In Isa Abdul-Quddus, the Dolphins hope they finally have acquired the ideal complement at safety to Reshad Jones — a high-IQ player who’s physical and disciplined, and more durable than Louis Delmas, who couldn’t stick longterm in the role because of knee injuries.
The Dolphins also have something unique in their new starting safety: He’s one of the NFL’s few Muslim players.
“It’s real big with my mother, so we pray together,” he said Tuesday.
And Abdul-Quddus open about his opposition to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States.
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“I hope people are smart enough to not elect that man,” he said Tuesday about Trump. “He says a lot of ridiculous things. I can only imagine what he’ll do in office.”
Regarding Trump’s suggested ban on Muslins from entering the country, Abdul-Quddus said: “I don’t even get offended any more because it’s like every day, he says something ridiculous. You can’t even take him serious anymore. I chalk it up to him trying to get press, trying to get his name in the newspaper.”
Abdul-Quddus, a native of Newark, New Jersey, has been saddened that terrorist attacks by radical Islamists have created an anti-Muslim bias among some Americans.
“It's giving it a bad name, because that's the only way Muslims get into the news anymore,” he told the Detroit Free Press last December. “Like, you don't really see anything positive. It's only negative. So now [some] people think evil is correlated with being Muslim, and that's messed up. The majority of the religion — 99.99 percent — aren't that. But that 0.01 is what ruins it for all of us.
“I just think people need to be a little more open-minded about [generalizing about Muslims], because if a Christian came and killed thousands of people, they wouldn't say, 'Oh, I hate Christianity and we need to kill all Christians.' I think we really need [to avoid] specifying this group of people as being evil, and just see that evil is evil, and it's not about religion.”
The Dolphins like Abdul-Quddus’ communication skills on the field because too often last season, communication issues led to breakdowns in coverage.
Before he signed a three-year, $12.75 million deal with the Dolphins in March, Pro Football Focus called Abdul-Quddus the No. 1 bargain in free agency, noting he ranked 19th overall among safeties, “was particularly effective against the run” and had “positives grades in coverage and as a pass-rusher.”
The Dolphins liked his work as a starter in Detroit over the final eight games last season as well as his physicality, defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo said.
They also like his intelligence, and believe with Abdul-Quddus in the back end, the defense won’t be compromised as much if Jones, a Pro Bowler last season, gambles for a turnover. Abdul-Quddus has two career interceptions, none since 2012.
“He’s done a great job,” coach Adam Gase said. “We knew what we got when we signed him. He has really shown what we saw on tape.”
Dolphins defensive tackle Ndadumukong Suh said “he will complement Reshad very well. They’re both great tacklers. Isa is a head hunter and finds the ball and makes plays. I enjoyed playing with him in 2014 in Detroit.”
The Dolphins consider their safeties interchangeable — they don’t designate a strong safety and free safety — and that has strategic benefits.
“It makes it tough because you can't predict where everybody's going to be,” Gase said. “Maybe if [Jones] was always the down guy, at least [the opponent] could say 'Hey, I'm always going to run away from him.'… But when those guys can either go down, in the middle, it makes it tough as a play-caller. Now you don't have that advantage to stay away from somebody."
The pairing with Jones excites Abdul-Quddus because “we both can do a lot. We just make sure we can disguise everything.”
Abdul-Quddus, who went undrafted out of Fordham in 2011, said he “was so mad at myself” for missing a tackle on the Giants’ first drive in Friday’s preseason game. “That’s why I was taking a conscious effort on tackling this week. I don’t like doing that.”
After started 16 regular-season games in five seasons with New Orleans and Detroit, Abdul-Quddus is heartened by the prospect of becoming a full-time starter for the first time.
“It shows,” he said, “that at the end there is a rainbow sometimes.”
Herald sportswriter Elliott Lapin contributed to this report.