Fri, 18 Sep 2020

2020 Training Camp Preview: Interior Defensive Line

Miami Dolphins
07 Aug 2020, 08:05 GMT+10

The return of football is always a welcome sight, perhaps now more than ever before. An arduous offseason is in the books and everyone's favorite time of year is on the precipice. August in Miami means heat, humidity, hitting and hard decisions made in order to trim the roster down to 53 in time for Week 1.

In this training camp preview, we're going position-by-position giving you a glimpse into every member of the Miami Dolphins roster. We'll cover all the angles including who the players are on the field and off of it.

On today's docket, the interior defensive, in order of jersey number.

July 27 - Tight Ends

July 29 - Quarterbacks

July 30 - Wide Receivers

August 3 - Running Backs

August 4 - Offensive Line (Part 1)

August 5 - Offensive Line (Part 2)

August 6 - Interior Defensive Line

August 8 - Edge

Davon Godchaux - 3 accrued seasons (4th in MIA)

Jersey: 56

College: LSU

Opening Day Age: 25

Position or schematics, Davon Godchaux is versatile and adaptable. A powerfully-imposing interior defensive linemen, Godchaux has a penchant for stacking up bodies against the run and making plays at or around the line of scrimmage. Categorized as a defensive tackle on Pro Football Focus, Godchaux's 33 run stops (tackles within two yards of the LOS) in 2019 led the NFL among that group.

Pigeonholing a player into one position in Brian Flores' defense is disingenuous. Godchaux moved all over the line last season playing every position from inside at nose (over the center) all the way out to the 5-technique (lined up off the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle).

Among the variety of fronts Flores calls, or whether Godchaux is playing an aggressive one-gap, penetrating style, or the read-and-react two-gap approach, his snap counts have increased each year as a pro. He's played in 47 of a possible 48 career games and his 718 snaps in 2019 were a career high. He also hit career highs in tackles (75), sacks (2), QB hits (5), hurries (11) and total pressures (18).

Godchaux was the Dolphins' Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee for the 2019 season. Flores spoke about that distinction and what makes Davon - the person - special.

"I think he does a lot in the community," Flores said. "He's shown leadership throughout the time that I've been here. This is a guy who's very genuine and caring about giving back. He's a good human being and I think he's deserving."

Jason Strowbridge - Rookie

Jersey: 58

College: North Carolina

Opening Day Age: 24

Jason Strowbridge Draft Day Breakdown

Like a few of his new teammates, Jason Strowbridge's football career returns to the place it all began. A standout prep at Deerfield Beach High School, the Dolphins' fifth-round pick is coming back home after a successful college career at North Carolina.

At 273 pounds, Strowbridge has impressive pop and burst. He tested in the 93rd percentile in the 40-yard dash (4.89), 94th in the 20-yard shuttle (4.37) and better than the 82nd percentile in 10-yard split (1.72), three-cone (7.45) and broad jump (9'5").

"Strowbridge is an outside, inside player," Flores said of the defensive lineman post-draft. "He lines up outside in some situations, inside in some other situations. Good strength, good quickness. There's a lot to like about him. He played multiple positions, (is) versatile, tough."

That versatility shows in Strowbridge's alignment splits. According to PFF, he logged 283 snaps in the B-gap (between guard and tackle), 272 over the offensive tackle, 111 outside the tackle, and 23 snaps in the A-gap (between center and guard). In his final season at UNC, Strowbridge totaled 22 run stops and 28 quarterback pressures.

Durval Queiroz Neto - 1 accrued season (2nd in MIA)

Jersey: 69

College: International Player (Brazil)

Opening Day Age: 28

The first player on the Dolphins roster by way of the international pathway program, Queiroz took a fascinating route the NFL. At 6-foot-4, 330 pounds, he may well be in the running for the biggest human capable of a standing backflip.

That flexibility as well as violent hands are traits that made him a judo champion back in Brazil. Queiroz has also gotten some work with the Dolphins on the offensive line. He spent last year on the practice squad with roster exemption as part of the international pathway program.

Zach Sieler - 2 accrued seasons (2nd in MIA)

Jersey: 92

College: Ferris State

Opening Day Age: 25

Arriving in December as a waiver claim, Zach Sieler made a big impact down the stretch for the 2019 Dolphins. After playing 19 reps against in his Week 15 debut at the Giants, Sieler earned an extended workload and made the most of it against the Bengals in Week 16.

The former Ferris State Bulldog racked up seven tackles - five within two yards of the line of scrimmage -- three quarterback pressures, a sack and two passes defensed. Sieler did all of that playing in 48 of the Dolphins defensive snaps. In three games with Miami he logged six run stops and four quarterback pressures.

Flores noted the traits that he saw in Sieler that made him a valuable asset to the Miami defensive front.

