The Dolphins kept virtually their entire defensive front seven intact, aside from deciding not to re-sign linebacker Vince Biegel.
During the past six weeks, they flirted with several accomplished front seven veterans, summoning veterans Melvin Ingram and Reuben Foster for visits — nothing materialized on either — and had discussions on multiple pedigreed veteran linemen, including Carlos Dunlap and Akiem Hicks.
All four of those players remain unsigned.
Since Ingram visited the Dolphins, the Chiefs utilized the rarely used unrestricted free agent tender on Ingram. If he signs with a new team before July 22 or the first day of training camp, whichever is later, the signings would count toward the NFL’s compensatory formula.
So even though the Dolphins have at least considered adding another established front seven defender, rookies — so far — represent the only new blood in the group, and at least six on the 90-man roster (and several on tryouts) will work to impress coaches at the team’s rookie minicamp that begins on Friday.
Defensive coordinator Josh Boyer and linebackers coach Anthony Campanile discussed linebacker Channing Tindall, the team’s third-round pick, in this piece.
But coaches also are eager to see seventh-round linebacker Cameron Goode; undrafted rookie defensive linemen Ben Stille (Nebraska) and Jordan Williams (Virginia Tech) and edge players Deandre Johnson (Miami) and Owen Carney Jr. (Illinois).
Goode agreed to terms with the Dolphins on Friday, as I reported on Twitter earlier today.
Some feedback on those players:
Williams is an interesting prospect, because he moves well at 6-5 and 285 pounds.
After making only three starts for Clemson in 2020, he transferred to Virginia Tech, and he started six of 12 games for the Hokies last season, finishing with 33 tackles, four for loss, and 2.5 sacks.
Defensive line coach Austin Clark said what stood out to the staff in tape evaluation was “his athletic ability. He’s a really athletic guy. Good movement skills is the first thing you pop on the tape and say this guy moves pretty good. He’s not a big slug bruiser. He can move laterally and vertically and get penetration, can create havoc in the backfield. He’s got a lot of tools and I’m really excited to work with him.”
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein said he’s an “athletic defender caught between positions and lacking the desired NFL body type for end or tackle. Williams’ production was fairly pedestrian during his time at both Clemson and Virginia Tech, but he possesses more ability than the stats might indicate.
“His lateral foot quickness in the run game and as a rusher can create early advantages but he’s still learning to convert the advantages into wins. Finding a fit will be important but the athleticism and play strength could create a competitive camp for Williams.”
Johnson, who attended Southridge High in South Florida, had 26 tackles, including 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in his one season at Miami.
Before that, he played four seasons at Tennessee and had 10 sacks there. He took a “30” visit with Arizona and impressed the Dolphins at their local workout day.
Though he played defensive end at UM, Clark indicated the Dolphins will look at him at outside linebacker.
“He has a lot of tools with edge-setting ability, rushing the passer, kind of that outside linebacker role,” Clark said. “Similar but different to the way we use” [Andrew Van Ginkel] and some of those other guys. He’s got it in him.
“He came to our [local] day and had a great day here. This will be really good for him, And I’m excited to see him.”
The local day is the NFL-sanctioned event that allows the Dolphins to work out players who grew up in South Florida or played high school or college football here.
“The Miami day is more athletic ability oriented,” Clark said. “But he definitely possesses all the traits. We will see where he is this weekend.”
Stille, like Virginia Tech’s Williams, has good size and the ability to play end and tackle.
He had 29.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks in five seasons at Nebraska.
Last season, the 6-5, 295-pound Stille had 42 tackles, including six for loss, 1.5 sacks and three passes defended. He’s skilled at batting down passes and had seven passes defended at Nebraska.
“Very experienced player,” Clark said. “Has position versatility. Played in a similar scheme [to Miami’s] and is a high effort player. High motor and has the mental makeup we want.”
Tyrone McKenzie, the Dolphins’ new outside linebackers coach, said “a couple things jumped off the tape” as the Dolphins were studying the seventh-rounder Goode:
“His effort. He’s got range, He’s got length. He can play SAM or JACK [linebacker] or [defensive] end. He is eager to learn. He understands there are things he did at college we loved. My job is to make sure we’re continuously developing.”
In 2021, Goode was named second-team All-Pac-12, closing with the season with 45 tackles — including 8.5 tackles for loss — and 6.5 sacks, plus four passes defended.
Carney, who’s 6-3 and 265 pounds, had 44 tackles, including 7.5 for loss, and six sacks at Illinois last season. The Miami Central High alum had 19 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks in five seasons for the Illini.
NFLdraftbuzz.com sized him up this way:
“Has the pursuit skills to stay in the action. Anticipates the snap. Country strong and very physical; seeks contact….
“He’s not an elite pass rusher and projects as a left end in a 4-3 defense. If he layers on more muscle, he might fit in the 3-4. Challenges inside with quickness and strong hands. Run-and-chase defender who can leave a mark.”
But… “He has the initial burst off the snap but only phone-booth quickness overall and doesn’t make as many plays behind the line of scrimmage as his ability to penetrate would indicate.”
There are two big questions left in this Dolphins offseason:
1) Do they have left guard Connor Williams play center, stick with Michael Deiter there or explore an outside option?
2) Do they stick with exactly what they have in their front seven, or they do bring in an established veteran to complement either the key linemen (Emmanuel Ogbah, Christian Wilkins, Raekwon Davis, Zach Sieler, Adam Butler) or the key linebackers ( Jerome Baker, Elandon Roberts, Duke Riley, Tindall, Jaelan Phillips and Andrew Van Ginkel)?
Evaluating these six rookies won’t be the determining factor in answering the latter question, but it will play a role.
Here’s my Thursday piece with the backstory on the Dolphins’ signing of Texas A&M University-Commerce cornerback Kader Kohou, with a large financial guarantee.
This story was originally published May 12, 2022 3:43 PM.