April 24, the Miami Dolphins had a glaring need: cornerback.
April 25, they addressed it…emphatically, and twice over for good measure.
it is one thing, solving it is another; we won’t know if the Dolphins hit
paydirt in the 2009 NFL Draft for some time to come.
judge it probably in three years”, said Dolphin GM Jeff Ireland. “You have to
judge them in how they contributed to your roster and how well they are playing.”
and why I like to focus on strategy versus a team’s overall philosophy. Were
they able to move their vision forward?
my estimation, Miami’s
primary goals in this draft were to: a) rebuild the secondary, b) add a pass
rusher, and c) add explosive players to the offense. The Dolphins were able to
address a) and c), and have other options to solve b).
This is why I believe that, overall, they had a very successful weekend.
Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
was the case last year with Jake Long, the Dolphins were able to address a top
need with the top prospect. The best cover corner in the draft, Davis has the size,
speed, and range to match up well with the top receiver talent in the AFC East
and the NFL. He is a very physical player in coverage with excellent quickness;
these are qualities that will serve him well versus the varying styles of Randy
Moss, Terrell Owens, Lee Evans, and Wes Welker. Davis is also very solid against the run.
many teams have a player of this potential.
character issues were the reason he lasted as long as he did, longer than
corners of his caliber usually do. Yet his college coach, Ron Zook, was effusive
in his praise of Davis’s
talent and character, comparing him to Rod Woodson (former Steelers All-Pro).
The Dolphins apparently agreed.
Davis will compete
with Jason Allen for the starting job opposite Will Allen and is considered the
favorite to win it.
big, he's physical, he's fast, he can play either man or zone, he can play man
off, and he plays the run very well”, Ireland gushed. “He's a good kid, we like
the player very much. We feel like he can compete for a position right away.”
Pat White, QB/WR, West Virginia
was the most controversial pick on Day One. Is White a quarterback or a wide
receiver? Did the Dolphins pick him too early? How this plays out remains to be
line is that Pat White is an outstanding all-around talent. What does this
mean? Put in comparative terms, he is as good a runner as Michael Vick but a
better passer and a better receiver. In this world of specialized football, it
is rare to find someone of his caliber and proficiency.
is destined for the Wildcat, where his electric talents can be immediately put
to use. The Dolphins also expect him to compete with heir apparent Chad Henne
at quarterback. Is this latter expectation realistic in its chances for
success? Right now, no. For one thing, White’s lack of height (6’0”) behind the
monster line that Parcells and company have assembled could be a problem. For
another, it isn’t clear if White is a better passer than Henne.
an accurate perspective to have for now is to view the Dolphins as a two system
team with potentially two starting quarterbacks (one per system). It will be
interesting to see how this plays out as White gains experience.
White has an unusual set of skills that can help us”, Ireland
explained. “He enhances our offense. He enhances how we play offense. He's got
an unusual skill set, whether he plays quarterback, or another position. Right
now he's going to line up at quarterback. There will be a lot said about how we
are going to utilize him. I think we are creative enough as a coaching staff,
that he will be able to enhance our offense in a multitude of ways. We are
excited to have him, and I am excited to see what this young man can do not
only as a quarterback, but possibly other ways.”
Sean Smith, CB, Utah
Dolphins were fortunate to be able to get Smith as late as they did in the
second round. At 6-4, 214, he is very big for cornerback. Yet he is surprisingly
fluid and fast, most unusual for a CB of his dimensions. If not as an immediate
starter, he should prove useful in extra DB situations, especially defending the
fade route to the outside and the jump pass in the corner of the endzone.
definitely makes it more difficult for receivers to catch the ball and ball
placement for quarterbacks”, said Smith. “With my reach and size, you
definitely have to keep the ball away from me. I understand splits and route
combinations. I understand the open holes inside defenses where people like to
fit inside zone coverages. Being a former receiver helps me out a lot.”
a defensive back you have to work on your breaks and your quickness. I am a
bigger guy, so I can definitely work on my quickness when it comes to guarding
those smaller wide receivers. That is something I am willing to work on and get
in there and compete."
skill set is rare for his size”, noted Ireland. “We have to do a good job
of continuing to develop those skill sets. I think he will play, and I think he
will play pretty early.”
Patrick Turner, WR, Southern California
draft gurus feel the Dolphins reached badly for Turner, a player they feel
could have been had two or three rounds later. The knock on him is
inconsistency, with only a solid senior season under his belt. What’s
indisputable is that, at 6-5, 221 lbs., Turner epitomizes the Dolphins’ love
for size and adds to the height dimension currently on the wide receiver roster
(Brandon London). Turner appears to be the type of player that will complement
Chad Pennington’s game right away.
feel I bring a red zone threat, I feel I bring a lot of mismatches, I feel like
I'm a possession receiver”, said Turner. “When it comes to third downs, and
being on the other side of Ted Ginn, Jr., and having Ernest Wilford, I feel
like we can make some big plays. I feel that in the fringe area, to be a bigger
guy, I feel I run pretty good routes, and I feel sure-handed, like I can
feel real good about this young man”, Ireland said. “He is a big, tall
receiver; I think he runs excellent routes. He scored ten touchdowns last year,
he’s a playmaker, he’s played inside, he’s played outside, he’s smart. I think
he’s got some versatility and some very good hands.”
