Young defensive linemen who can stop the run or rush the passer effectively – or both - are a valuable commodity, and the Dolphins appear to have found at least two and potentially others.
Skilled pass rusher Charles Harris, the Dolphins’ first-round pick, is expected to play about 25 to 30 snaps a game, and the Dolphins have been pleased with his progress. Harris has been a diligent worker, meeting about a half dozen times with Dolphins great Jason Taylor for on-field instruction before training camp began.
“You see the great pass rushers, those guys have that instantaneous step to get to the quarterback and get him back,” Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. “It’s not about getting close to him and getting him out of the pocket. It’s about getting him down and I think Charles has that. I think over time it’ll become easier and faster.”
But several later-round defensive linemen and undrafted free agents have also made an impression during camp.
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Rookie fifth-round pick Davon Godchaux played ahead of Jordan Phillips as the first-team defensive tackle, opposite Ndamukong Suh, for the eighth consecutive day on Sunday and continues to impress everyone.
“He’s explosive, good with his hands and really sudden off the ball,” said Dolphins guard/center Jake Brendel, who has tried to block him in practice.
Defensive line coach Terrell Williams said Godchaux is “doing what you want a defensive tackle to do. He’s strong, physical.”
Suh said Sunday that Godchaux is “a willing learner, which is what I love most about him. He just soaks it up. He’s a kid who’s very aggressive, gets off the ball. He’s what our defense primarily is built around, getting off the ball, being attack-style. I think he started to do a good job of that.”
Harris and Godchaux project to be part of the rotation, but other rookie defensive linemen have turned heads, too:
• Vincent Taylor, the sixth-round defensive tackle, had three tackles in the preseason opener and has made several eye-opening plays during practice, to hold running plays to minimal gains.
“He’s a really strong guy,” Brendel said. “If you’re not balanced against him, you are going to” have trouble.
• Defensive end Cameron Malveaux, an undrafted rookie, had only 3 ½ sacks combined in four years at the University of Houston but had a sack in the preseason opener and has generated heat on the quarterback in practice.
• Undrafted Temple defensive end Praise Martin-Oguike has made some disruptive plays in practice and has the most interesting back story of the rookie defensive linemen.
In May 2012, he was dropped from the Temple football team and expelled from school after a female Temple student accused him of rape.
The woman told police that Martin-Oguike assaulted her in his dorm room. Martin-Oguike said the encounter was consensual.
Martin-Oguike proclaimed his innocence, but Temple disassociated itself from him after charges were filed. He told the Fox affiliate in Philadelphia that “being black, the odds were against me. There were times where people were negative, trying to give me different scenarios and how I could be sent to jail for a long time.”
But Martin-Oguike said his attorney James Funt discovered evidence that convinced the district attorney to drop the case before it went to trial, just days before jury selection.
“Thousands of text messages and chats revealed a consensual relationship between the complainant and Praise and reveal a motive for filing the charges,” Funt told the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia.
Those messages, Funt said, included text messages to friends that suggested she was not being truthful.
Funt said his client was victimized by the woman “simply because he would not agree to have a romantic long-term relationship with her.”
The district attorney’s office said only: “Upon further investigation it was determined there was not enough evidence to proceed to trial.”
For Oguike, the relief was profound.
“It was a blessing, not knowing what’s going on and finally hearing the news,” he said. “That’s just not the type of person I am. And just knowing that—it just hurt so bad. It was very stressful. Luckily, I have a strong support system that helped me get through it. I thank God I got through it and came out sane.”
Temple moved quickly to reinstate him- “I spoke to one of the Temple coaches the next day and they said they would like to have me back.” Though he ended up missing two seasons, he thrived over his final three seasons, producing 17 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and six blocked kicks.
Haason Reddick, his friend and former Temple teammate, was drafted 13th overall by Arizona this past April after producing 65 tackles and 9.5 sacks as a senior. Martin-Oguike, conversely, went undrafted after generating 54 tackles and 7.5 sacks.
Did Martin-Oguike feel overlooked?
“You always want to be recognized,” he said. “But I still have my opportunity here. I'm blessed to be here. I was expected to be drafted. I have no idea why I wasn’t. I know I'm an NFL player. It's a prove it league. I'm here to prove it.”
A Nigerian born son of a New Jersey minister, Martin-Oguike – along with Malveaux - have emerged as prime practice squad candidates.
And Adam Gase likes how all of his rookie defensive linemen have developed, with Harris and Godchaux leading the group.
“It’s tough to go against them in practice,” he said. “It’s made the whole team better. They can disrupt practice very easily. When you see the effort you are seeing, it’s been impressive.”
Here are a lot of Dolphins personnel notes after Sunday’s practice, including news on Jay Ajayi, Leonte Carroo and Isaac Asiata, plus UM football personnel news, Dion Waiters weighing in and the Heat beginning a search.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz