Some people say that they like the summer. Depending on their
place in life, they like the fact that it's hot out, or that they can go
on vacation, or that they don't have to go to school. They like
barbecues and swimming pools and ice cream trucks that play those silly
tunes on their loudspeakers.
Personally, I don't understand these people. Summertime is
It's the time of boring sports - like baseball - and boring
television - it's all reruns - and boring politics. After all, when
was the last time a really good scandal broke in July?
It's summertime! Let's all go sit out on the porch and drink
lemonade, while we listen to the birds sing. How thrilling.
Well, maybe I can liven the summer up with another issue of "On
Porpoise". This will be the last issue on the draft this year and I'll
cover the bottom 5 players that the Dolphins took.
However, when I say the bottom 5, I am referring to their draft
order only, because two of the most exciting players in the draft this
year for the Dolphins are in the bottom 5 numerically.
Perhaps it would be better if I said the "second 5", instead of
the bottom 5, because after watching these guys play, I think that at
least 2 of these guys have the talent to make an impact on the team
this year as rookies.
Before I go on, however, let's take a moment and talk just
briefly about the Lawrence Phillips situation, because it's all the
rage and I certainly don't want to be out of step with the current
Warning! Rant Ahead!
First of all, the scandal - I think it's safe to call it that -
has entered phase 2 of the standard scandal chronology. Phase 1 is
the initial phase, where we discover that something terrible happened -
probably. A charge is made in phase 1, details are obscure and hard to
come by and rapid fire news reports make it seem very bad for the main
Phase 1 was over pretty quickly in "Brickhouse-gate". I call
it that because ever since the early 70's, all scandals are named after that
famous hotel in Washington where Richard Nixon fell on his political
I suppose I could call it Phillips-gate, but Brickhouse-gate
has a much nicer ring to it, don't you think?
In any case, in phase 2, the accused regroups, denies everything
and not coincidentally, many unflattering details begin to emerge about
the "other" parties in the scandal. They may or may not be victims of
some dastardly deed, but this is when those details come out that most
of us wouldn't want the world to know about our personal lives - such
as the fact that I was once actually rude to a priest! (shhhh!).
In a day or two, we'll enter phase 3, where we all wait for the
real truth to emerge and learn if Phillips has fallen back on his
previous behavior or is the victim himself of a not-so-clever attempt
That could, of course, take weeks or months, depending on how
thorough and detailed the police want to be. Of course, the police
are in the worst situation of anyone in this case, because no matter
what they come up with, someone with a "better idea" of "what really
happened" will publicly second guess them and proclaim loud and long
that the police are hopelessly biased (either for or against Phillips
and for or against women, depending on what the investigation turns
up) and the police will be put on the spot to defend themselves.
Oops - my cynicism is showing....
Phase 3 could drag on for months as the police try and figure
out what actually happened. I'm actually fairly confident that they'll
eventually get an accurate picture of what happened, because there were
enough witnesses at the bar to provide them with enough accounts to
determine the truth.
Then the announcement will be made and Phillips will essentially
be pronounced guilty or innocent before a trial even begins. Once
that's done, we'll move on to phase 4 - which is the inevitable
second-guessing, analyzing and prognosticating. Phase 4 traditionally
Right now, the latest development is that JJ has announced
just today (July 6th) that he has met with Lawrence Phillips, that he
believes what Phillips has told him (which is apparently that Phillips
hit no one that night) and that, as far as he's concerned, the
incident is over.
And I think that that's just what he should have done.
Now, this may surprise those of you who have read my previous
opinion that Phillips actually did strike this woman in the bar. But
it's not really at odds with that opinion. JJ is just doing his job and
trying to do what's best for the team - he's treating one of his players
with respect and fairness until someone proves that that player is
guilty of wrongdoing.
If Phillips turns out to be innocent, then JJ will have
protected his player in a tough situation. If Phillips turns out to be
guilty, then JJ will have every justification for getting rid of him
quickly, for not only will Phillips be guilty of battery, he will have
committed that most serious of crimes - he will have lied to JJ.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not equating lying to your coach with
beating a woman in a bar. But I am saying that if Phillips turns out
to be guilty of beating that woman, then he has compounded his error
by lying about it and JJ will get rid of him faster than Bill Clinton
can unzip his....
