Busta Anderson reflects on AAF experience
The Dolphins rummaged through the shuttered Alliance of American Football more aggressively than any other team, plucking eight players who played in that doomed spring league earlier this season.
None of the eight did anything in particular to jump out to the naked eye in the five practices open to reporters in May or June, and it remains to be seen if a single one of them will make the team.
But at least a couple have a legitimate chance to stick if they’re impressive in training camp and preseason.
“The guys we brought in, they had some success in the AAF,” coach Brian Flores said. “They’re good players. They’re good people. They’ll come in and have an opportunity to show what they can do, and if they can help this team win games, then they’ll be out there, that’s for sure.”
Where each of the eight stands, and what the Dolphins see in each of them:
▪ Linebacker/edge rusher Tyrone Holmes, who was a 2016 sixth-round pick by Jacksonville out of Montana, got some first-team work early in the offseason program, and the Dolphins want a long look at him in camp.
“Can stand up, do a lot of things, defend the run, drop into coverage if you need it,” Dolphins co-director of player personnel Anthony Hunt told the team’s website.
He had nine tackles and a sack in 15 NFL games for Cleveland in 2016 and 2017 and was out of the league last season.
The Dolphins are intrigued by Holmes, who got a $15,000 signing bonus and $50,000 guaranteed.
▪ Linebacker/edge rusher Jayrone Elliott, the AAF’s best pass rusher with 7.5 sacks, wasn’t particularly noticeable in any of the practices open to reporters, but he has the most NFL experience of the bunch.
He has played in 39 NFL games, mostly with Green Bay, and has four career sacks. But he has appeared in just one NFL game the past two seasons (for Dallas in 2017). The Saints released him before the start of last season.
“He can rush the passer, drop into coverage and set the edge as a run defender,” Hunt said. “His skill set we really liked watching him in the AAF this year.”
Elliott got a $50,000 bonus and $75,000 guaranteed and could stick if he has an impressive preseason.
▪ Defensive tackle Joey Mbu is battling Adolphus Washington, Jamiyus Pittman and others for potentially one job behind tackles Christian Wilkins, Davon Godchaux, Akeem Spence and Vincent Taylor.
Miami could keep five tackles because the Dolphins will use their tackles as ends in a 3-4.
Mbu has seven tackles in nine NFL games — two for Atlanta in 2015 and seven for the Colts in 2017.
“Another big man, 36-inch arms, heavy body,” Hunt said.
▪ Receiver Reece Horn, who was a fairly obscure prospect coming out of Indianapolis College in 2016, is battling undrafted rookies Preston Williams and Trenton Irwin, as well as Brice Butler and Isaiah Ford, for a fifth and possible sixth receiving jobs.
A clear underdog in this battle, Horn will get a chance in preseason to make his case.
“Reece, we thought, was one of the best route runners in the AAF,” Hunt said. “Exceptional hands. A little older . This will be his first time with an NFL team. Stood out in that league with very good hands, run after catch [ability].”
▪ Maryland alum Michael Dunn got some second-team and third-team guard snaps in the offseason program, and Pittsburgh alum Jaryd Jones-Smith also got backup reps at tackle. Both are underdogs to stick entering camp.
Dunn, according to Hunt, is “smart, [has] versatility. Guys that can play inside, outside, both left and right are very valuable for us. Our new offensive line coach [Pat Flaherty] had him in Jacksonville on the practice squad, worked with him, knows what kind of person he is and player he is.”
And Hunt said Jones-Smith, who’s 6-7, has “very long arms. Very hard to get around. True power, when he leans on defenders, gets push in the run game. Great kid.”
▪ Kenneth Farrow, a University of Houston alum, is competing with Mark Walton and rookies Myles Gaskin and Patrick Laird for a third and potential fourth running back jobs.
Farrow’s NFL experience all came in 2016, when he appeared in 13 games and started two for the Chargers, rushing 60 times for 192 yards (a modest 3.2 average) with 13 catches for 70 yards.
“Very versatile, can run, can catch,” Hunt said. “Pass protection is probably one of his better attributes. Felt very good about the person and player we’re bringing in.”
▪ Cornerback Jamar Summers, undrafted out of Connecticut in 2018, did nothing especially notable in open spring practices, beyond being beaten on a long pass on the final day of the offseason program. He’s an underdog to stick.
Regardless of whether the Dolphins end up extracting anything meaningful from the AAF, it was still worth the low-risk summer investment, because Miami had plenty of spots to fill on its 90-man roster when the league folded this past spring.
SUPER BOWL CHANGE
Less than seven months before South Florida hosts the Super Bowl, there has been a change in leadership in the committee overseeing South Florida’s organizing team.
Ray Martinez, the former police chief for the city of Miami Beach, is the new executive director of the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee. He replaces Mike Zimmer, who resigned for personal reasons.
Rodney Barreto, the committee’s chairman, said Zimmer was not asked to leave the position and said the transition will be smooth because Martinez has been working as the committee’s vice president of operations for the past year.
Martinez also previously served as assistant police chief for the city of Miami and as director of security for the Ultra Music Festival.
“Ray intimately knows everybody, knows the politicians and the administration and the NFL,” Barreto said. “He’s well-informed. We won’t miss a beat.”
The Super Bowl will be held at Hard Rock Stadium on Feb. 3, 2020.
Six months ago, the NFL asked Barreto to sign documents if Miami had interest in hosting the Super Bowl in 2025, 2026 and 2027. He signed those documents and now awaits the next step in the process. It’s unclear how many cities are competing for those games.
“So we’re hoping it’s signal from NFL that they will get back into some kind of rotation,” Barreto said.