Defensive Breakout Candidates for 2018

We have watched players breakout for the Dolphins under Gase since he became the head coach in 2016.

We watched Jay Ajayi turn out multiple 200 yard games in 2016. Just after he was traded, we watched Kenyan Drake become 2nd in the league in rushing yards from his point of starting to the end of the season.

On the defensive side, we watched Xavien Howard turn into a corner that can lock up receivers on the outside. We even saw Tony Lippett get thrust into the starting spot in 2016. He began to come into his own down the stretch of the season.

Some of these guys did it in their second year and some guys take up until year three or four to turn it on. Who are some players that are poised to break out this season?

Cordrea Tankersley: The first thing to mention with Tankersley is how well he played as a rookie before he was shut down for the season. Tankersley stepped in and played very well after Maxwell was cut. Tankersley played very well as a rookie and showed flashes of being a playmaker. He tipped two passes two Reshad Jones for interceptions, one of them ending the game against the Falcons.

(Top of the screen) Tank is locked up one on one with Evans and he plays the ball very well. You can see he gets hands on and doesn't allow Evans to get inside of him. He uses the sideline as his help and plays the ball to the inside and leaves the quarterback no way to throw the ball.


The next two plays are the same exact play. The second is a replay for a better angle. You can see Hooper (81) is running a deep in route, and Tankersley knows he has safety help and plays behind the receiver. He is able to use his long arms to get across Hooper and deflect the pass to Reshad Jones for the game winning interception. 

He uses his long arm to deflect the pass WITHOUT touching the receiver with his other arm. Why is that important? He is not pushing or twisting the receiver. He is calm when the ball is thrown his direction.

Look how nonchalant he is with the ball in the air. He has the inside leverage on this play and just reaches up to tip the pass to Jones. He has fantastic body control when the ball is in the air.
Summary: Tankersley has the ball skills to make plays, as evident by two of the plays shown above. He has shown the ability to get his hands on the ball without interfering with the receiver or drawing a flag.

Charles Harris: 
I love his timing on this play. He gets the free rush and is able to get up to deflect the pass.

Harris's first sack of his career. This is prototypical wide 9 rush by Harris, as he gets up field and bends the corner to get the sack. Harris has explosive potential and can wreak havoc.
Summary: Harris has the ability to be a difference maker as an edge rusher. As the season went on, he started to put the pieces together and figure out how to make plays. He has the athletic ability to be a consistent pass rusher, especially with the depth on the defensive line.

Davon Godchaux: 
Godchaux is a big physical DT with fantastic athletic ability. Watch him drop in coverage with ease. He gives the defensive line the same skills that Jordan Phillips offers.

His second effort on this play helps him strip the ball. Godchaux gets beat here, but he recovers and finds the ball carrier. He knocks the ball away and Jones recovers.

Godchaux does a good job of taking up space and crashing down into the running lane.

Summary: Godchaux offers very similar ability as Jordan Phillips, while also offering the ability to clog run lanes. Godchaux really had a good season that went under the radar. I look for Godchaux to make a difference in the defense this season.

 Raekwon McMillan: McMillan doesn't have pro tape to go by yet, but he should be mentioned as a breakout candidate. I do fully anticipate McMillan to make a huge difference and perhaps be the key to this defense turning around.

An underrated trait of McMillan, is his ability to play in coverage. McMillan can cover outside and he shows that by lining up against Gallman (9) on the outside. He takes away the dump off route.

Running quarterbacks destroy the Dolphins defense consistently. Look how McMillan stays in his area, reads the quarterback and comes up to make the play. He stays with Watson (4) as he fakes outside and then cuts back inside.

McMillan gets the defense in position on a hurry offense. He immediately recognizes the play and lines up outside. He reads the play perfectly, even with the motion. He stops the play for minimal gain.

McMillan does a great job of stacking the guard on this play, shedding the block and making the tackle. These kind of plays have been lacking for this Dolphins defense.

He covered Barkley on this wheel route, which is one of the most difficult routes to cover. He plays the ball very well here.

Here it is again on replay. McMillan is so much better in coverage than people realize.

Overall: All of these guys are headed into their second year, and three of them have already made some type of impact. McMillan most likely could have made the biggest impact of all of these guys. Unfortunately he was injured before he could show what he could do.

All four of these guys are primed to make a huge impact and really breakout for the Dolphins.

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