Last year, the Miami Dolphins spent a third-round pick on defensive lineman Olivier Vernon. He played 445 snaps as a back-up defensive end during his rookie season, doing everything from rushing the quarterback, to dropping into coverage. It is this versatility that has made Vernon one of the early stars of the Dolphins offseason.
Jared Odrick was the starting right end during the 2012 season, but with defensive tackle Randy Starks opting out of OTA’s over a contract dispute, the Dolphins moved Odrick inside, and Vernon spent all of Miami’s mini-camp as the starting right end. The move seems to have agreed with Vernon, who has impressed head coach Joe Philbin.
“The good thing about [Vernon] is he can put his hand on the ground and he can function. You can put him in a two-point stance and he can function. And then as he grows as a player you can maybe move him around to a couple different spots,” Philbin said in a press conference last week.
Philbin went on to describe how Vernon creates identification issues for opposing offenses, and how that becomes an advantage for the Dolphins’ hybrid defense. With defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle looking to make confusion a strength of the Miami defense, Vernon makes sense as the starting right end.
The biggest problem Vernon will face when the team reports to training camp in late July is the Dolphins’ 2013 NFL Draft first round selection, Dion Jordan. Miami traded up in the draft to select Jordan third overall, and a team does not waste such a high draft pick on a player that is going to be a back up.
Either player could be used as an outside linebacker. In fact, both have played from that position in their past, but Coyle has already stated he plans to use Jordan from the right end position. This will make for an interesting training camp battle since the two players have such different skill sets.
During his days with the Oregon Ducks, Jordan was a pass rushing specialist, and the Dolphins most likely selected him with the hopes of seeing him terrorize opposing quarterbacks opposite Cameron Wake.
Vernon, on the other hand, is still developing as a pass rusher, notching just three sacks in 2012. His strength comes from his ability to play from different positions and drop back in coverage.
Despite his impressive showing during the Dolphins’ mini-camp, Vernon is going to have an uphill battle ahead of him, especially if Jordan lives up to any of his pre-draft hype.
Jeff Everette covers the NFL, specifically the Miami Dolphins, for RantSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter @jeverettesports, “like” his page on Facebook, “Trust” him on Sulia, or join his circles on Google+.