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On Porpoise 2-98: It's Still Drafty
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On Porpoise 2-98: It's Still Drafty

Well, it's been almost 6 weeks since the last issue of On-Porpoise and it's long past time for another issue.

As of today, the Dolphins have finished their second quarterback camp of 1998, I've recovered from my trip to California and Bill Clinton hasn't been accused of anything new this week.

Of course, the week isn't over yet...

But all in all, it seems like a good time to do some writing.

So I've appropriated my wife's laptop, settled comfortably on the couch and tuned in the Playboy channel on the TV. I've got a beer on the side table and a bowl of chips next to it.

After all, it just wouldn't be sports without beer and chips, now would it? And you could argue that the Playboy channel is a sports channel, couldn't you?

So I'm now officially ready to write another issue of On Porpoise. That would make 2 for 1998, which is already twice as good as I managed to do in 1997 - at least as far as On Porpoise is concerned. If the Dolphins manage to do twice as good this year at they did last year, they should win 18 games.

I'd settle for that....

Now, if I could just figure out what that blonde on the TV is going to do with that vacuum cleaner and those 3 hockey pucks, I could....

Oh, I see - GOAL!!


Sorry, I got distracted.

What I actually wanted to talk about today was the rest of the draftees. The Dolphins' draftees, that is. You see, last time, I kind of got carried away talking about the first round pick - as sportsans frequently do. I had meant to talk about the other players, but ran out of time.

And that's a mistake, because if the last 2 years under JJ have taught us anything, it's that the later round picks are much more likely to have a significant impact on the team than the first round player.

Now, I hope that that's not true, because Avery has the potential to really add a dangerous dimension to the offense. But JJ almost always takes chances in the first round and this year was no exception.

But if I was enthusiastic about Avery in the last issue, I am positively overjoyed about him now.

You see, I have just finished watching about 6 hours of video highlights of all the Dolphins draftees that was put together by a fellow Dolphins fan. John Avery was featured prominently in these clips and he looks to be the kind of player who is a true danger to score every time he gets the ball.

What I saw of Avery was very impressive. He almost always makes the first tackler miss and is surprisingly strong for a smaller player. His 97 yard run was a classic, as he made exactly the right cuts to break through the line and then just outran everyone.

And best of all - his offensive line at Miss wasn't that good.

Avery should easily be the best round pick since OJ McDuffie and maybe the best since Dan (if you realize that John Offerdahl was not technically a first round pick).

But there I go again, getting carried away with the first rounder. This year, though, I believe that this one will live up to the hype.

In the second round, JJ took another cornerback this year in Patrick Surtain. When he picked Surtain, I did a triple take. First of all, I had never heard of Surtain - which was no big deal, actually, but then I couldn't find him in the official NFL draft guide.

And that worried me. If he wasn't good enough to make the official NFL draft guide on draft day, how could he be good enough to get taken high in the second round?

Of course, as with most of JJ's draft picks, as I began to find out about him, I began to like him more and more. In his last two years of college, he started all his games at cornerback and recorded 150 tackles, 12 interceptions and 23 passes broken up.

And he did it against good competition. In his senior year, Southern Mississippi was 12th in the nation in pass defense, despite playing 4 of the top 20 passing teams in the country, including Florida.

And Surtain was a major reason.

In watching the highlights of him on video, I noticed a few interesting things about him. First of all, he doesn't let receivers get behind him, even the fast ones. While he doesn't look that fast himself, he is very good at keeping opposing receivers in front of him.

He's also very smart. He not only keeps good coverage on the receivers, but he also constantly looks back at the quarterback, watching his eyes and looking for the ball. That enables him to break well towards the ball once it's thrown.

He is a natural athlete, lettering in baseball, basketball and track while in college. If he has a weakness, it's that he has not timed all that well in the 40 for a defensive back, although he has run a 4.46 in a private workout for the Dolphins.

It was initially thought that Surtain could come in and compete for a backup spot, but reports from the quarterback camps have said that Surtain has looked better than any other rookie in camp and that he may be able to compete for a starting job by mid-season.

That would be Terrell Buckley's starting job, by the way.

At 5'11" tall, he does have a natural height advantage over T-Buck, and if he changes his drop-back style well enough and can cover the faster receivers, who knows?

Oh, that's one other thing I forgot to mention. Surtain must learn to backpedal, which is the technique that the Dolphins' defensive backs use in coverage. That's different that the sideways shuffling style that Surtain used in college.

But for a gifted athlete like him, that should not prove to be too much of a problem.

The other player that the Dolphins took in the second round was defensive end Kenny Mixon of LSU. At 6'4" and 270 pounds, he's a good sized defensive end that has a lot of potential.

Of course, the problem with Mixon was that he was suspended from the team in 1996 after testing positive - several times - for marijuana use. However, according to the coaching staff at LSU, he's cleaned up his act and turned his life around.

Losing his scholarship in 1996 and having to work his way through the rest of his college career seems to have gotten his attention.

Anyway, he played through the entire 1997 season without incident, and collected about 60 tackles of which 14 were for a loss and 7 sacks. He also blocked 2 kicks in his senior year.

