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Veteran cornerback Brent Grimes has had an impressive journey in his first season with the Miami Dolphins.
Defensive end Olivier Vernon has taken his game to an entirely different level in his second season with the Dolphins.
Cameron Wake, though injured or slowed by injuries for some of the season, has nonetheless remained one of the most impactful players on this defense.
Taking into account both length and accuracy, Brandon Fields may just be the best punter in the league.
These are my four choices to represent the Dolphins in the Pro Bowl. Yes, it’s still early. Things can change in a hurry. Voting doesn’t conclude until later this month. Late-season surges are commonplace in this league. But, at this precise moment, these are the four that I believe have the best shot.
Certainly there are others worth considering: Defensive tackle Jared Odrick has had his most consistent season. But without many game-changing moments, it’s hard to get the national recognition. Tight end Charles Clay has done some wonderful things for this offense. But I’m not sure the numbers are eye-popping enough and, besides, the competition at tight end is awfully stiff.
The Pro Bowl will be different this year. Yes, the fans and players and coaches are still voting, but there will be no AFC vs. NFC. Instead, trying to spice things up a little, once the Pro Bowl players are announced there will be a draft to determine the two rosters. But that won’t diminish the significance of getting chosen to appear in the game.
You look at the Dolphins, you evaluate who has stood out this season, and those four players rapidly come to the forefront of my mind, four players who have every right to seriously think about a trip to Hawaii in January.
Let’s take them one-by-one:
• Cornerback Brent Grimes: I asked defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle if it is true that Grimes has not given up a touchdown pass this season. “From what I have seen,” Coyle said, “it sure doesn’t seem like he has.”
So he’s got four interceptions, no touchdown passes surrendered and, for the most part, he goes up against the opponent’s top receiver every week. What more proof than that do you need? Grimes, you can argue, has had a better season than any Dolphins cornerback in a long time.
He brings so much to this defense. Remarkable athletic abilities. A level of confidence that you just can’t teach. A go-for-it type of approach. And the ability to make important plays at the most important times.
“I’m just doing what I love to do,” Grimes says. “I just wanted to show this team and my teammates that I can play.”
He has certainly done just that.
• Defensive end Olivier Vernon: We heard whispers in training camp that Vernon was the most improved player on this defense. But you hear whispers all the time and they often don’t amount to anything. These whispers were different. These whispers spoke the truth.
Through a dozen games, Vernon has already produced 10 ½ sacks (tied for fifth in the league) including a statement making three-sack performance last Sunday against the Jets, a showing impressive enough to earn him AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Certainly what he does over the next couple of games could cement his Pro Bowl status, but if the resume you are evaluating is season-to-date, Vernon has all the credentials you are looking for.
“He has been a demon in one-on-one pass rush since training camp,” said Coyle. “He certainly has stepped up his game.”
Said Vernon: “I’ve been blessed this season.”
• Defensive end Cameron Wake: It’s hard to imagine selecting two defensive ends from the same team, but Wake certainly deserves to be in the conversation along with Vernon. Wake needs a few more impactful plays over the next couple of weeks because his 6 ½ sacks aren’t enough to wow many people.
But he did have that game-winning sack/safety against Cincinnati on national television and he has been double-teamed quite often this season. Besides, reputation matters in Pro Bowl voting and Wake has already been invited two other times (2010 and 2012) so that could be a factor in getting in a third time.
If anything holds him back, it will be a sprained knee that kept him out of a couple of games and slowed him down in a few others. “For me,” Wake says, “it’s all about winning, it’s all about team goals.”
• Punter Brandon Fields: He is, statistically, the best punter this franchise has ever had and there have been some very good ones. He led the league a year ago in gross average and, heading into this season, was second all-time in that category.
Isn’t it time he was rewarded with a trip to Hawaii? Fields is having another splendid season. After 12 games, he is ranked near the top of the league in most every punting category. Each game, it seems, there is a Fields moment, either one of those booming kicks that leaves your mouth wide open or maybe one of those field position kicks that bounces inside the 5-yard line and then somehow dies right there. Why, we’ve seen a few of his punts make a sharp right hand turn just before crossing the goal line. Heady stuff.
“Playing in the Pro Bowl would be a great honor,” Fields said. “I’ve put up consistent numbers, but you have to remember only two punters get selected to this game. There are some excellent punters in this league.”
But does Fields believe he is deserving? “Yes,” he said without hesitation.
In a matter of a few short weeks, we’ll find out if the fans and the rest of league agree.
On Friday, AC in the AM breaks down Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.