As we move through our Miami Dolphins training camp preview, we take a look at defensive tackle. A position, even with one of the best in the game in Ndamukong Suh, that had its struggles last year specifically against the run.
The Dolphins drafted a couple of hopefuls for the interior of the line this year but did nothing, so far, to replace the experience of Earl Mitchell who was cut due to cap space. The current interior of the line behind Jordan Phillips and Suh have a combined total of 12 career tackles in a position that continually requires rotation.
On the other hand, the Dolphins have an entire training camp to size up what they have and make any moves they deem necessary. With that said, let’s look at who they’ll be evaluating this August.
As he enters his 8th season in the league he has proven to be nearly unstoppable in the middle. Also, one of the most dependable at his position, starting 80 straight regular season games and has only missed two games his entire career. Opponents must gameplan for him and around him.
He takes double teams on a continuous basis and if not, he makes them pay. His dominance in the middle allows guys like Cameron Wake and Andre Branch to face many one-on-one situations. A true ‘pick your poison’ scenario.
In short, he’s one of the best to play the position and is likely headed for Canton one day. A true plug and play athlete. After a season where he made a career-high in tackles with 72, Suh is set to have yet another dominant season.
Jordan Phillips has played in 31 of 32 games during his first two seasons, starting in 15 of them with 11 of those starts in 2016. He has 27 total tackles and 2.5 sacks for his career. Questions about his motor have followed him since his college days at Oklahoma.
He seems to have shaken most of that and gained the confidence of the Dolphins coaching staff. Unless camp provides another option he will man the other tackle spot next to Suh. Questions remain as to whether he can be an effective run stuffer. He’s shown some pretty good moves as a pass-rusher, mostly with a quick first step off the snap and a pretty lethal bull rush.
His play will be watched by the coaching staff and Dolphins fans alike during training camp to ensure he is worthy of that starting spot. If not, look for Miami to grab a vet free agent or two and move Phillips back into a rotational spot at DT.
As we move through the rest of the interior defensive line we find less familiar names. Godchaux was one of three 5th round picks for the Miami Dolphins in 2017 and one of two defensive tackle selections.He has some work to do as far as getting to NFL strength (18 bench reps at combine), but has the size to work in the middle.
He missed all but one game his senior year of high school but still came onto a competitive LSU team making 10 starts as a true freshman. In college, he showed a propensity to get behind the line of scrimmage and make plays. He will be battling many other players for a roster spot and then hopefully playing time in the defensive tackle rotation.
Taylor was the Miami Dolphins 6th round selection in 2017 and the second of two defensive tackles they drafted. At 6-foot-3 and 304 pounds, he possesses the size and strength (26 reps on the bench during the combine) to play the position in the NFL. His strengths in college were his upper body strength and his explosion off the line at the snap.
He will need to focus on more consistent technique at the NFL level. In college, the scouting report referenced his ability to get pushed out too easily due to“staying too upright” and lack of ability to “gain ground laterally.”
He seems a little less ready, on paper, to compete at this level than Godchaux but training camp provides all players with equal opportunity. With such a crucial position for the Dolphins based off last year’s run stopping performance (ranked 30th overall), we must hope that both these draftees show the Dolphins coaching staff and brass enough to stick around and develop.
Remember those 12 total combined career tackles I mentioned previously? Well Nick Williams has them all. As he enters his 4th season and 2nd with the Miami Dolphins he hasn’t shown much more than a bottom of the 53-man roster contribution.
He’s played in 26 games in his three seasons but ten of those last year (five with Kansas City and five with the Miami Dolphins). He has never started a game.
He will battle just to stay on the roster and if cut it will likely be because they signed a veteran to bolster the line considering the lack of experience the Miami Dolphins currently have behind the two anointed starters.
Okoye took a rare path to the NFL. He was a track and field athlete and is currently the British record holder in the discus event. Most of his ‘football’ experience came as a rugby player in the U.K.
Undrafted, this is his 6th team since entering the league in 2013 in San Francisco. He has not recorded any tackles and has mostly bounced from practice squad to practice squad.
But it’s his size and strength that keep teams giving him opportunity to develop. Will Miami finally be the place he shows he can play this game? It would benefit the Dolphins if that comes to be true. For now, he will simply fight for a roster spot. A situation he has likely become used to.
It remains to be seen whether the Dolphins will look for a veteran option to add to the defensive tackle rotation, but as it stands, the team will be keeping a close eye on all this young talent to see if anyone stands out.
This story was written by Ron Canniff. Follow him on Twitter: @FinsBroadcaster
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