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Rookie DE Shelby Making An Early Impression; Other Notes

Posted Aug 19, 2012

Depth on the defensive line is critical to the success of the Miami Dolphins’ defense being installed by defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, and rookie defensive end Derrick Shelby has stood out.

What Shelby lacks in sixe (6-foot-2, 270 pounds) he has more than made up for in quickness, strength and football smarts. From the moment he was signed as an undrafted free agent of Utah and showed up for rookie minicamp, Shelby has shown steady progress.

“The thing that impressed me the most about Derrick, whether it be in the drills or when you put him out there in the preseason game, he’s not performing like a young rookie, inexperienced,” Coyle said. “He plays physical. He makes plays. He does things – as (defensive line coach Kacy) Rogers would attest to – to where you know what you’re going to get from him each snap.

“Some of the younger players at all of the positions, there’s a really good play and then there’s a play like you look and say ‘What were you thinking on that play?’ With Derrick, he’s very steady. He’s a smart player. He understands what we’re asking him to do and he competes and he’s performing at a good level. I’m very pleased with him.”

Based on Shelby’s performance last Friday night at the Carolina Panthers, his stock continues to rise not only in the eyes of Coyle but in the eyes of his teammates as well. He entered the game for Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s last series and by night’s end had a sack, a forced fumble, two tackles for loss and four total tackles (three solo).

One of the first things Shelby made it a point to do at the OTAs, minicamps, mandatory minicamp and early in training camp was pick the brains of veteran defensive linemen like Jared Odrick, Cam Wake, Randy Starks and Paul Soliai. He knew how important it was to learn as much as he could not only from Coyle but from those guys.

“He’s a really bright, smart kid that you can really tell is a quick learner,” said Odrick, who is in his third season in Miami and was a first-round draft pick in 2010. “He’ll ask a few questions and once he asks a few questions he kind of understands the corrections he has to make. So with Shelby it’s not really a repetitive thing to keep making the same mistakes and that’s what you look for when you’re looking for somebody to be a part of team.”

Back at Utah, Shelby was teammates with Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith for one season after redshirting in 2007. By the time he was a senior the Texas native was the cornerstone of the defensive line and started 40 of his 47 career games. He earned first-team all-Pac-12 honors as a senior last year after starting all 13 games, finishing with 55 tackles, five sacks and two touchdowns – one on an interception against Pittsburgh and the other on a fumble recovery against Brigham Young.

Shelby also was a four-year academic all-conference selection and he feels like he’s come a long way since the beginning of camp. He approached it just like he approached his academics, which was by identifying areas of his game he knew needed improvement.

“Every football player has to do that because if you’re not getting better you’re getting passed up by somebody else,” Shelby said. “I knew I had to work on my pass rush and stay consistent in the run game. So I think if I keep the rush up, just naturally I’ve been better with the run. Once those skills are good enough to be good enough you’ve got to keep working on them or you’ll lose the skill.

“I think you always have to be working towards something. There’s always some little thing, a little hand placement could be better in some places. I’ve just got to stay consistent with the things that work and keep improving on the little things that I don’t do well.”

TANNEHILL STILL DRAWING PRAISE: Two days removed from his first start, rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill continues to leave a good impression on the coaching staff and his fellow offensive players.

“He’s making good decisions and that’s the most important thing a quarterback has to have,” said offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, who was Tannehill’s head coach at Texas A&M. “He has the talent to make the throws and he’s making good decisions. I thought he rushed some things the other day that he normally wouldn’t have.

“I know he was trying to get the ball out quick. You get someone like me breathing in your ear all the time, ‘You’ve got to get rid of the ball, get rid of the ball,’ so I think I probably played a part in that. But I think he’s very much acclimated himself to the speed of the game at this point, and I don’t think that’s an issue.”

Second-year center Mike Pouncey has worked with five different quarterbacks now in his one full season and two training camps, so he has a good grasp on what makes them tick. Matt Moore is the quarterback he’s snapped the ball to the most, but after facing Carolina’s first-team defense on the road with Tannehill barking out the signals, he came away impressed.

“He sounded like an NFL quarterback,” Pouncey said. “He did a real good job managing the offense and he obviously got us in the right plays when we needed to do and I think we’ll progress with him. Whatever quarterback they have in there, obviously our offensive line’s happy with them and we just want to go out there and win football games, but I think Ryan Tannehill did a great job this week.”

Left guard Richie Incognito agreed with Pouncey and thought Tannehill looked confident in the huddle and confident in throwing the ball.

As for the wide receivers catching passes from Tannehill, they came away confident in his abilities as well, especially veteran Davone Bess, who liked how the rookie sounded in the huddle.

“He’s got a nice arm and he’s super accurate,” Bess said. “That makes it a lot easier to read and track the ball and he can get it there. He’s got a strong arm.”

DOLPHINS TIDBITS: In keeping with the regular-season routine, the team practiced without pads and helmets this afternoon and completed what basically was a walk-through. So all plays were run at not even half speed, but more at a light jog. … Cornerback Vontae Davis surely feels safer inside the locker room as his locker sits in between long snapper John Denney and guard Artis Hicks. Denney stands 6-5 and weighs 255 pounds and Hicks is 6-4, 312, so both men are a good six inches taller than Davis, with Denney having 50 pounds on Davis and Hicks outweighing him by 107. … Middle linebacker Karlos Dansby looked to be the happiest with the new locker room setup as he has the corner right next to the door leading out to the trainer’s room.
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