In sports, “taking the leap” could be just a fallacy, an overused generality that sportswriters like to use. Whether a player’s development is instantaneous or gradual, though, an unexpected jump from a young player can change a team’s whole dynamic.
Improving the defense’s pass rush is still a hot button issue, and it could even be addressed at this week’s draft. But what if the Dolphins can get it internally? They already have Olivier Vernon and Kheeston Randall, both of whom flashed semi-regularly last year; waiting in the wings, ready, perhaps, to make a larger impact in year two.
Former All-Pro defensive end Jason Taylor — who along with Bob Griese and Dan Marino will participate in Thursday night’s uniform evolution at Sun Life Stadium — called in to The Finsiders to give some first-hand perspective on how a young defensive lineman adjusts to the professional game.
“Look, they have good coaching there in Miami. Kacy Rodgers is one of the best defensive line coaches I’ve ever been around. He does a fantastic job, and he will get guys to learn. Sometimes it doesn’t click in the first month; sometimes it takes a year or two. But when that light bulb goes off, watch out.”
Though he certainly made an impact during his rookie season, Taylor said that he, like anyone else, needed to refine his skills as he picked up the professional game. The presence of a few veterans certainly helped to smooth the transition — Taylor’s numbers immediately spiked following his solid rookie season, jumping from five sacks to nine. Just as he had Trace Armstrong and others to help him along, Taylor was able to mentor Cam Wake as he made the move from the CFL.
Now, the cycle continues. Another year playing alongside a veteran like Wake — a pass rusher as polished as they come — could help the Dolphins’ young defensive linemen.
“You have to have patience,” Taylor said. “In this league of what have you done for me lately and instantaneous results, guys sometimes aren’t very patient. I was very lucky that Jimmy Johnson, back in ‘97 when I came in, threw me in the mix, said go out there and play, do what you do, be athletic, find the football. And he was patient as I learned the intricacies of playing the position.”
He’s now a few years removed from playing, but Taylor’s role at ESPN allows him to keep an eye on the Dolphins and stay quite plugged in. The team’s ability to target and eventually sign Mike Wallace, whom Taylor said was the “No. 1 free agent wide receiver out there,” could help the entire franchise take a big jump forward in 2013.
“It’s kudos to Jeff Ireland and Coach Philbin and the staff for being able to get that done,” Taylor said. ”Now, I think that’s the beginning of the project that is the 2013 offseason, and they understand that. So with a plethora of draft picks and some money to spend, hopefully we can this thing turned around pretty quickly.”
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.