"I think Zach as a 4-technique, as a 5-technique, as a 3-technique, as a shade - he plays a lot of different positions," Flores said. "He's big. He's got length. He's got athleticism. He plays hard. I think when you get a player like that, you just move him around and see the different things he can do. He's very versatile because of his size, his length, his athleticism.

Ray Smith - 0 accrued seasons (1st in MIA)

Jersey: 93

College: Boston College

Opening Day Age: 23

After a four-year career that produced 138 tackles in 40 games at Boston College, Ray Smith signed as an undrafted free agent with the Detroit Lions in 2019. After stints on the Lions and 49ers practice squads, the Dolphins moved quickly after his release last month by claiming the defensive tackle with explosive testing metrics.

At his 2019 Pro Day, Smith scored in rare territory across multiple athletic metrics. His 40-yard dash (4.93), 10-yard split (1.68), 20-yard split (2.76), vertical (35"), broad jump (9'11"), shuttle (4.49) and three-cone (7.28) each measured in the 90th percentile of defensive tackles. Those scores earned Smith a 9.64 overall relative athletic scorecard courtesy of Kent Platte.

Christian Wilkins - 1 accrued season (2nd in MIA)

Jersey: 94

College: Clemson

Opening Day Age: 24

Selected with the 13th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Christian Wilkins led all of his rookie position mates in tackles with 56 in a class with six defensive tackles taken in the first round. Among his positional contemporaries, he ranked 16th in run stops (29) and 27th in total quarterback pressures (30) and missed only two tackles all season. Those 30 quarterback pressures were the most for a rookie interior defensive lineman since 2016.

Wilkins embodies the Dolphins' desire to be multiple on defense. With a rare first-step quickness, and the requisite strength to hold his ground against the run, Wilkins is functional whether being asked to one-gap (aggressive, upfield style) or two-gap (read and react style). Not only does Wilkins play a variety of positions up front, he produces from each spot.

Of the 29 run stops per Pro Football Focus, nine came from a 3-technique alignment (outside shoulder of the guard), six came from the 4i-technique (inside shoulder of the tackle), three from the 1-technique (outside of the center), two from the nose (0-technique, head up over the center), and two from the 5-technique (outside shoulder of the tackle), 4-technique (head up over the tackle), and a 2-technique (head up over the guard) and one each from the 2i-technique (inside shoulder of the guard) and 7-technique (inside shoulder of the tight end) positions.[BB3]

General Manager Chris Grier summarized the traits the Dolphins found most appealing about Wilkins last April after the draft.

"(Christian's a) very smart, versatile football player," Grier said. "(He was) highly productive. (We) love the size, the athletic ability (and the) things he'll add to the locker room, not just the field."

Wilkins finished the season playing his best football. Over the final 10 games of his rookie season, Christian Wilkins racked up 24 run stops (fourth among interior defensive linemen) and 24 quarterback pressures (19th among interior DL).

Benito Jones -- Rookie

Jersey: 95

College: Ole Miss

Opening Day Age: 22

A mainstay in the middle of the Ole Miss defense, Benito Jones makes his way to Miami as an undrafted free agent. He logged 1,765 career snaps with 52 run stops, 45 quarterback pressures and 10 sacks. He played primarily inside with 414 snaps lining up in the A-gap and 105 in the B-gap. He also played 37 over the tackle, according to PFF.

NFL.com detailed Jones' greatest strengths as a space eater in the middle of the Ole Miss defense.

"Country strong with good durability. Carries broad, thick chest and good, muscular build throughout arms. Excellent football character with consistent play motor. Quick to recalibrate his opponent, depending on blocking scheme. Arm-over wins into A-gaps off the snap. Good use of hands to work immediately to the edge. Lateral quickness to leverage and range down the line ... Quick to play off the block and make a tackle. Agile rusher with strength and athleticism to infiltrate pocket against single blocks."

Raekwon Davis - Rookie

Jersey: 98

College: Alabama

Opening Day Age: 23

At 6-foot-7 with an 85.5-inch wingspan, it's hard to miss Raekwon Davis on tape. His length and power allow him to routinely clog gaps, stack and shed against the run and disengage from blockers as a pass rusher. He registered 86 pressures in his three-year career at Alabama with 73 run stops. Across 1,849 career snaps, Davis earned consistent PFF grades with an 84.9 in 2017, 81.9 in 2018 and 83.2 in 2019.

Flores talked about the hidden production in Davis' game and the overall disruption he believes Davis is capable of creating.

"I've always told players that you can play a great game and have no stats," Flores said. "If you set the edge every time, if you're in your gap, if you make every tackle, if you force the ball wherever we want to force it, if you make your block, you can literally have nothing on the stat sheet but play a great game. I'm on record saying that to players dating back to as long as I have been coaching. I truly believe that. So when people say statistics - when I see Raekwon, I see a guy who is defeating blocks, taking two blocks and creating plays for his teammates. There are a lot of hidden statistics that I look at personally. I think he does a good job at maybe some of those hidden stats."

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