Even if Dontari Poe doesn’t sign with the Miami Dolphins, perhaps his visit to South Florida on Wednesday will have a positive effect on the 2017 season.
Consider Jordan Phillips.
So let’s suppose Phillips is hanging out with fellow defensive tackle and mentor Ndamukong Suh. And let’s suppose the conversation goes something like this:
Phillips: “We got our man (Andre) Branch back. Suh, we’re gonna kill it next season.”
Suh: “Yeah, hey, did you hear Poe is coming here for a visit?”
We all know the feeling when you get the sudden clue someone may be going after your girl, the last Girl Scout cookie or, well, your job. That rush of anxiety.
Hey, what does this mean for me?
And, frankly, even if Poe never signs, the idea Miami brought in for a visit a player who figures to command somewhere between $4 and $8 million (hard to predict what it would take to get this one done) should a motivating impact on Phillips.
Did we mention Poe plays defensive tackle, the same position as Phillips?
The Dolphins drafted Phillips with the 52nd overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft because he is a mountain of a man who flashed highlights of sudden explosiveness that suggested he could, maybe, be great.
But as former Dolphins defensive coordinator (and current Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph) told me near the end of last season: “Jordan is a player that, if you can take his explosive or flash plays, you can make a tape and it’s special. But you can take his bad plays also and make a low-light tape. So he’s a young player that’s inconsistent. He’s obviously a big man with talent. If he’s on and doing it right, he can be a special help to us this weekend; but he’s got to put the bad plays to rest.”
Joseph told the truth. Because well, that’s what he does.
What’s interesting is that the premise of my question was based on the idea that there was a stretch against New England where Phillips seemed to show all he was capable of.
The following comments from an early January edition of “The Tape Don’t Lie” are perhaps the most complementary comments published in the Daily Dolphin about Phillips last season:
Anyone who is ready to give up on Phillips should watch nine snaps at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth quarter on Sunday, when the Oklahoma product completely and utterly dominated a man named Joe Thuney, who plays left guard for the Patriots. First, Phillips beat Thuney inside with a very explosive first step and blasted LeGarrette Blount for a 1-yard loss. Six defensive snaps later, Phillips overpowered his man, threw him backwards and bear-hugged Dion Lewis for a 1-yard loss. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Phillips overwhelmed the left guard again and drew a holding. Second snap of the fourth quarter? Yeah, again. You get the idea. This is the Phillips Miami needs on a more consistent basis.
Now, for the bad news.
The Dolphins didn’t see that version of Phillips nearly often enough.
And yet, Miami cut veteran defensive tackle Earl Phillips (who promptly received a better deal from the 49ers) even though the film shows Miami trusted Mitchell in the clutch more often than Phillips in late-season games.
Miami trusted Mitchell to be in the right place (ie., run stopping gap integrity) more often that Phillips. Too often last season, big run plays through the middle were at least partly a result of Phillips’ choices.
Phillips is usually a grouchy young man. He once suggested to a reporter that he planned to commission an investigation into his background because the reporter asked too many personal questions.
What the Dolphins would like to see is a step forward in maturity and responsibility, largely on the field. Although Miami has made it clear they also need a move toward peak conditioning if he is to fulfill his potential.
“I think my discussions with Jordan have been absolutely about we just need you to be able to play more snaps because we do feel like we can do a lot of good things,” coach Adam Gase said recently at the NFL Scouting Combing. “We feel like he does do things well, it’s at a very high level. When he screws up, everybody knows, which is hard to do as a defensive tackle. He knows we’re looking for more from him. I think he’s taking the right steps to how he kind of can get there. I think Suh is trying to help him out to help him develop skill set and become more of an effective piece for us for the whole season.”
And it circles back to Suh (who just happens to share an agent with coach Adam Gase and Poe.)
Suh, too, is surly, but he almost always plays with a consistent on-field motor and intensity that surely he has stressed to Phillips to bring more often.
Perhaps the Dolphins find Poe (a two-time Pro Bowler and former first-rounder) to be amenable to their free-agent pitch. And Phillips is relegated to defensive tackle 2B or, more likely, defensive tackle 3.
But even if this doesn’t happen, surely Miami would hope for an inspirational impact on Phillips.
Phillips was a high draft choice, with loads of potential. And he’s 6-foot-6, 334 pounds.
But just like you and me, Phillips is capable of being scared.
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