Armando Salguero

Dolphins about to make changes on defense that mitigate need for prototype DEs

Did you hear that? Did you get an earful of that, that, bombshell?

It came during the Miami Dolphins pre-draft press conference on Wednesday. So, yes, amazingly during an exercise when Dolphins general manager Chris Grier and executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum are talking to the media but not really trying to say anything of value, this thing happened.

Something very interesting came to the surface.

Seems the Dolphins, who last year under defensive coordinator Vance Joseph insisted they wanted prototype sized players all over the field — especially along the defensive line, linebacker and at cornerback — are this year ready to soften on that position.

“You’ve been around us for a year and we’ve always talked about guys that are tough, competitive and love football,” Grier said. “We always talk about prototype, but with that being said, there are players that aren’t always. Like Jason Taylor wouldn’t be a prototype player and he’s going into the Hall of Fame.

“At the end of the day, you’re just looking for good football players really and guys that have high character, are smart and they love the game. At the end of the day, if you don’t have those qualities, you’re not going to be successful in this league. So you’re right. There are all shapes and sizes in this draft so it’s a good draft for rush ends.”

And that leads to two more important nuggets from Grier.

The Dolphins are off the prototype train ... well, not off, but not exactly strapped into their seat, either ... because new defensive coordinator Matt Burke is going to make some changes to the defense that will apparently make room for smaller edge rushers, if nothing else.

“I think the one good thing of working with Matt Burke here as we’ve gone through it is Matt’s talked about even though some of those guys may not be that prototype you’re looking for with 4-3 ends is that how we’re going to do things a little bit different than before,” Grier announced loudly and amazingly and to the great surprise of everyone although no one seemed to really get it right away!

“He thinks those guys can fit and play,” Grier said of the undersized edge rushers. “We’ve had a lot of discussions about the scheme and how we’re going to use the players and stuff. For us, it’s still the traits. You look at the traits and what the players can do and then you try and balance it out in terms of what they can do in terms of playing the run, the physical toughness ... As long as guys are willing to be physical at the point of attack against the run, it gives you a chance to be successful, no matter what size. The Elvis Dumervils of the world, those types of guys have always been good football players — undersized d-ends.”

Yeah, um, Miami’s undersized defensive ends got pushed around a bit in the run game last year. And apparently Burke is going to tweak the defense to where an undersized defensive end can still prosper in Miami — be he a veteran or a new draft pick.

That’s interesting. It’s a big deal if it works.

And that adds significance and intrigue in the coming NFL Draft because suddenly the edge rushers the Dolphins might have otherwise discarded might suddenly be in play for Miami.

Yes, guys like Deatrich Wise Jr., who is 6-6 and 271 pounds, still fit the prototype. (I like this kid).

But Derek Barnett, who is 6-3 and 259 pounds, is now in play. (Thankfully, because he’s the guy I like most at the position as of this week.)

It seems as if Missouri’s Charles Harris, who is 6-3 and 253, might also be a fit — assuming he’s available at No. 22, which is no certainty.

Mississippi State’s Jonathan Calvin, who is 6-3 and 255 — a late-round type player or an undrafted free agent possibility — becomes more of a possibility.

Grier was talking specifically about defensive ends and edge rushers. But if we apply this modified way of viewing talent to other positions it opens the door for someone such as Jarrad Davis at linebacker.

Davis is not the linebacker prototype at 6-1 and 238. But he’s productive. He’s a downhill tackler (sometimes too much so) and he has a burst. Some are speculating Davis will be a second or third day pick.

Don’t be surprised if he goes late in the first round. Even if he’s not a 4-3 LB prototype.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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