For the entirety of Miami Dolphins‘ All-Pro defensive end, Cameron Wake‘s, destructive career, the Miami Dolphins have lacked a legitimate pass rushing threat opposite the former Penn State standout.
Last season, Jared Odrick was the team’s latest attempt to fill the void opposite Wake. Odrick played to the best of his ability against the run, but had little to no presence as a pass rusher – which is to be expected from a defensive tackle playing defensive end…
The team desperately needs to find a young threat to pair with the athletic and destructive Wake. Sure the Dolphins are in a great position via the draft to select a youngster to pair with Wake. But two of the better options for Miami (Dion Jordan of Oregon and Ziggy Ansah of BYU) shined during February’s Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. If Miami were to decide to select a pass rusher with their first round selection, currently slated at number 12, the team would likely have to take the time to develop a player rather than select a player ready to play right now.
If the team does not feel comfortable about their current position in the NFL Draft, who could Miami possibly sign to pair with Wake? Options such as Dwight Freeney (Indianapolis), John Abraham (Atlanta), and Osi Umenyiora (New York Giants) are all aging quickly. And Michael Johnson, the Cincinnati Bengal‘s standout defensive end, was recently slapped with the Franchise Tag.
Enter defensive end Michael Bennett.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Michael Bennett, could be an under-the-radar player to keep a close eye on during the fast approaching free agency period. Bennett, who played left defensive end for the Bucs last season, managed to collect 9 sacks last season on his way to 15 for his young career. The former Texas A&M Aggie also managed to tally 48 quarterback hurries last season, ranking third among 4-3 defensive ends according to Pro Football Focus. Bennett is incredibly athletic for his position displaying speed and quickness off the edge as a speed rusher.
Take a minute to check out Bennett if you are unfamiliar with the name.
Now, let’s break down Bennett’s game using the video above.
As I had mentioned above, Bennett is quite a good athlete at the defensive end position. Possessing the desired “get-off speed” that defensive coordinators covet, it’s crazy to think how Tampa does not want Bennett’s services for the next four to six years. His explosiveness off the line of scrimmage gives him the ability to set up whichever technique he wants to use to beat the blocker.
The next step is the bench press process (I tend to call it the “Smash AND Trash”) or whichever technique the defensive player decides to use (swim, rip, spin, etc.). Yes, we all can see that in this instance the defensive end is being blocked by a tight end, but Cowboys’ tight end, Jason Witten is no slouch when it comes to blocking. Bennett possesses the technique to get his hands inside on the opposing player, and use his strength, as my high school coach used to say, to “JACK HIM UP!!” If a defensive end can get the opposing blocker on his heels, the defender will win the situation every single time.
The next process is known as “the pursuit”. Bennett’s athletic ability allows his speed to take over after he sheds the blocker. His pursuit of Cowboys’ quarterback, Tony Romo, here, is almost “text-book” as they say. Staying low with sprinter-like form while also remaining in an attack mode. Warning, the next part is amazing if you hate the Cowboys.
And finally, we have that special moment that every defensive lineman absolutely L-O-V-E-S! The sack. Bennett’s form on his tackle is absolutely excellent. Not only is Bennett launching his body into the quarterback, his head is “attacking” the ball – which eventually leads to a forced fumble if you viewed the video. Bennett’s slightly arched back is what gives his hit power – which truly comes from his legs (which is a reason you DON’T skip leg day! Do those squats, guy!).
Is Michael Bennett the answer at defensive end for Miami? That remains to be seen. Last season was the first time in Bennett’s three-year career that he actually played in all sixteen games. Durability could become a question mark for Bennett’s incredibly lean 274-pound frame. But there’s no doubt in my mind that Bennett could form a deadly-duo with Cameron Wake in south beach.
Bennett surely is quite an intriguing option for Miami moving forward, though. Look for Miami to, at the very least, bring Bennett in for a work-out when the free agency period officially begins.
Verdict: PAY THE MAN and address the secondary in the first round of the NFL Draft come April (Xavier Rhodes???).