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Olivier Vernon: 2013 Year In Review

Posted Feb 12, 2014

Former Hurricane put together a breakout second season.


CLICK HERE FOR AN OLIVIER VERNON PHOTO GALLERY

So much attention was being paid to the rookie pass rusher the Dolphins drafted in the first round last year – Dion Jordan – that second-year defensive end Olivier Vernon was a bit overlooked in training camp. The Miami native and former Hurricane quickly took care of that.

Just six games into the season, Vernon already had matched his sack total from his rookie campaign in 2012 and he was only getting started. The 6-foot-2, 268-pounder put together two four-game streaks with at least one sack and wound up leading the team with 11.5, combining for five in back-to-back games against the Carolina Panthers and at the New York Jets.

Vernon finished as the leading tackler among the defensive linemen with 57 (46 solo) and helped take some of the pressure off of three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake. Teams had to thing twice about sending double teams in Wake’s direction because they opened themselves up to exposing their quarterback to Vernon’s speed and quickness coming from the right side.

Because of the tremendous strides made by Vernon, Jordan’s playing time was more limited than originally anticipated and that reflected well on the soft-spoken former soccer player. He earned the confidence of Head Coach Joe Philbin, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle and defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers with the hard work he put in.

By season’s end, Vernon was no longer an unknown commodity around the league and even though he was held without a sack over the final three games he still was very active around the line of scrimmage. His growth is something that should only increase in his third season in Coyle’s system and under Wake’s and Rodgers’ tutelage.

Signature Moment

There is something about playing the New York Jets that brings out the best in Vernon and that was the case on December 1st at the site of Super Bowl XLVIII – MetLife Stadium. As a rookie, he earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors on the same field after recovering a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown and blocking a field goal in a 30-9 victory by Miami.

This time around as the starting defensive end opposite Wake, Vernon sacked Jets quarterbacks Geno Smith and Matt Simms three times and led the Dolphins with 10 tackles (eight solo) in a dominant performance. Not surprisingly, he was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week after Miami waltzed away with a 23-3 victory in the first of three straight victories to start the month of December.

Of Note

By taking the title of team sack leader for Miami, Vernon became the first player not named Wake to hold that honor since Wake’s first season with the Dolphins back in 2009. He’s also the only player besides Wake to reach double figures in sacks during that same time span.

Coaching Perspective

“When you watch him in practice, it’s not a surprise to see him having the success that he had because he’s been a demon in the one-on-one pass rush since training camp. He’s a slippery guy, and he’s very powerful for what you might say is an undersized type pass rusher. He’s not a big guy. He’s not an overly tall guy yet plays with great leverage, has great strength and has some wiggle to him. He’s just doing a great job right now. I think it’s a combination of a lot of things with the other guys being good, the pass rushers as well, but he’s certainly stepped up his game.” – Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle

Teammate Perspective

“He’s literally a four-down kind of guy and that’s what you want to do when you play this game. He’s not just a specialist. On first down he’s stopping the run, third down he’s rushing the passer, he’s doing special teams and he’s done it all. So I’m glad to have him on the other side for sure. … To play that position is a certain mindset. It’s not a finesse kind of game. We’ve got to go out there and have that kind of pit bull mentality and from the day he got here that’s been who he is.” – Dolphins Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake
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