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Miami Dolphins 2020 Roster Building Preview — Running Back

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

Running Backs

Any time the team’s leading rushing is a 37-year-old quarterback, change is probably on the horizon for the running back room. Heading into the new decade, the Dolphins are in dire need of a ground-up remodel at running back.

What started off as perhaps the most promising position heading into the season became one of utter catastrophe. Kenyan Drake finally realized his potential…in a Cardinals uniform. Kalen Ballage broke a record for the fewest yards per carry for a back with a qualifying number of snaps in a season, and the Miami native — Mark Walton — was arrested for the fourth time inside of a year.

Miami ended the season utilizing an undrafted free agent (Patrick Laird) better than 80% of the offense’s snaps, and wound up last in the league in rushing average and yards. The Dolphins seventh-round pick, Myles Gaskin, showed promise late, but his season came to a premature end thanks to an ankle injury. The Dolphins eclipsed 100 rushing yards three times all season and were held under 50 yards on four occasions.

The position must improve, dramatically. Eric Studesville is one of the most respected run-game coordinators, but he was left with little to work with come Christmas time. Miami needs to find players that can contribute in all facets of the offense. Luckily, there are a crop of rookie backs set to descend upon Las Vegas for April’s draft.

Before that, the incumbents.

The Incumbents

Kalen Ballage
Stats: 74 carries, 135 yards (1.8 YPC), 3 TDs, 14 receptions, 63 receiving yards
PFF Grade: 58.2 (99 of 132)
Snaps: 253 (24% of the Dolphins offensive snaps)

Ballage was given every opportunity to become the bell cow this offense so desperately needed, and it never materialized — not even close. His creativity is lacking, his lateral agility even more so, and he was an adventure trying to catch passes out of the backfield.

It’ll be interesting to see what they do with Ballage as he enters year-three. He’s a pet project of Studesville (their relationship dates back to Ballage’s HS days) and costs almost nothing to keep, but his unceremonious season ended on injured reserve. He’ll probably get to camp, but he might not break August with the team.

Patrick Laird
Stats:
62 carries, 168 yards (2.7 YPC), 1 TD, 23 receptions, 204 receiving yards
PFF Grade: 52.4 (124 of 132)
Snaps: 291 (27% of the Dolphins offensive snaps)

Something of a cult hero for his preseason work, and occasional nifty tackle eluding, Patrick Laird wound up with pedestrian numbers. The running game was in utter shambles by the time he took over, but he didn’t make much out of the opportunities he did have. He caught a screen pass with a convoy in front in the Patriots game, but it was that play that really highlighted his lack of explosion (second video).

Laird will compete for off-the-bench duty in 2020. He’s cheap, he’s a diligent worker, and earned the admiration of the staff from undrafted free agent to December regular.

Myles Gaskin
Stats:
36 carries, 133 yards (3.7 YPC), 1 TD, 7 receptions, 51 receiving yards
PFF Grade: 57.4 (102 of 132)
Snaps: 125 (12% of the Dolphins offensive snaps)

Just as Gaskin was getting cranked up in the Bengals win he took a significant injury to his ankle, forcing him to miss the final game. Gaskin produced four consecutive 1,200-yard seasons in college, and was showing the vision and short-area twitch that made him a difficult tackle at the point of attack.

As it stands right now, Gaskin is the most talented back Miami has on its roster. That’s a glaring indictment of the talent in the RB room, but also an endorsement of Gaskin. He’ll be in-line for work off the bench this season.

De’Lance Turner
Stats: 4 carries, 6 yards (1.5 YPC)
PFF Grade: DNQ
Snaps: 5 (1% of the Dolphins offensive snaps)

Turner played six snaps all season. The Alcorn State product began his career in 2018 with the Ravens, where he ran the ball once for four yards, and caught it twice for 17 yards. It’ll be an uphill climb for Turner to make the 53-man roster.

Chandler Cox (Fullback)
Stats: N/A
PFF Grade: DNQ
Snaps: 83 (8% of the Dolphins offensive snaps)

A healthy scratch three times, Miami could look to replace its seventh-round selection and rookie fullback this offseason. Chan Gailey’s varietal offense could use a flexible piece like Cox, but the jack-of-all-trades from Auburn didn’t materialize during his rookie season in Miami.

Samaje Perine — Restricted Free Agent

Veteran Market

The Guy — Derrick Henry

Henry leads an underwhelming class of running backs. Given what he’s produced for the Titans offense, to propel the team into the divisional round, it would be a stunner if the team doesn’t dump a pile of cash on his front lawn this offseason.

If he does hit the market, Miami could simply purchase its ground game. Henry is a load with homerun hitting ability. He’s a menace for tacklers and has a cumulative impact as the game wears on.

The price tag will be in the stratosphere of the game’s top backs (Ezekiel Elliot at $15M per year), and that might not be in Miami’s organizational philosophy to pay that to a position that has been devalued in the last decade.

The Reasonable Route — Dion Lewis

When Tennessee inevitably inks Henry to a massive payday, that will likely be the end of Lewis in Nashville. He carries a big cap number (with an out this offseason) and his production has significantly since departing New England. The drop-off was more so a function of the offense in Tennessee. He’s a pass catching back, first and foremost, and he saw his targets cut in half this year.