Brian Hartline, WR, Ohio
was somewhat surprising to see the Dolphins go with a wide receiver in
successive picks, which tells us that Ireland wasn’t as warm and fuzzy
about his stable of receivers as he suggested prior to the draft. The value
Hartline brings to the Dolphins, at least initially, will be to the special
teams where he will be counted on to help upgrade the coverage units.
is looking forward to the challenge. “I'm a guy who loves it, personally,
probably my favorite”, said Hartline. “I’ll do returns. I think I'm great in
kickoff coverage. I like cracking heads. It's a lot of fun, and hopefully I can
do that for Miami.”
the Dolphins will look to incorporate him more fully into the offense.
(comes from) another successful program [Ohio State].
Very articulate, very smart, very versatile. Plays on special teams, is a good
sized kid, plays inside, plays outside with some flexibility at the wide receiver
position that is very important to us”, Ireland said.
was a teammate of Ted Ginn’s at Ohio
John Nalbone, TE, Monmouth
again, the Dolphins showed a willingness to look at smaller college prospects
in later rounds. Last year, it was Donald Thomas (UConn) and Lex Hilliard (Montana). This year,
it’s 1-AA player Nalbone. As with all small college players, the biggest
concern is whether or not they can compete against NFL caliber players. In
college, Nalbone was proficient as a receiver with good hands and route running
skills. Aside from adjusting to the speed of the pro game, Nalbone will need to
improve his blocking skills in order to make the 53 man roster. For now, he is
viewed strictly as a developmental player.
(is) about 6-5, about 257, runs real good. Three year starter there at Monmouth”,
summarized. “This kid has tremendous skills. He’s going to have to learn to
play at NFL speed, there’s no doubt about it.”
Chris Clemons, S, Clemson
little that breeds more confidence about a college prospect than a guy who was
productive and healthy for four years versus major conference competition. As a
redshirt sophomore, Clemons was 12th in tackles in the ACC (102) and
led the Tigers secondary in passes defended (9). As a redshirt junior, he had 94
tackles, with four double-figure tackle games. As a redshirt senior, he had 92
tackles and an interception for a touchdown.
strong, tough, aggressive safety”, said Ireland. “Good cover skills as well.
We feel real good that he was there for us and I think he’s going to contribute
on the roster very well.”
Clemons to get a long look at strong safety, initially as a back up to Yeremiah
Andrew Gardiner, OT, Georgia Tech
was a productive four year starter for the Yellow Jackets at left tackle, and
will be groomed as a depth player behind starters Jake Long and Vernon Carey. His
measurables are terrific, some are prototypical. Yet he is viewed as
developmental project, needing improved strength and technique. Gardiner
suffered a shoulder injury his senior season, which no doubt contributed to his
later round selection.
played at a good program”, said Ireland,
complementing former Dolphin offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. “(Gardiner’s)
got left tackle feet. He’s big, he runs good, he’s a good athlete, he’s got
real good test scores, he’s very smart. He brings some much needed depth at the
left tackle position, so we feel real good about getting him.”
J.D. Folsom, LB, Weber
small school player, a “developmental candidate” according to Ireland. Folsom will get a look at
the ‘Mike’ and ‘Moe’ inside linebacker positions, as well as some special teams
got real good size, he’s about 6-2 1/2, almost 240, runs really good”, Ireland said. “Smart
kid, older kid, he’s more mature, will be about 25 soon. Real good core special
teams player. Has some sub-down value as well, so we got a good plan for him.”
uncertain as to whether or not he would get a shot at the NFL, applied for and
was accepted into veterinary school (Oklahoma
State and Washington State).
after the draft, the Dolphins released QB John Beck in order to ensure
that White and Henne could get adequate reps in OTAs and Training Camp.
Beck is a quality person and a hard worker who deserves a shot with
another team. In a way, the Dolphins mismanaged his first two seasons, and
did Beck a favor by giving him the opportunity to get a fresh start. It is
disappointing, however, to see another second round pick go up in smoke.
Dolphins went into this year's draft intent on addressing a number of
pressing needs, one of which was a 3-4 outside linebacker that could rush
the passer. They came up empty in this regard, as other teams had the
exact same need. Knowing that they had the inside track on Jason Taylor, however,
they were wise not to force the issue by moving around on the board and
wasting precious picks. I believe that knowledge helped them to stay on an
even keel. Now we will see if they follow up this knowledge by bringing
the franchise’s all-time greatest defender back into the fold.