In this second installment of "In My Defense", we'll be looking at a player who really blossomed last season and became a force to be reckoned with - his name is Olivier Vernon.
Vernon was drafted in the third round after falling slightly due to him previously serving an NCAA suspension which allowed him to only start three games in a rather disappointing junior year for the Miami Hurricanes, and lucky for the Miami Dolphins they decided to take him in the third round and has managed to pay them back abundantly.
At first I didn't even consider Olivier Vernon to be "underrated", but then I watched NFL Network a few days ago where they counted down the top 5 pass-rushing combinations in the NFL and despite posting a Pro Bowl-caliber season where he recorded 11.5 sacks, Vernon, paired with 3-time Pro Bowler Cameron Wake didn't make the list.
It's these kinds of things that make me feel like a lot of the Miami Dolphins are being ignored just because they're Miami Dolphins, but that's merely my inner fan shouting out in displeasure and disapproval, it could simply be that if Vernon manages to put together two consecutive solid seasons, Vernon will start demanding attention.
Even the Dolphins themselves seemed to be underrating Vernon at first, moving up from pick number 11 to pick number 3 in order to draft the highest rated pass-rusher in the draft, Dion Jordan, which caused Dolphins fans to either cheer because we drafted a man who mostly drew comparisons to the legendary Dolphin Defensive End Jason Taylor, or negative criticism due to the fact that we had the opportunity to draft Lane Johnson to solidify the Left Tackle position since Jake Long departed to St. Louis.
The way I see it, the Dolphins front office had more faith in Jonathan Martin's ability to play Left Tackle than Olivier Vernon's ability to flank the other side of the defensive line with Cameron Wake, and we all know how that decision turned out. Talk about putting your faith in the wrong people. I'd go on but that would be a whole other column.
Vernon was considered a second round talent who, as previously mentioned, dropped a bit due to his NCAA suspension which was handed down for accepting impermissible benefits from former UM booster Nevin Shapiro, and luckily enough we decided to take a flyer on the slightly inexperienced Miami Hurricane. In his rookie year, Vernon made plays on specials teams that got him noticed which included recovering a punt that was blocked by Safety Jimmy Wilson for a touchdown, and then leaping over the blocking unit of the Indianapolis Colts to block a field goal the very next week.
From day one he'd made plays for the Dolphins, and yet he wasn't considered good enough to be Cameron Wake's pass-rushing partner. To be fair, I too underestimated Vernon's ability to be the one to take that spot on the edge, and I was one of the fans on the Dion Jordan bandwagon, but then Vernon had a breakout season and proved that he was more than capable of getting the job done, which now allows us to have possibly the deepest pass-rushing corps in the NFL.
If Vernon continues to improve from last season, then I have no doubts that the pass-rushing duo of Cameron Wake and Vernon WILL make it to NFL Network's top 5, and two more Dolphins will finally be getting the recognition they've rightfully earned.
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