Lewis presents a high catch rate (81.5% career) and a considerable average (7.4 yards per catch). He’ll turn 30 in September, but he’s been a sidekick his entire career, so Miami could likely squeeze the last out of him in a short term contract. The familiarity with the staff is a bonus.

The Sleeper — Chris Thompson

Again, this free agent class is set in the abyss. Kareem Hunt is an option, but he’s a restricted free agent and his off-field issues might make him untouchable. Thompson has produced as a receiving back with Washington in the past, but he’s got injury issues and he’s nearing the dreaded age-30 season.

Other Notable Free Agent Running Backs

Player 2019 Team
Melvin Gordon Chargers
Carlos Hyde Texans
Peyton Barber Buccaneers
Bilal Powell Jets
Jordan Howard Eagles
Gus Edwards (ERFA) Ravens
Matt Brieda (RFA) 49ers

The Draft

The Guy — J.K. Dobbins

There is an absurd amount of dynamic backs in this year’s draft — in the double digits. This group stands to challenge the dynamic 2017 class that brought us six pro-bowlers.

In fascinating contrast, the value for this class is not in the first round. Quality backs will slip deep into day two, so Miami have to find the delicate balance between the best back and the best value.

The former distinction belongs to J.K. Dobbins. He’s been a monster since his first game as a true freshman serving as the fill-in for Mike Webber. He does everything. Home run hitting speed, an angle eraser in the open field or short areas, low pad-level and leg drive to churn out tough yards, and a total problem for defenses in the passing game.

Dobbins went off in this year’s College Football Playoff game against Clemson, punctuating a 2000-yard rushing season. He compiled 5,104 yards from scrimmage and 43 touchdowns in his Ohio State career, and averaged 6.2 yards-per-carry.

The Reasonable Route — Jonathan Taylor

No back in college football is better suited to handle the rigors of a prominent workload than Jonathan Taylor. He carried the football 926 times (with 42 receptions) in his three years at Wisconsin, and produced utterly ridiculous numbers.

Taylor was 23 yards shy of 2,000 in his freshman season — that would’ve pushed him beyond 2K in three consecutive seasons. This past season was his worst in terms of average as he stumbled to a 6.3 YPC mark (some stumble). He rarely left the field for the Badgers offense, but there are a couple of question marks. He caught just 16 passes his first two seasons, but emerged this season with 26 grabs. He’s not the most precise runner and might struggle to create separation on choice routes, but that’s not to say he can’t develop that aspect of his game.

Then there’s the fumbling issue. Taylor turfed the ball 19 times in three seasons — that can’t happen in the league. He’s also going to face the question about worn down tread on the tires. But that might be why he’s available in the second round. From there, Miami can run him into the ground for four years and pass on a second contract.

He’s a tone-setter that could excel in the Miami humidity and help create the balance the Dolphins offense desperately needs.

The Sleeper — J.J. Taylor

A.J. Dillon garnered serious consideration here, and Taylor might be closer to a UDFA than draftable prospect, but he’s instant offense. Taylor is never going to be an every-down back, but his elite athletic profile and compactly built lower half allows him to absorb contact and pick up huge yardage after contact. Give this electrifying runner one crease and he’s gone.

Taylor’s a dynamic mismatch in the passing game, and a willing pass protector, though he’s better suited to chip due to his size. He can flex out wide and go to work on linebackers in coverage.

Travis Wingfield 2020 Running Back Draft Rankings:

(Rank) Player School
1. J.K. Dobbins Ohio State
2. D’Andre Smith Georgia
3. Clyde Edwards-Helaire LSU
4. Zack Moss Utah
5. Jonathan Taylor Wisconsin
6. Cam Akers Florida State
7. A.J. Dillon Boston College
8. Eno Benjamin Arizona State
9. Lamical Perine Flordia
10. Ke’Shawn Vaughn Vanderbilt

 

The options are endless for Miami at this position. A case could be made to import three or four players with the intent of each contributing in one way or another, as no incumbent carved out a definitive role in the 2019 season.

Dobbins, Jonathan Taylor and J.J. Taylor could conceivably all be draft picks, and there are a handful of names in between that should excite the Dolphins fan base, but there’s also the free agent route. Big money could land perhaps the best back in football should Tennessee lose its marbles and let Derrick Henry shake free.

Regardless of which route the Dolphins brass takes, the running game should be the focus of the offseason. Miami’s incumbent quarterback and pass catchers are plenty good enough — top half of the league, even. The lack of running game made Miami entirely one dimensional, and it’s a scary thought for the rest of the AFC East if this offense gains balance.

2020 Running Back Prediction:

Starter — J.K. Dobbins
Back 1B — Dion Lewis
Off the bench — Myles Gaskin
Off the bench — J.J. Taylor

@WingfieldNFL

Tomorrow: Wide Receivers

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    RC********

    January 8, 2020 at 3:04 pm

    “This publication has always fancied itself as an unaffiliated extension of the Miami Dolphins operation.”

    Your arrogance is breathtaking.

  2. Avatar

    Papapickett

    January 8, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    Man that backfield would be so sick. I am a huge Johnathon Taylor guy but I too think 900+ carries make him a one contract type of player. I think the Oline is much more important to a running game than the running back so thats where I would spend my money.

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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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