The Dolphins have seen tremendous growth in some of their younger players, less in others.
This week, several work coaches took the measure, 10 of which are:
▪ Rookie linebacker Jaelan Phillips. His 8.5 sacks are tied for 25th in the league, but the Dolphins want to see an improvement overall, including against the run.
He’s only played more than half of the Dolphins’ defensive snaps once in the last four games and was on the field for only 37% of the defensive snaps against Tennessee.
“I’m proud of the consistency and work ethic throughout the year,” said outside linebacker coach Rob Leonard of the 18th overall pick in the NFL Draft last April. “He’s a good player. He doesn’t want to leave the field.
Leonard said Phillips must “continue to grow globally to gain more confidence in the system, whether executed or successful.” Some cases have been good and [there have been] some cases where we have to work on things.
Leonard put it succinctly: “Flashes are awesome. These don’t make you win ball games. It’s consistency.
Pro Football Focus ranks Phillips fourth among the worst against the run among 108 edge defenders.
▪ Rookie Safety Jevon Holland is ranked by Pro Football Focus as the fifth best of 94 safeties this season. Brandon Jones leads all NFL safeties in the sacks with five.
But defensive back coach Gerald Alexander declined to say if he thinks the Dolphins have found their long-term starting combination. (Holland is definitely projecting itself as a long-term starter; Jones is the question.)
“What Jevon has done this year as a rookie, operating with the responsibilities we give him, has been very encouraging,” said Alexander. “He got into position for the splash games. He did a good job.
Jones is a highly skilled athlete and blitzer and a reliable tackler. Jones’ concern has always been covering skills, and that remains a question: He had a 110.6 passer rating in his coverage area this season.
So is Jones reliable enough in this area?
“Things have definitely gotten better,” Alexander said. “Is it at the level [we want]? We will always seek to improve.
▪ Defensive tackle Raekwon Davis: The run defense was much better with him than without him. But he and several teammates struggled on Sunday when Tennessee ran for 198 yards on 5.0 per carry; PFF ranked him as Miami’s second-worst defense against the Titans.
In fact, PFF surprisingly ranks Davis as the third worst among 127 inside defensemen qualified this season. In 27 starts in the NFL, Davis has lost just two tackles.
But he’s always faced doubles teams and did his best job during Miami’s seven-game winning streak.
When asked to rate his run defense, defensive line coach Austin Clark said, “As a run defender Raekwon does what we ask him to do. He is physical. I haven’t looked at every snap for what he’s been up to this year.
How far is it from its ceiling? “He’s got a lot more room to grow,” Clark said.
▪ Cornerback Noah Igbinoghene played just 78 defensive snaps, compared to 287 as a rookie. It’s a byproduct of Xavien Howard and Byron Jones staying healthy and Nik Needham and Justin Coleman beating Igbinoghene.
So after two years do the Dolphins even know what they’ve got with the 30th overall pick in the 2020 Draft?
“The main goal is to work and improve,” said cornerback coach Charles Burks. “As long as he keeps doing this, when his opportunity presents itself, he has to take it.”
What is his NFL skill, specifically?
“His athletic ability,” said Burks. “He has the tools to be successful in the league, but there’s a lot more to it. I’m not saying he doesn’t have these other things. There are a lot of athletic guys who have entered the league in this role.
“It’s not just about being a really good athlete; it is the preparation, the instinct, the film, … the attention to detail, being motivated … Not to say that it is not. If you do them at a high level, it will put you in a position to do good things when you have opportunities. “
▪ Cornerback Trill Williams hasn’t played a defensive snap, but his work in training camp and preseason has left the Dolphins coaches believing they might have something.
“He’s got versatility, a guy who can play on the perimeter, maybe take on some tight ends,” said Burks. “He’s got a background in safety, a guy who can potentially move around and play in the club.”
▪ Wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr was placed in the injured reserve in August – meaning he wasn’t eligible to retire this season – but was healthy enough to play weeks ago.
Receiver coach Josh Grizzard is eager to see what he shows in the offseason schedule; he posted flashes last season (28 catches, 211 yards) but had an uneven training camp.
“Lynn did a good job from the moment we traded for him; he played a vital role for us until the end of last season, ”said Grizzard. “He did a good job in [the 2021] off-season program. It was unfortunate to have this injury.
“I’m talking to Lynn on a good basis. He is well placed with the injury. The skill set is an ability to run after the catch, to make guys miss. He’s physical with the ball, … able to understand covers and zones. He is well placed.
▪ Receiver Kirk Merritt was very good during parts of training camp, but only played 11 offensive snaps and caught a 13-yard catch.
“He wasn’t so lucky,” Grizzard said. “He works extremely hard in training and it’s a joy to be with him. I can’t wait to start the offseason with him.
▪ Tight end Hunter Long played behind three veterans (Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Adam Shaheen) and received just 90 offensive snaps. He had a catch for eight yards; Brian Flores said he “did a great job” replacing Shaheen in late November and early December.
“Hunter learned from these guys this year,” said offensive coordinator and tight ends coach George Godsey. “We expect him to continue to improve.”
▪ Running back Gerrid Doaks: A special feature of this season is that the Dolphins have repeatedly protected Doaks from the practice team’s poaching, but did not face him in a single game, despite the lack of production at the position for the first three months of the season.
So what’s the problem ? The unspoken message is that Miami didn’t see enough to believe it would be better than what they had on the active roster.
“Gerrid worked hard and learned the system,” said offensive coordinator and running backs coach Eric Studesville. “It’s an upcoming adjustment for the NFL. . He will be better.
Among the other young players, offensive line coach Lemuel Jeanpierre refused to assess several of his players. And look for the stories of his colleague Daniel Oyefusi on Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle in the days to come.
Here is my Tuesday post with the Dolphins coaches on the recent wave of fumbles and other Tua Tagovailoa issues.
This story was originally published January 4, 2022 2:32 p.m.