But enough about the bad stuff. It's time to talk about what I
wanted to talk about in the first place - two of the most exciting
players selected by the Dolphins in this year's draft - and the rest of
I left off last time with Larry Shannon, who was the fifth
player taken by the Dolphins in this year's draft.
Next up on the list, in the number 6 spot, is defensive end
Lorenzo Bromell, of Clemson. Bromell holds the distinction of being
the only player that JJ has traded up to get in any of the drafts that
he's conducted in Miami. JJ traded away two picks to move up to get
Bromell at number 10 in the 4th round.
And that, right there, should tell you something. For JJ to
give up an extra one of his precious draft picks to take this guy should tell
you that he sees something special in Bromell.
And so do I.
As I'm sure you remember, I've been watching about 6 hours of
video of the Dolphins' draftees and when I was done, there were 3
players that really made me sit up and watch more closely. The first
was John Avery. The second was Lorenzo Bromell.
Although he's only played 2 years of regular college football
(he started out as a junior college player), Bromell already looks like
a very polished pass rusher. He has a very explosive first step off
the line and an array of pass rushing moves that make it very difficult
for opposing blockers to get a solid block on him.
One of the most impressive plays I saw him make on the tape was
when he was actually lined up at defensive tackle and he ran right
through a double-team block.
That's right - he split the double team and got right to the
quarterback. He was so fast off the line that he got between the guard
and the tackle before they could set up and he definitely would have had
the sack if the QB hadn't been able to just barely throw the ball
away. As it was, he forced an incompletion.
Dave Te Thomas describes him as "relentless in pursuit" - which
is one of my favorite terms, especially when applied to defensive ends.
Bromell is another of those guys who's always around the ball, no
matter where it ends up.
When you watch him play, you wonder why in the world Kenny
Mixon was taken ahead of him in the draft. Bromell is already a much
more polished pass rusher than Mixon and should only get better.
The drawback - if you can call it that - is that the experts
have been questioning Bromell's size. He's 6'5" and 265 right now,
which is about as tall and about 20 pounds heavier than Jason Taylor
was last year. Like Taylor, the experts say that Bromell must put on
weight and strength to compete with offensive linemen in the NFL.
But he's off to a good start - he can already bench press over
400 pounds and will undoubtedly get bigger and better after John Gamble
gets a chance to work with him. And he runs the 40 in about 4.7, which
is very fast for a defensive end.
In his senior year, Bromell started every game for the first
time in his collegiate career and because of injuries to other players,
played extensively at defensive tackle. He ended the '97 season with
51 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, 6 sacks and 15 quarterback
pressures. In the Peach Bowl, he added 8 tackles, one of which was for
a 4 yard loss and 5 quarterback pressures of Auburn quarterback
Dameyune Craig, forcing 4 incompletions, despite playing with an
By the way, if you wonder why I think the Bowl stats are
important, it's because I think it's always good to see how a player
performs when the stakes are higher.
But the bottom line is this - I think that Lorenzo Bromell will
definitely be a player for the Dolphins this year. I think he has an
excellent chance to be a serious pass rusher and a mainstay for the
Dolphin defense for many years to come.
He is, as they say, the Real Deal.
Now, isn't that better than talking about what Lawrence
Phillips has been up to?
I'd love to talk about Bromell some more, but then I couldn't
talk about the third player who I really enjoyed watching on the video.
Coincidentally, that player was also the guy who was taken right after
Bromell in the draft - offensive guard Scott Shaw.
Shaw was taken with the 20th pick in the 5th round and was the
first offensive lineman taken by the Dolphins this year. At 6'3" and
315 pounds, he's already big enough to play in the NFL, but with a 40
time of 5.6, he's not exactly the fastest guy around.
But if you want a player to attack hard at the line of
scrimmage, who is very strong, mean, nasty and who is a leader on the
field, then Scott Shaw may be the guy you want.
