Alterraun Verner sees a “playoff team” in Miami

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 01: Julio Jones
ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 01: Julio Jones /

The Miami Dolphins added Alterraun Verner to their squad shortly after putting linebacker Koa Misi on injured reserve.

Verner is an interesting talent. A former Pro-Bowl player with the Tennessee Titans, Verner left the Titans after four seasons and joined the Tampa Buccaneers as a free agent. Drafted in the 4th round of the 2010 draft, Verner has played well in his career but after joining the Buc’s his play quickly declined.

His first two seasons with the Buc’s didn’t go well but many believe that had more to do with him not fitting into the Lovie Smith scheme. Last season he improved considerably under Dirk Koetter. On Thursday, Verner practiced for the first time with his new team.

It’s assumed that Verner will compete with Bobby McCain primarily as the teams slot corner. Xavien Howard and Byron Maxwell have the outsides handled but McCain hasn’t stepped up to the level that the Dolphins had hoped to see. It’s a camp competition to keep an eye on for sure.

The Dolphins typically keep between six and eight corners depending on special teams needs. This includes both corners and safeties. Last season the Dolphins kept nine total including four safeties and five corners. This means that there will be a tight battle at the position this off-season. Keep an eye out later for a review of this camp battle.

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Following yesterday’s practice Verner spoke with the media and answered their questions. He says he sees a “playoff team” in Miami but as has been speculated, can Miami repeat as a playoff team in 2017? Expectations are high.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

CB Alterraun Verner

(What was it about the Dolphins that you thought was a good opportunity for you?) – “One, a playoff team. They’ve been to the playoffs. It seems like they have a young nucleus and are building towards something. And just the atmosphere around here when I walked in – the competitiveness, the fire and everything. It just seemed like a good fit, a good time to compete and try to help out.”

(Had they reached out to you and your agent a while ago or was this just a recent thing where the first time you heard from them was in the last week or so?) – “I think they’ve been in communication. The first time I worked out was obviously when I did a couple of days ago. The rest just led to here.”

(Do you still think you’re the guy who was a Pro Bowl player three years ago? Those skills are still in you I assume, no?) – “No question. Things happen. I’m not here to put blame or excuses on anything; but yes, I’m only 28. If anything, I’m entering my prime and I’m better than what I was at that time. That’s the way I look at it. I got better and I definitely didn’t get worse.”

(How would you describe your on-field strengths? What are you best at?) – “I think just making plays on the ball. That’s something I’ve always taken pride in. Even in college, just getting my hands on the ball whether that’s getting an interception or batting a ball down, and just communicating and making tackles and things like that. I’ve always considered myself an all-around corner to do it all. To me, that’s my strength, that I can be used in so many ways and be effective for the team.”

(In Tampa, you were a standup guy in the locker room and always being a leader. What is that like to have a refreshing approach coming into this situation?) – “I guess with it being fresh – no pun intended – it’s just refreshing. It’s refreshing to have a clean slate again and work your way back up. I’ve been telling people, I feel like a rookie again, coming in here and just learning a new system, new playbook and new team. But it’s exciting. It’s exciting to get a helmet back on and just to do some football things. It’s more exciting and I’m ready to go.”

(What have you been told relative to opportunity to compete for a starting spot and all of that?) – “They just preach competition in all facets. They said just go out there and compete and then my play will speak for myself on where they’re going to put me. I think they’re going to use me in many different areas and wherever they put me at, that’s where I’m going to compete and try to work hard and see some snaps and get on the field. It’s definitely competition. I saw it from the first day today. Competition brings out the best in people and I experienced that all through my seven years (in the NFL).”

(Is this a very similar system that you played in when you were in Tennessee or with the Bucs?) – “I would say this is a mix between Tennessee and my UCLA days. The term might be called different but the way that it’s played is very similar to when I was in Tennessee and at UCLA.”

(How do you think your skillset lends itself to the slot position, the nickel position?) – “I think as a nickel, you have to know a lot more. There are a lot more nuances in the nickel because you’re an extension of a linebacker in a way. Most of the guys that are in the slot are going to be quick, so you have to be a big student of the game. You have to know what’s coming, you have to know where your help is and things like that. With me, I feel like I’m a smart player and have very good IQ, and I think I communicate very well. So I think those are some traits that they would probably like if I did play that spot.”

(If you had to estimate how much over your seven-year career you’ve played in the slot compared to the boundary, what percent ballpark would you say?) – “I would say it’s only been two of my seven years.”

(All the rest was outside?) – “Yes.”

(Do you get a sense here if you will be equal parts outside and slot? Or more slot here?) – “I think it’s going to be equal opportunity for either way. I think they’re looking for the best players going out there. They knew me coming in would create that competition for all places. I think that’s what you want. You want competition because you don’t want to just rest on your laurels and just kind of cruise out there. You want to have somebody at your heels chomping at you. There is no indication on which one I’m going to be playing. I’m going out there and I’m just going to go out there wherever they put me and see what happens.”

(What’s the first thing you notice about getting here to South Florida and this organization?) – “I think the fire and the competitiveness from everybody. You see a good camaraderie of people. Just out there, I haven’t been around in the secondary but I listen to the guys talk on the sidelines. I think that’s essential to being such a good team is just communication and trusting people. I can sense that through the guys even though I haven’t been here and been a part of it. It’s just encouragement, encouraging guys and that’s what you want. You want somebody that’s going to build you up but they compete with you at the same time. To me, those are signs of a good team.”

(What do you take from your Tampa experience, the years you spent there and what did you learn from them?) – “What I learned from Tampa is that the chips may be down on you or things may not go the right way or the way that you expect, but you have to find a way to bounce back and make the best of it. Just like Miami I guess last year. They started off 1-4 but they corrected what they made mistakes on and then they went on a run and made the playoffs. I think that’s the way you have to approach things. That’s the biggest thing I took away because there were times where we were losing or were down, or just situations that I might have been in – things of that nature – and you can’t just sulk and be down on yourself. You have to pick yourself up and find a way to make the play next time and find the way to get the next win. Those were the experiences that I think I learned the best.”

(What was it like being a player of your caliber out of work for this long?) – “It was different. It was different; it was weird. I was just telling Nate (Allen) that this is the first time I’ve put on a helmet since January 1st so it’s been a long time since I even had a helmet. It was weird seeing article and seeing guys, highlights and things. It was weird but it gives you an appreciation for the game and (makes you) realize that it’s a privilege to be on this stage and it’s not a right. It’s something that I’ve always known, but you get a better sense of it when you’re not doing it.”

(Do you have to work to chip away that doubt about yourself and your ability?) – “No.”

(Why so?) – “Because I know what type of player I am. Regardless of what people might think on the outside or what people might evaluate, that’s something I’ve been dealing with all my life. That’s why I was a fourth rounder. That’s why things happen the way that it’s been for me. There has been a lot of doubt but I’ve never had a doubt in my mind on how I could play or what I could do or what I’m capable of, because I know what God has blessed me with and I just go out and be my best.”