Haason Reddick could be missing piece for Dolphins’ defense

Sep 5, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Temple Owls defensive linesmen Haason Reddick (58) during the second quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Lincoln Financial Field. Temple defeated Penn State 27-10. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 5, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Temple Owls defensive linesmen Haason Reddick (58) during the second quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Lincoln Financial Field. Temple defeated Penn State 27-10. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dolphins’ defense seemed lost for much of last year.  Temple prospect Haason Reddick could be the closest thing to a cure-all for the Dolphins in this year’s draft.

As the NFL draft rapidly approaches, few players are ascending draft boards like former Temple Owl Haason Reddick.

Reddick played defensive end for the Owls, collecting a team-leading 10.5 sacks last year.  He also posted a staggering 22.5 tackles for loss during his senior season.

He went on to light up the scouting combine, posting freakish measurable across the board, including the fastest 40-yard dash (4.52 seconds) and largest broad jump (11′ 1″) among defensive line participants.

Before all this, Reddick excelled as a high school safety and running back in his hometown Camden, New Jersey.

Reddick, once considered a mid-round draft prospect, will likely not escape the first round of April’s draft.

Reddick the “tweener”

Some argue that Reddick’s size (6′ 1″, 237 lbs) makes him a “tweener.” This is a player without a true positional home.  After all, he went from playing high school safety to manning the edge of the defensive line in college.

Learning this, I longingly thought, “If only there were a position in football that combined the ability to defend the passing game in space with the ability to man up against offensive linemen and make plays near the line of scrimmage.”

I voiced my concerns to a local football expert, and he informed me that such a position does in fact exist, and that it is called a linebacker (not sure on spelling.)

After discovering the linebacker, I decided to look into whether or not our tweener Reddick had any experience playing the position.  It turns out that Reddick lined up almost exclusively at linebacker during his week of practice at January’s Senior Bowl, and by all accounts excelled at his new position, prompting prominent draftnik Mike Mayock to report:

"“I don’t think he lost a rep. He bounced around and made plays all week.”"

He reportedly approached the transition with a great attitude, and quickly embraced the responsibilities of his new position and acclimation to the switch with ease.

Last year’s defensive struggles

The Miami Dolphins’ need for an infusion of talent at the linebacker position is no mystery.  Despite having one of the more talented defensive lines in the league, the Dolphins run defense has floundered in recent years.  They ranked 30th in the NFL for the 2016 season.

The defense installed by now-Broncos’ Head Coach Vance Joseph employs a gap-shooting philosophy by the defensive linemen, designed to  wreak havoc on opposing running backs and offensive linemen.  However, the success of this defensive strategy is predicated on the ability of the linebacker to clean up the scraps after the linemen have disrupted the play.

Too often last year the linebackers were out of position, or simply unable to shed their blockers in time to make plays on the ball. The Dolphins were repeatedly gashed by the likes of Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount, and LeSean McCoy.

The Dolphins’ linebackers also struggled defending the pass last season.  Only five teams allowed more receptions to running backs.  Only two teams allowed more touchdowns to tight ends.  Last year the Dolphins got surprisingly good play from their cornerbacks. The linebackers were simply not able to hold up their share of the load in coverage.

Too often teams were able to extend drives on the Dolphins because Miami’s linebackers did not have the speed to beat a running back to the edge on a swing pass or to cover a tight end or receiver on a crossing route.

Reddick’s fit with the Dolphins

In today’s NFL, it is absolutely crucial to have linebackers that can play both the run and the pass.

The Dolphins’ signing of Lawrence Timmons and their extension of Kiko Alonso indicates that their linebacking troubles have not gone unnoticed by the front office.  Nonetheless, there is still work to be done if the Dolphins wish to field an effective group at the position.

Many expect that Alonso will kick outside to play weak side linebacker with Timmons manning the middle of field.  Perennially injured Koa Misi and a grab bag of former UDFA’s are Miami’s only options to play SAM linebacker.  To be frank, none of these optional are acceptable.

That is where the aforementioned Reddick comes into play.

The Dolphins would be fortunate to draft Reddick with the 22nd pick of April’s NFL Draft. Doing so would be a great stride toward fielding a formidable defensive roster.

Just imagine Reddick snaring the likes of Dion Lewis before he gains valuable first down yardage to extend a drive. He did, after all, run faster at the combine than Lewis did.

Imagine Reddick utilizing his history as a ball-hawking safety to play tight ends and receivers.  He did, after all, jump higher at the combine than AJ Green did.

Imagine the added dimension of his ability to rush the passer at a high level.  He did, after all, jump a whole foot farther in the broad jump than NFL phenom JJ Watt did.

Final word

Heading into the draft, the Dolphins’ defensive puzzle is almost complete.  They have solid or elite players at every position on their defense, with only one gaping hole.

This year’s draft is loaded with defensive talent that could perhaps fill that hole and complete the puzzle.  However, only Haason Reddick is the perfect fit.  Only he is the player that could snap into place and immediately complete the Dolphins’ D.