 182)
Snaps: 626 (56%)

The biggest priority in terms of Miami’s own free agents lies in September acquisition, Vince Biegel. Brought over in the Kiko Alonso trade, Biegel might’ve been Miami’s best pass rusher. He was the most consistent player off the edge with the occasional big play in the passing game, and reliable performance taking on blocks in the run game.

Biegel played up to six — maybe more — different positions this season. Whether he’s in three-point as the wide-9 defender, in a four-point as a 6-technique, or in a true two-point outside rush ‘backer position, Biegel’s versatility makes him a coveted player for the Dolphins.

Exclusive Rights Free Agents: Jamal Davis

Trent Harris (On-Ball Edge, 6-tech and Out — ERFA)
Stats: 22 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 FF, 8 QB pressures
PFF Grade: 50.1 (169 of 182)
Snaps: 253 (22.6%)

Harris surged late in the year showing the staff that he can play in the rush-contain scheme that Flores would prefer to implement.

Calvin Munson (B-Gap-to-B-Gap Off-Ball LB — ERFA)
Stats: 7 tackles
PFF Grade: 61.1 (75 of 179)
Snaps: 76 (6.8%)

Munson filled in for McMillan the final two games, and did so rather admirably. He’s a former Patriot, and it was clear that he knows what Flores looks for in a ‘stack backer — a mean, aggressive, downhill player.

Free Agent Market:

The Guy — Yannick Ngakoue, Matthew Judon

Ngakoue: There isn’t a lot Yannick Ngakoue can’t do. As he flirts with the idea of leaving Jacksonville on a near-weekly basis via cryptic tweets, the prospect of importing this freak to the Miami defense is massively intriguing. He’ll be 25 in March, he’s 250 pounds with 32.5-inch arms, and he’s picked up at least eight sacks in each of his four years. He’s the belle of the edge rusher ball this free agency.

Judon: We couldn’t do just one with this position because Matthew Judon is every bit as elite as Ngakoue — albeit in a different role. He can rush from anywhere and he’s a three-down thumper that impacts the running game and passing game equally. He picked up 63 QB pressures this year (10 sacks) and 38 run stops.

The Reasonable Route — Kyle Van Noy

If Van Noy hits the open market, Miami ought to have a contract offer in his agent’s hand before the opening bell rings. The key to the entire front-seven approach of the Patriots, Van Noy has the length, rush ability, and instant scheme recognition to garner a big contract. Van Noy had 60 pressures (8 sacks) and 33 run stops this season.

He’ll turn 30 this summer, but there are no signs of Van Noy slowing down; quite the contrary. The 2019 season was his best, which topped his 2018 breakout season by a considerable margin.

The Sleeper — Kyler Fackrell

After picking up 10.5 sacks in 2018, Fackrell was relegated to backup duty when the Packers signed Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith. Patrick Graham’s departure might make this move less likely, but Fackrell still fits the outside ‘backer/edge defender role Miami desperately needs to find.

With just one sack this season, and his worst tackling percentage of his career, perhaps Miami could buy Fackrell at a bargain. He’s never exceeded 626 snaps (2018’s total), and saw a 33% reduction in workload this year, serving mostly as a rush ‘backer. He’ll be available, we’ll see if Miami covets his skill set.

Other Notable Free Agent Edges/Linebackers:

Player 2019 Team
Everson Griffen Vikings
Ezekiel Ansah Seahawks
Jason Pierre-Paul Buccaneers
Noah Spence Saints
Dante Fowler Jr. Rams
Shaquil Barrett Buccaneers
Patrick Onwuasor Ravens
Bud Dupree Steelers
Kamalei Correa Titans
Danny Trevathan Bears

 

The Draft:

The Guy — Isaiah Simmons

As the acting president of the Isaiah Simmons fan club, I have multiple video threads I’d like to share. For the sake of time, we’ll just go with one of his jaw-dropping performances for the built-in-a-lab defender.

