Written by Matthew Cannata at 3:30 PM EST | Twitter: @PhinManiacs
Kelvin Sheppard, who was signed to the team during preseason, hasn’t made much of an impact on the defensive side of the ball but instead, is making his home on special teams, where he is one of the leaders. However, on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he saw over a dozen plays on defense and Joe Philbin is pleased with his development.
“He did a nice job. He really did. I thought it was good to get him out there. We like what he’s done on special teams, certainly. But you’re never sure until you give them some opportunities. I think he had, I’m going to say 17 (plays), give or take a couple, but I like what he did. I thought it was good. We’re always looking to expand our depth and give players opportunities that we feel are deserving of it. Those are guys (LBs Kelvin Sheppard and Jonathan Freeny) we felt deserved some snaps in the ball game and so that’s what we did.”
As Philbin mentioned, Freeny is another guy who the Dolphins are looking to get more involved on the defensive side of the ball and Philbin was pleased with the way he handled his role on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“He contributed nicely. Kevin (Coyle) called the pressure, and he was involved and got the quarterback down on the ground. He’s a guy that has quietly been making a lot of progress. He’s a hard, hard worker. He’s obviously had an impact on our special teams for a while here. He’s just a guy that goes to work every single day and he’s gotten better.”
Coyle echoed Philbin's words and said that they are figuring out various ways to get Freeny on the field so he can continue to contribute.
“Jonathan just continues to impress us with the way he prepares. He’s very, very diligent. He’s been productive in practice. I think Coach Duff (Mark Duffner) has done a great job of getting all of those guys involved and preparing all of them as if they’re going to be the starters, so (they’re ready) when their opportunity comes. They get reps in practice, it’s not like he’s only getting a couple of reps. They’re getting reps on scout team as well as with our defense. He’s doing some good things. He got some chances yesterday and came up with a big sack for us.”
Sheppard and Freeny are one of the reasons why the special teams has been slowly improving over the past several weeks and on Sunday, the unit had one of its best games of the season.
“They did a good job. I thought our coverage units seem to be taking a step forward. We had some young guys step up and Will Davis had a couple of tackles, which was great to see. Rishard Matthews (made a tackle and) we had some different guys contribute. I thought overall the performance was encouraging.”
Prior to the Jaguars game, Philbin had called out the special teams unit in a team meeting and it appears they have responded in a strong manner. This part of the game is often overlooked but can have a tremendous impact in terms of field position, field goals, punts and more, which can easily sway the direction of the game towards either a win or a loss.