How the Miami Dolphins’ superb 2021 draft might grow to be one for the ages


The Dolphins’ 2021 draft — headlined by Jaylen Waddle, Jaelan Phillips and Jevon Holland — already has secured a spot on any record of basic supervisor Chris Grier’s best hits.

At the very least, Miami has discovered three expert long-term gamers in Waddle (104 catches, 1015 yards as a rookie), Phillips (8.5 sacks) and Holland (Pro Football Focus’ fourth-best security final season).

But what if Liam Eichenberg and Hunter Long may grow to be good gamers?

Then you’re speaking a couple of draft for the ages — doubtlessly one of many 5 finest in fashionable Dolphins historical past — and one thing worthy of headlining Grier’s resume.

With Eichenberg, everybody ought to know by midseason whether or not he can grow to be an above-average beginning left guard.

With Long, the analysis might take awhile longer. Long has improved, however he stays caught behind Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe on a crew that isn’t anticipated to make use of two tight-end units as usually because it has prior to now.

As a rookie deal with final season, Eichenberg allowed 45 pressures (most amongst all NFL tackles) and 9 sacks (third most). The Dolphins moved him to protect, the place he has remained with the starters since offseason practices started in May.

Mike McDaniel stated Friday that when he was with the 49ers, they projected him as a guard. The earlier Dolphins regime noticed him as a deal with who might play guard.

“We had him targeted in San Francisco at guard,” McDaniel stated. “It was his attention to detail, his aggressive composed play. He was consistent with his technique. He understood angles and played with good pad level… [In Miami, we] gave him an opportunity to start at left guard to start and he won the job.”

Austin Jackson — who moved from left guard to proper deal with — turned to Eichenberg sooner or later in latest weeks and stated: “I know what you’re feeling. It’s a little bit different at guard.”

Eichenberg, who gained weight to facilitate enjoying guard, stated “you don’t have to move as far” as what’s essential to play deal with.

“For me, I’m used to moving a little further at tackle. Austin was talking to me about mistakes he made last year at guard and the learning curve at that position. I’m enjoying it.”

Another upshot is that he’s not switching between positions, which he did a number of occasions earlier than and through his rookie season.

“It’s nice being at one position and working at it. Watching guys play the position [on tape], it’s different with hand placement and the run game. I’m excited. And it’s good having two veterans next to me who communicate well” in left deal with Terron Armstead and middle Connor Williams.

The query with Long is whether or not he impresses the employees sufficient within the coming months for Miami to venture him for a significant position in 2023 and permit the Dolphins finally to maneuver on from Gesicki, who’s enjoying on a one-year franchise tag.

Long was spectacular — usually getting open — within the offseason program and early in coaching camp earlier than hitting a wall. That modified after a lecture from tight ends coach Jon Embree, who had a “heart-to-heart” speak with him three weeks in the past, in accordance McDaniel. What adopted was Long’s finest week of camp, earlier than the second preseason sport.

What precisely did Embree say? Long was reluctant to share, however he did say what has modified particularly for him since that dialog:

“My work ethic and how I’m attacking each play. We had a great talk. It’s great having him have my back and demand the best out of me. My game has definitely changed since then. Had a different mindset out here, and it’s been for the best for me and the team. It’s been productive and I’m glad it happened. This coaching staff is demanding the most out of me, which has been tough. It’s hot out here and it’s a grind, but it’s making me better, getting the best out of me.”

Long left Boston College as a developed, expert receiver; he caught 89 passes for 1,297 yards and 9 touchdowns in three seasons for the Eagles. He appears to be getting extra separation from defenders than throughout his first coaching camp.

“The game is starting to slow down for me, and I can play like myself,” he stated.

But Long stated probably the most progress has are available in blocking; he was extra superior in that space popping out of Boston College than Gesicki when he left Penn State.

ESPN’s Todd McShay stated after the draft that suppose Long “could end up being a steal in Round 3; he is a complete player who has great hands and is tough after the catch.”

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. stated on the time that Long is an “awesome player who will compete as a blocker and catch a few passes up the seam.” And former Chiefs and Falcons government Scott Pioli has predicted he’ll grow to be a Pro Bowler.

All of that continues to be to be seen.

Long stated his “most growth is definitely blocking. I’ve always been a receiving tight end. Blocking has had to come along. I feel I’ve come a long way in that regard.”

One factor Long already has mastered: Rubik’s cubes.

Long solved a “standard one” in 47 seconds. This previous offseason, “I got the 5-by-5 Rubik’s cube; it took me 2 ½ minutes. They go up to 19-by-19, but that takes six hours and I’m not doing that.”

Barry Jackson has written for the Miami Herald since 1986 and has written the Florida Sports Buzz column since 2002.


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