The pundits say that he has been a good pass rusher and can be even better. They say he has a quick first step, a good upfield burst and can be sudden end explosive. ESPN went so far as to say that he is "Built to rush the quarterback".

Well, from what I've seen of Mixon in the highlight video, the pundits are wrong.

Oh, not totally. I think that Mixon can develop into a good pass rusher, but from what I saw, Mixon is a better run stuffer than quarterback killer. In fact, it looked like opposing teams would choose to run away from him rather than challenge him at the line of scrimmage.

What I saw was a guy who stood his ground very well, was not pushed off the line of scrimmage and was very difficult to move out of the line of attack. He almost never got pushed back or moved away from the play and if running backs came to his side of the field, they had to go around him and his blocker if they wanted to gain any yardage.

He was effective on stunts, but when rushing the passer, he didn't seem to me to be that quick off the line of scrimmage and he seemed to get tied up with opposing offensive tackles fairly easily. His only move was the bull rush and he didn't get pressure on the quarterback that often.

Now, perhaps the scouts saw other highlights than I did, but from what I saw, Mixon is not a pass-rushing terror. He is a very steady, strong and hard working defensive end who is tough to run against, but he is not a superior pass rusher.

He does have a non-stop motor and keeps going as hard as he can for the whole play. He also pursues well from the backside and will run downfield after a ball carrier, but I didn't get the feeling that he was a real playmaker.

Of course, he doesn't have a lot of experience. He only started 14 games in his college career and so has a lot to learn. He has a big enough frame to put on a lot of muscle and between that and his inexperience, he really falls under the category of a project.

After Mixon, the Dolphins picked up linebacker Brad Jackson from Cincinnati. He's another guy that, when he was announced at the draft I said "who?". But then Bill (who was sitting next to me in the press section) said "Oh, that's the guy who had 168 tackles last year".

Leave it JJ to find a guy like him.

Jackson is another small, fast linebacker of the type that JJ likes to have on his defense. He is always near the ball and very aggressive and active on the field. He has good instincts and his background as a safety early in his career helps make him very effective in pass coverage.

His most impressive performance as a senior was also his most important game. In the Humanitarian Bowl against Utah State, Jackson had 2 interceptions, 6 pass deflections, a sack and 4 tackles.

While watching him play, I noticed that he is always around the play, regardless of where on the field it happens. He is equally effective blitzing or dropping into coverage and he can cover wide receivers almost as good as a cornerback.

I think that Jackson stands an excellent chance of winning a staring job this year - depending, of course, on how newly acquired linebacker Robert Jones fits in.

But Jackson's instincts and athleticism have always given him the ability to make big plays and there's nothing JJ likes more than a playmaker.

The next player chosen was wide receiver Larry Shannon from East Carolina. Shannon is a very tall, very tough player who's best year was in 1996 as a junior. During that season, he caught 39 passes for 834 yards and 9 touchdowns, leading the entire nation with a 21.4 yard per catch average.

However, last year Shannon severely sprained his ankle early in the season and suffered a stress fracture that was not properly diagnosed. He came back too early from that injury and aggravated it against Houston, forcing him out again. He only caught 21 passes for 308 yards and 1 touchdown as a senior, dropping him in the draft.

Shannon looks more like a basketball center than a football player. He's tall at 6'5" and even though he's 210 pounds, he looks like he's about 130. He has exceptional leaping ability and starting at 6'5", he can outjump almost anyone else on the field.

Before he wrecked his ankle in his senior year, he clocked a 4.44 in the 40, but he didn't work out at the combines this year, because he was resting his ankle.

While watching him in highlight films, I noticed that he was not afraid to go across the middle of the field and was willing to stretch out to his full extension to go after the ball even when he was about to get leveled by a safety. He is fearless in going after the ball.

The problem that I noticed is that he doesn't have very good hands. He can catch the ball well against his body, but he had trouble holding on to the ball while completely stretched out. Several times, I saw him jump or stretch out to make a catch, get his hands on the ball and not hold on to it. If he can't do that better in Miami than I saw him on the video, he won't make the team.

But don't count him out just yet. Last year, he was told by the coaches not to dress for a game after he injured his ankle. But Shannon is a fighter. He got into his game uniform and trotted on to the field and over to the sideline, where he told the coach that he was going to play.

And play, he did.

So Shannon already has the right attitude and enough athletic ability to do well, he just needs to catch a little better. And that he can learn.

And that covers the first half of the Dolphins draftees for 1998. I could go on to the rest of the class of '98, but it's getting late and I want to get some rest before I wrestle with a network router tomorrow.

Networking is not for wimps...

But don't despair - I will definitely be covering the second half of the new rookies in the next On Porpoise. I'm especially excited by what I've seen of Scott Shaw and Lorenzo Bromell, so it won't be long before I put fingers to keyboard and pound out issue 3.

After all, I wouldn't want you to think that I was confused or unsure about what I was doing. I want to be sure that you know that I'm doing this....

...On Porpoise.

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DOLFAN in New Rochelle


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