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Monday, January 24, 2022

Waddell, the rookie class of dolphins that provided the building blocks for the franchise after career days for Phillips

For all the misery the Miami Dolphins have had for their 2020 first round draft picks, they have really impressed on their early 2021 selections.

There was no greater example than Sunday’s 33-10 win over the Carolina Panthers, where receiver Jaylen Waddle and outside linebacker Jaylen Phillips produced career-best performances and safety Jevon Holland came on with an interception.

As for more criticism – well, in many cases – as given to general manager Chris Grier, coach Brian Flores and the Dolphins’ brass for draft picks and roster decisions, their two first-round picks and second-round early picks are in this way. All drafts of the year are paying dividends.

“They work hard,” Flores said at Monday’s Web conference. “Football is important to them. They’re team-first. They’re tough guys. They’re competitive. They like to play with each other, support each other.

“I believe they will keep getting better as they keep working, and they are all sponges. They want to be better. They want to learn. They want to improve. They want to help our team.”

After Waddell’s nine receptions for a career-high 137 yards and a touchdown, he is fifth in the NFL in receptions (77). With some big plays in the passing game in recent weeks, he has increased his catches per yards to a respectable 9.8.

6 pick in April, and his former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa were connected by a deep slant that, along with yards after the catch, resulted in a career-long 57-yard reception for him. Crossing 100 yards in the first half on Sunday, he became Miami’s first rookie in team history to score triple-digit receiving yards in the first half of the game.

“I wouldn’t say I’m waiting,” Waddle said of the more downfield looks in recent weeks. “To be honest, I just go out there and try to do my job. Whatever they want me to do, I go there and try to do it.”

Phillips, drafted No. 18, was the first three-sack outing by an NFL rookie since Raiders Max Crosby had four in a game in 2019. He was the first Dolphins rookie with as many sacks in a game as linebacker Jerome Baker did. in 2018.

“We’re playing more aggressively and looser right now,” said Phillips, who credited Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and PJ Walker with other pass rushers flushing his side. “We’re doing a better job as a team in terms of our coordination on the rush stunts and the games that we’re running, and just playing independently and having real fun out there and playing together and just It’s a great time to fly around and pretend.”

Three sacks propelled Phillips into the team lead in that category, which had 6 1/2 on the season.

Holland brought up his second interception in the first professional season where he has shown versatility with seven pass deflections, two sacks, activity on fumble recovery and 46 tackles.

“It’s everything I’ve ever imagined. It’s super fun. It’s the most fun for me,” Holland said. “At first, it was fast, like people flying around, big bodies, But just understanding myself and how I play and trying to take the next step in preparation so that I can just play free and let things just flow for me. When preparation meets hard work and execution, then splash plays happen.”

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Waddell performs the “Waddle Waddle” dance move after scoring his first-half touchdown against the Panthers, which Phillips said he and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins have been trying to do in a game to Waddell sometime this year .

The group has fun together on and off the field, but also knows when it’s time to focus.

“It is our common interest to win football games,” Phillips said. “I think the chemistry we have in the locker room is incredible. Whether it’s rookies or bigots, what I’ve found is that this team isn’t too subdued. We all hang out with each other and Really enjoy each other’s time.”

Second-round Dolphins offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg after Hollande has seen his struggles this season but has been starting from the left as a rookie and has cut his mistakes in recent weeks.

Flores makes sure to keep rookies humble and cautions that this later part of the NFL season is where it gets tough on rookies.

“They still have a long way to go, a lot to learn,” Flores said. “This is really the point where it really falls apart for them. Right now the college season is over.

“The season is longer. It’s more physical sport. It’s more taxing in many ways, mentally, physically, emotionally. … It’s kind of where the length of an NFL season is different than anything they’ve dealt with.” .

In what has been widely criticized for the first round of 2020, Tagovailoa has produced a series of impressive performances after 31 outings from Sunday’s 27. But Austin Jackson was pushed inside left guard from a left tackle after allowing continued pressure in the position he prepared to play, and cornerback Noah Igbinogne was healthy inactive for half of the team’s 12 matches this season. Huh.

The Dolphins could get Michael Deiter back this week after missing the last eight matches with a leg injury. Dieter went through the past week’s practice, but Miami did not activate him in the injured reserve.

“He did some good things in practice last week,” Flores said. “He wasn’t ready for us to call him that, but we’ll take it one day at a time and see how he practices this week.”

Receivers Will Fuller (finger) and DeVante Parker (hamstring) are close to return but did not practice last week.

“It is no different from where we were at this time last week. We will see on Wednesday,” Flores said. “The two are clearly getting better and getting closer. they will work [Monday] And [Tuesday], which will tell us a little more whether we are there yet.”

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