Dolphins like the looks of their rooks
DAVIE, Fla. (AP)
Is there anything the Dolphins' first-round draft pick can't do?
''If he's lobbying to get a handoff, it isn't going to happen,'' coach Tony Sparano said with a laugh.
The Dolphins have yet to begin their exhibition schedule, much less the regular season, but so far they like the looks of their top rookies. Odrick and second-round pick Koa Misi at outside linebacker are part of a revamped defense that will be younger - and, the Dolphins hope, better, as well.
Miami ranked 22nd last year in yards allowed and gave up a franchise-record 140 points in the fourth quarter, most in the NFL. In response, the Bill Parcells regime hired Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator, made inside linebacker Karlos Dansby the top free-agent acquisition, and devoted seven of Miami's eight draft picks to defense.
Odrick became the first front-seven defender taken with a first-round pick by the Dolphins since 1996. He and Misi were promoted to the starting unit before the beginning of training camp, and they helped the defense dominate the first scrimmage Saturday.
''They're high-energy guys,'' Sparano said following Monday morning's workout. ''They're smart, physical players. Those guys have created a little bit of chaos out there at times. I would imagine that would carry over into some game situations.''
The 2009 Big Ten defensive player of the year at Penn State, Odrick (pronounced Ah'-drick) is lining up at right end and trying to mesh with his teammates, both on and off the field. As part of rookie hazing, his assignments have included taking care of veteran Channing Crowder's trash after team meals, and singing the John Legend song ''Ordinary People.''
''I've got a little bit of a voice,'' Odrick said.
Misi (pronounced Mee'-see) has managed to fit in, too.
''I like Misi,'' Crowder said. ''He listens. He does whatever I say, so that's a plus.''
And that's not all.
''He's real physical,'' Crowder said. ''That's always good, when you get a physical guy like that who hasn't had concussions and hasn't torn up his shoulders yet, so he'll still run in there and knock himself out.''
Youthful zeal at outside linebacker is a big change for the Dolphins, who decided to let aging Joey Porter and Jason Taylor leave during the offseason.
Misi played mostly defensive end as a three-year starter at Utah, but the Dolphins drafted him as a linebacker and quickly bulked him up to 255 pounds, 10 more than he weighed last year.
Even with the added weight, Sparano said, Misi has become faster. The Dolphins are optimistic the rookie can become a formidable force applying pressure on the flank.
''He has a unique ability not to stay blocked very long,'' Sparano said. ''He can get off blocks and get out of trouble fast, which is good news.''
That's not to say Misi has mastered his new position.
''I knew coming into this that I was going to have to learn a lot,'' he said. ''I've got a lot more to learn.''
Odrick said the same. He seeks tips from coaches, defensive teammates and Long, the anchor of Miami's offensive line.
''I ask everybody for advice,'' Odrick said. ''Everybody has something different to tell you. That's a good thing and a bad thing. You've got to look on the bright side. There are so many different ways people find success in this game. That's what I'm trying to do: find my niche.''
Odrick began camp with the first team only because veteran Phillip Merling end sustained a season-ending Achilles' tendon injury last month.
''It puts a little more on Jared's plate from an expectation standpoint,'' Sparano said. ''But with where we drafted Jared, there are expectations there.''
For the 6-foot-5, 304-pound Odrick, the biggest adjustment will be facing a steady diet of NFL left tackles, Sparano said.
''Penn State played good people and plays in a good league,'' the coach said. ''But from a physical standpoint, each week you're playing against a darn good player, probably their best guy.
''He's strong, he runs well, he's certainly big enough. The guy to me is a pretty mature kid. So he's got a good start.''
Plus he can sing ''Ordinary People.''