“I think the Miami Dolphins and Jeff Ireland will look back and say they got three first-rounders in this draft in terms of Ryan Tannehill, Olivier Vernon, and Lamar Miller. Both guys (Vernon and Miller) are incredibly talented and they’ve got so much in front of them right now.” This quote came from Al Golden, the University of Miami head football coach, when he joined The Finsiders back in June to discuss his two former standout Canes. Although the jury is still out on Miller due to his limited playing time, the fans got a taste of Vernon’s explosiveness in this past weekend’s win against the St. Louis Rams. In my opinion, the future is bright for Olivier Vernon.
At 6-2 and 268 pounds, Vernon’s technique, strength, and speed as a defensive end for the Canes enticed the Dolphins to select him in the third-round this past April. They envisioned him as a pass rushing specialist opposite of Cameron Wake, who will be key on third downs in nickel and dime packages.
They also have Vernon involved in all facets of the special teams, where he has been a solid contributor. In my opinion, he has definitely earned the “hit of the year” thus far when he knocked out the Oakland Raider’s kickoff return man, Coye Francis. If you already forgot about that hit, feel free to YouTube it. Parental discretion is advised.
But as a pass rusher, Ireland and the coaching staff’s plan for Vernon came to fruition against the Rams when he recorded two HUGE sacks. Most importantly, they both occurred in critical situations of the game when the Dolphins’ defense needed a big play.
The first one occurred during the second quarter when the Rams were driving, already up 6 to 0. On third-and-six from the Miami 26 yard line, Vernon bolted through the line and took down QB Sam Bradford for a crucial eight yard loss. The sack pushed the Rams just back enough, causing their MVP kicker, Greg Zuerlein, to miss his first field goal of the year at 52 yards out. Vernon had made his first game changing play of the afternoon, but it wasn’t his last.
With less than one minute left in the game, the Rams were situated with a third-and-four at the Dolphins’ 45 yard line, trailing 17 to 14 with one timeout. Considering Zuerlein had been flawless prior to this game and recently kicked a 60 yard field goal two weeks prior against the Seattle Seahawks, the Rams only needed a couple of yards to be within his range. The Dolphins’ defense desperately needed to come up with a big play.
It was the rookie Vernon, who stepped up to the plate and sacked Bradford for a three yard loss. This put the Rams in a state of disarray and Coach Jeff Fisher had to burn his last timeout with four seconds left on the clock. They decided to go with the 66 yard field goal where Zuerlein ended up kicking wide left. And just like that, the game ended with a big victory for the Dolphins to go 3 and 3 before their bye week.
If you happened to miss the game and only read the stats in the newspaper, it would be easy to overlook the importance of Vernon’s performance. After a having a quiet start to the season, he finally had his break out game. He demonstrated his explosiveness as a pass rusher and became a complete drive killer for the Rams.
On a day where Dolphin greats, Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor, were honored at halftime by getting inducted into the Ring of Honor, it was only fitting that the game would end on a big defensive play. I think Al Golden could be on to something from his comments earlier in the season with The Finsiders. Maybe the Dolphins did get an extra first round pick? Oh yes Dolphin fans, the future is certainly bright for Olivier Vernon.