Consider this - Shaw set the record this year at the
Indianapolis combine for strength by bench pressing 225 pounds 38 times
with perfect form. And this disappointed him because he has done over
40 reps in practice and wanted to set that mark at the combine.
While he jokes about torturing kittens and beating up his
father, Shaw is a first class football player, a tough competitor and a
dedicated worker. He's also enough of a leader on the field that he was
voted the offensive team captain at Michigan State in his senior year.
This was ahead of the quarterback, who would seem to be the natural
choice for such an honor.
And he's really ugly, which is a little-known requirement for
all good offensive linemen in the NFL.
While watching him on video, two things impressed me about
Scott Shaw - first, while run blocking, he was able to use his main
strength and brute force to push everyone he faced at least 5 yards
downfield. On every single running play that I witnessed, Shaw was
driving his man downfield from the line of scrimmage. And no matter
which way the play went, Shaw was pushing his man downfield until the
whistle blew. He really tried to sustain those blocks and dominate
On passing plays, Shaw was a rock. He didn't use a lot of
lateral motion, but he didn't seem to need it. Opposing pass rushers
would run into Shaw and get stopped like an egg thrown against a wall.
He seemed virtually immovable.
Based on what I observed and what I know of his attitude, I
think that Shaw will most definitely make the team. If he's not quick
enough, he may have to settle for the practice squad, but he can
certainly attack and knock opposing players into the cheap seats when
he wants to. And he always wants to.
The Dolphins desperately need that kind of attitude and
leadership on the offensive line.
He may even be able to win the starting left guard job,
especially if Brent Smith is sidelined with his abdominal trouble
through any significant portion of training camp.
In other words - I really liked what I saw of Scott Shaw.
After Shaw, the Dolphins took another offensive lineman - a
center by the name of Nathan Strikwerda from Northwestern. Strikwerda
is exceptionally smart and that allows him to play a game that is very
He was taken by the Dolphins with the 18th pick in the 6th
round and while not huge - at 6'4" and 295 pounds - he is reported to
be very strong.
Did I mention that he's smart? Strikwerda scored the highest
of any player this year on the famed Wonderlich intelligence test that
they give players at the Indianapolis combine. The joke around the
Dolphins' headquarters is to tease Tim Ruddy about the rookie that beat
Obviously, JJ likes smart centers. And that makes sense,
because the center is the anchor for the offensive line and in some
cases, calls the blocking schemes for the rest of the line.
While watching Strikwerda on tape, I didn't get to see much of
him, but from what I saw, there was nothing particularly exceptional
about him. The most prominent positive aspect of his play was the
fact that he always gave 100% effort on every play and did his best to
maintain his blocks until the play was over, no matter where on the
field he is.
He reportedly works just as hard off the field as he does on
the field. He is very dedicated to the sport and it shows in his
commitment in the gym and in studying the game.
On the other hand, he didn't look very strong and was pushed
back from time to time. If he does make the team this summer, it will
probably be because he can also long-snap. Right now the starting
long-snapper for the Dolphins is Frank Wainwright - who is an excellent
long-snapper, but who is a 250 pound tight end. The Dolphins might
feel a little more comfortable with a 295 pound center like Strikwerda
doing the long snapping.
Immediately after Strikwerda, with the 19th pick in the 6th
round, the Dolphins took quarterback John Dutton out of Nevada. Dutton
was variously ranked as the 3rd, 4th or 5th best quarterback in the
draft, depending on who you listen to for your draft previews, and did
have an excellent college career.
He is the kind of big, strong quarterback that a lot of pro
teams now like to draft. At 6'4" and 225 pounds, there are no
questions about his size or overall athletic ability. There are also
no questions about his production as a quarterback.
He started for 2 years at Nevada, and was named Big West
Offensive player of the year in both 1996 and 1997, despite playing much
of the '97 season with a separated shoulder. In 1997, he completed 225
of 367 passes for 3,526 yards and 20 touchdowns with just 6
interceptions. That works out to a quarterback rating of 104.6 for the
But more impressive than that is the fact that his
yards-per-attempt average was about 9.61. For those who don't follow
the stats closely, trust me when I tell you that this is an outstanding
number. No one in the NFL approached that number last year and on the
collegiate level, only Ryan Leaf bettered that number with a 9.70
Peyton Manning didn't even come close.