The positionless defense was built for Simmons. Whether he’s covering deep single-high, manning-up in the slot, rushing the edge, or playing stack ‘backer, Simmons is elite in everything he does. He’ll never leave the field and he’ll probably be your best athlete, best cover guy, and best pass rusher.

The Reasonable Route — K’Lavon Chaisson

If Chaisson survives to pick 18, the Dolphins will have serious consideration about sprinting the card up to the commissioner’s table — he’s an athletic marvel with length, strength, and versatility. His thick, filled-out frame allows him to absorb contact, but his quick-twitch allows him to blow past blockers. There might not be another player in this class that can beat blocks more effectively in the variety of forms that Chaisson easily executes.

He stands up and drops into coverage a lot, so he can play as an on-ball linebacker in Miami’s odd fronts. When the Dolphins want to go even (four down), he can line up as the 7-technique and rush the quarterback.

The Sleeper — Zack Baun, Malik Harrison

Baun: If Miami strikes out on Judon, Van Noy, and Fackrell, then we can go ahead and pencil in one of these two Big 10 ‘backers. Baun, just like Biegel and 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. Baun’s rush move arsenal is already refined like that of a seasoned pro.

Harrison: Beating blocks is the best way to get on Flores’ radar as a linebacker, and few players in this class (if any ay all) are better than Harrison in that regard. He’s an explosive hitter and sure tackler. He’s instinctive and quick enough to cut off the edge and funnel plays back inside.

Harrison isn’t on-par with these other guys we talked about in coverage, hence the drop in draft stock outside of the first round, but he would instantly improve Miami’s linebacker’s room.

Travis Wingfield’s 2020 Edge/Linebacker Draft Rankings:

(Rank) Player School
1. Isaiah Simmons Clemson
2. Chase Young Ohio State
3. K’Lavon Chaisson LSU
4. Terrell Lewis Alabama
5. Kenneth Murray Oklahoma
6. Malik Harrison Ohio State
7. Zack Baun Wisconsin
8. Anfernee Jennings Alabama
9. Khalid Kareem Notre Dame
10. Julian Okwara Notre Dame
11. Jonathan Greenard Florida
12. Alex Highsmith Charlotte
13. Joshua Uche Michigan
14. Alton Robinson Syracuse
15. Jabari Zuniga Florida

 

At the risk of sounding redundant, this could go in so many directions. Do the Dolphins consider acquiring value for a player that might be miscast in Jerome Baker? Certainly the Fins could fetch a second-round pick from a team like Seattle or Jacksonville, both of which needs the LEO position in their 4-3-over that Baker would fit so well.

We’ll keep Baker here, and give him some help. His diagnose and chase skill set still serves value, especially when he’s kept clean and afforded the opportunity to assess without taking on a block. He does need to give Miami more of a rush presence this year, however.

By adding Shaq Lawson and Bradlee Anae in yesterday’s down-lineman piece, we free up this group to be its versatile self. Expect a jump from Biegel and Van Ginkel in year-two, Eguavoen played better down the stretch, and Trent Harris had some intriguing reps in the final two games. McMillan stays on as the team’s true stack ‘backer.

2020 Edge/Linebacker Prediction:

1. Kyle Van Noy
2. Jerome Baker
3. Vince Biegel
4. Raekwon McMillan
5. Andrew Van Ginkel
6. Joshua Uche
7. Sam Eguavoen
8. Trent Harris

@WingfieldNFL

Tomorrow: Cornerbacks

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1 Comment

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    Daniel meehan

    January 15, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    Travis, thank you for these off season previews.However, this was the one I had some disagreements with. You didn’t even mention Willie Jefferson, CFL defensive player of the year. Secondly, Van Noy isn’t nearly enough change. We were last in league with sacks and cannot go into season hoping Van Ginkel and Beigel take the next step. Lastly, please don’t tell me its the scheme. Titans and Patriots run same scheme and Get to QB.

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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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