Written by Matthew Cannata | Twitter: @PhinManiacs
Defensive end Olivier Vernon was drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft but it wasn't until last year when he broke out with 11.5 sacks and became a force on the defensive line. Vernon is still underrated by many but one person he's changed the views of is Branden Albert.
"I just knew when I came in that he had a lot of sacks, but I didn't know what type of player he was until the first couple of days of practice," Albert said of Vernon. I said 'I'm going to have my hands full during OTAs and training camp.' He's a hard worker, he's a hell of an athlete, a hell of a defensive end. I think he's going to be a special player. He's already a special player. I think he's going to make some noise."
Vernon has been working hard to make sure his success from 2013 carries over into 2014.
"You love the development from year one to year two," Philbin said. "There is certainly still room for continued growth in year three, and it may not always be in the numbers. Those are sometimes deceiving, just to look at the numbers. Again, some of the most impressive plays when we watch the cutups of OV were the hustle plays, the effort plays. Sometimes, they go unnoticed at times. Then when you really look at the season as a whole and you look at his production, it's impressive."
Kacey Rodgers, defensive line coach, said that Vernon needs to register at least eight sacks to be considered a legit defensive end.
"He went from being a role player his rookie year, getting three and a half sacks. The next year he got 11-and-a-half sacks. We've got to be consistent. We can't go back to three sacks. We've got to see if he's a legit defensive end, and that's eight to 10 sacks or better. That's a legit NFL right defensive end."
"I guess I came out of nowhere [last season]," Vernon laughed. I wasn't on the radar at all, so one thing about me is I just had to earn respect, and I still have to earn respect every time I get out there on the field. … [It's going to be a matter of] just going back to what I was doing before, fundamentals, just staying on the grind, staying motivated and having something to play for."