The downside to Dutton - and the reason he dropped to the 6th
round of the draft - is that he has what some scouts consider to be a
poor throwing technique. In college, you can frequently get away with
throwing off your back foot and off balance if your arm is strong
enough. However, in the NFL, quarterbacks need better technique in
order to have the increased speed and accuracy needed to throw the ball
at the professional level.
I only had tape of one game of Dutton, but I did find it
revealing. I watched his performance in the Senior Bowl. During that
game, I was impressed by his command of the field and by the accuracy
of his passes. As a leader, he was definitely in command of the
huddle and in charge of the team on the field. His confidence and
poise could be seen as he led his team and he didn't get rattled or
flustered in the pocket under pressure. He looked very cool and
Also, I thought that while his throwing motion did look a
little funny, his passes were very accurate. He seemed to me to be
placing them exceptionally well to receivers that he was basically
unfamiliar with, because he'd only been able to practice with them in
the week up to the bowl game. Most of the passes were placed in a
place where only his receiver could come down with it and it couldn't
He doesn't have the zip on the ball that Dan had in the
mid-80s, but he may be able to develop that with changes to his
technique. He is generally regarded as a project by the draft
experts, but given that the best he can hope for in Miami is to be the
3rd string quarterback behind Marino and Erickson, the Dolphins may be
the best home for him.
And one other thing about Dutton - his coach at the Senior Bowl
was Norv Turner. Turner is JJ's friend and former offensive
coordinator at Dallas and I'm sure that JJ got a little inside
information on his abilities and prospects for the future from Norv.
I don't know what his chances of making the team are right now,
but overall I'd say that they would have to be pretty good. Stan
White, Damon Huard and Dutton are fighting for that third roster spot,
but Huard got injured while playing in NFL Europe and White was let go
by the Giants, who don't exactly have a huge glut of quarterbacks.
With that kind of competition, I think that Dutton stands an
excellent chance of making the team.
And with that out of the way, we come to our last draftee of
1998, offensive lineman Jim Bundren from Clemson.
Bundren was drafted by JJ mostly to compete at offensive guard,
but he played tackle in college and is another one of those players
who has experience at both positions. At 6'3" and 303 pounds, Bundren
is big enough to play in anywhere on the offensive line and is reported
to have the quick feet and speed necessary to pull and trap block
effectively for the running game.
While watching Bundren play, there was nothing particularly
exceptional that I noticed about him. He did not have the
overwhelming strength that Shaw displayed, but he did display the kind
of effort that Strikwerda and Shaw both showed while playing. Bundren
is a competitor and continues to play hard and block effectively, even
when the play goes away from him on the field.
The report on Bundren is that he is also a guy who is very
aggressive and nasty on the field and who is tenacious and dedicated
both on the field and in the gym.
The most notable achievement of Bundren in 1997 was holding
defensive end Andre Wadsworth of FSU to just 2 tackles and no sacks
when Clemson played FSU this year and Bundren lined up against him.
Of course, Wadsworth had the flu during that game - but hey -
why hold that against Bundren?
Overall, Bundren looks like a competent if unspectacular
player, but given the depth of competition on the offensive line for
roster spots and what I've seen of Bundren, I don't think that he
stands a very good chance to be on the team in September.
And that finishes up the 1998 Dolphins' draft picks. This
year, JJ took 10 players overall - one running back, one defensive
back, one linebacker, three offensive linemen, one wide receiver, one
quarterback and two defensive ends. If you compare that to 1997 (14
players) and 1996 (12 players), that would seem to indicate that JJ
didn't feel the need to really grab a lot of players this year to make
up for deficiencies on the team.
And that is good news.
Of course, only time will tell about this year's Dolphins, but
I like what I've seen so far and I really like this year's draft class.
I think that a couple or three of these guys could really make a
difference to the team this year.
But if they do, it will be because of superior effort on their
part. Because you don't make JJ's teams by accident. You do it....
.... On Porpoise.
DOLFAN in New England