Dolfans, my name is Kevin Dern and my good buddy Travis Wingfield has been kind enough to help me with this opportunity to write about the Dolphins. Some of you may know me from ThePhins.com – I’m RoninFin4 there by the way, or from the podcast Travis and I had last year, or even just from Twitter @KevinMD4. I wanted to get my Dolphins thoughts out somewhere this year, so we’ll start with the defensive side of the ball, as that’s what I like best.
1st Round Pick – Charles Harris – DE
While he’s not starting, Charles Harris is getting considerable run time at RDE. And that’s something that should be expected from a 1st round pick, to say the least. Harris has been rotating in behind starter Andre Branch in base and nickel packages, and has also been playing DT in pass-rush situations. He’s been able to play the run better than I expected he would; that was one of his shortcomings at Mizzou. He’s also coming closer and closer to his first sack. Watch the first play of the 4th quarter against the Saints. Harris is able to dip and rip and runs the arc around Ryan Ramczyk and hits Drew Brees JUST after he releases the pass. I think Charles Harris will continue to have to refine his technique against NFL left tackles, but sacks are coming. If he can continue to get better with his technique, I don’t see why he couldn’t overtake Andre Branch by 2018. Credit to Travis Winfield, aka @Wingfield NFL for making the GIF of Harris’ pressure.
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) October 3, 2017
2nd Round Pick – Raekwon McMillan – LB
I know, I know, McMillan’s out for the year with a torn ACL suffered on a punt in preseason. As a base-only LB as a rookie, he was going to be forced to play on the punt team. Mike Hull currently is. However, it took Raekwon what, two practices to be named the starting MLB? And he got pretty rave reviews from that point up until the injury. McMillan is pretty much the perfect Wide-9 MLB. He’s strong, compact and a sure tackler. He’s able to fight through blocks pretty well and is faster than he looks. His coverage skillset remains to be seen. But, with the way Matt Burke has used his LBs so far this year, I have little doubt that Burke will have him well trained. For now, enjoy this GIF of him against Clemson from last year fighting off a block and making a tackle for minimal gain. He’ll do this a lot as the MLB in Miami’s Wide-9.
3rd Round Pick – Cordrea Tankersley – CB
As many of you may know, Travis Wingfield and I used to have the “Phinalysis” Podcast on the Welcome to Perfectville website. He and I text regularly about the Dolphins, and he can vouch for me on this. The day after the Dolphins selected Tankersley, I told him this would be the best value pick the Dolphins made. Tankersley played very well in preseason, and while PFF isn’t my end all be all, they certainly liked him as well.
If not for contractual obligations to Byron Maxwell, Cordrea Tankersley should have been starting from week one no questions asked. His preseason work merited that, in my humble opinion. He finally got his first start this past Sunday against the Saints in London. Drew Brees went to work on him almost immediately, but Tankersley played a nice ballgame. He allowed 36 yards on 7 targets and made some nice plays against the run. He even nearly notched an INT in his first start when he recorded a PBU at the 2 yardline to help thwart a Saints TD. If he and Xavien Howard can refine their technique, this will be the best CB duo the Dolphins have had since Madison and Surtain.
5th Round Pick – Davon Godchaux – DT
What can you say? Probably the surprise of camp was that Davon Godchaux seemingly beat out Jordan Phillips for the starting DT spot next to Ndamukong Suh. Here’s the thing. This was by far Phillips’ best camp and preseason performance of his career, so that’s saying something for the 5th round rook. Ultimately, Jordan Phillips was named the starter, but an ankle injury in the Chargers game limited his snaps that day, and he missed the Jets and Saints games allowing Godchaux to be Miami’s DT2 next to Suh.
He hasn’t disappointed.
Godchaux’s been able to stand his ground and get penetration in the run game, which so far for Miami is much improved. Last year, Miami finished 30th in rushing yards allowed, and were tied for dead-last in yards per carry, giving up over 140 yards per game and a ypc average of 4.8 respectively. So far this year Miami’s 4th in the NFL giving up 77.7 yards per game rushing – nearly cutting their yards allowed average in half – which is impressive. It’s also made it tougher for teams to score on them, as Miami’s 8th in the NFL in points allowed and one of only two teams, the Bills being the other, that have yet to surrender more than 20 points in a game this season. Godchaux’s been a big part of that, and I expect him to be a heavy contributor even when Phillips returns.
6th Round Pick – Vincent Taylor – DT
Vincent Taylor only earned 3 snaps in the week 2 game against the Chargers, but in the wake of Jordan Phillips injury, he’s gotten more playing time the past two weeks. He’s played well against the run, and even recorded a pressure and QB hit of Drew Brees that forced an incompletion against the Saints. So far, PFF has him with an 81.8 grade on the year. He’s also been able to get push against opposing FG units, something he did well in college with 5 blocked kicks.
I expect him to carve out a role similar to what Leon Orr was doing for the Dolphins last year once Phillips returns and Taylor goes back to being the 4th DT. I think there’s enough potential with Taylor that he could earn more snaps in the future.
Miami also hit on two UDFAs in LB Chase Allen, who has played well on both defense in special teams in limited snaps this year, and CB Torry McTyer, who has yet to play, as both made the 53 man roster out of camp. All this is good news as Miami was overdue for a good defensive draft class haul. Jeff Ireland’s effort in 2013, which resulted in Dion Jordan, Jamar Taylor, Will Davis, Jelani Jenkins and Don Jones was well…you know…pretty ill-fated. None of those guys are Dolphins today.
So far, we’ve seen two guys – Godchaux and Tankersley – start games, and we’ve seen some heavy contributions from Charles Harris and Vincent Taylor, although the latter was due to Phillips’ injury. But, so far it looks like all of these pups will bite, and if they continue to develop and Raekwon McMillan comes back next year and plays the way I think he will in the Wide-9 scheme, Miami will have a nice group of young, talented players forming a defensive nucleus. To me that’s very important as your core veterans on the team right now – Reshad Jones, Ndamukong Suh, Lawrence Timmons (who is probably not coming back in 2018), and Cameron Wake are all 30 or older.
This young talent base can help form the future of the Dolphins defense with guys like Andre Branch, Jordan Phillips, Kiko Alonso, Xavien Howard, T.J. McDonald – if he stays clean – and Stephone Anthony – if he develops. That said, I think it gives Dolfans something to look forward to, and something to focus on if Jay Cutler and the offense can’t get in shape VERY soon.
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