Second Rookie Season For Odrick More Enjoyable Than The First

Posted Nov 17, 2011

Back in July at the start of training camp Miami Dolphins Head Coach Tony Sparano dropped a subtle hint about the need to keep an eye on one of his “extra” draft picks.

Nine games into the 2011 season the player he was referring to – defensive end Jared Odrick – is delivering on Sparano’s prediction. He has all three of his sacks in the last four games and five of his 11 tackles have come in those three games against the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins.

Of course this is officially Odrick’s second year in the National Football League as he was Miami’s first-round draft pick (28th overall) in 2010. He made a nice first impression in the season opener at Buffalo last September when his only tackle was for a loss on Bills rookie sensation C.J. Spiller. But he left the game with a leg injury and never played another down the rest of the season.

“Really not playing at all last year and this really being my rookie season I just wanted to make an impact and help the team out as much as I can in any way possible,” Odrick said. “I really feel like my role amongst the team and the defense and my impact that I was hoping to make has been increasing in terms of just being on the field. I’m just out there in practice during the week to gain the respect and the trust of our fellow players and coaches so that they have confidence in me and my abilities to get the job done.”

As the season has progressed Odrick has seen his reps increase behind the starting front three of Kendall Langford, Paul Soliai and Randy Starks. His size (6-foot-5, 304 pounds) and athleticism have made life difficult for opposing offensive lineman because he not only possesses the strength to move a big tackle aside and stuff the run, but he also has the speed to get around the edge and in the quarterback’s face.

Last Sunday in the first quarter against Washington, Odrick put both of those skills on display on a third-and-2 for the Redskins. He shed his blocker with ease, burst up the middle and smothered Redskins quarterback Grossman for a 12-yard loss, breaking into his Pee Wee Herman dance.

“I don’t know if that dance is what he’s going to hang is hat on but I hope it’s not,” said inside linebacker and team captain Karlos Dansby, who also had a sack that game. “He’s got to work on it and get better, but I wouldn’t hang my hat on it. Regardless, for him to bounce back like he did off of that injury is impressive. I knew it was going to take a little time and right now he’s catching stride and getting better and better week in and week out. He’s making plays and that’s what we need him to do.”

His enthusiasm on the field and his demeanor on the practice field have been contagious, and when Dansby and the others see that transfer into the games it only adds to Odrick’s impact. He has leaned on the veterans like Dansby, Starks and most importantly, 15-year veteran outside linebacker Jason Taylor. Their lockers are next to each other at the practice facility.

Taylor, who claimed with a modest smile that the best thing that ever happened to Odrick was playing next to him, made his name as a defensive end throughout the bulk of his career and became a pass rushing aficionado early on. He is currently the league’s active sack leader with 135.5 and needs two sacks to tie Richard Dent and John Randle for sixth all-time.

“JT, Karlos and a lot of the guys, they help you in the aspect of really being a pro and knowing what to do on and off the field and knowing what off-the-field things will affect your on-the-field stuff,” Odrick said. “It may be obvious but reinforcement always helps and when you see guys reinforcing it themselves, being in the league as long as they have, it helps you become a better player.”

All of those lessons, combined with his being able to stay healthy up to this point and get some extra valuable instruction from the likes of pass rush coach Bryan Cox, have paid dividends for Odrick. He sees it, his teammates see it and Sparano definitely sees it.

Miami’s season-opener at home on a Monday night against the New England Patriots gave everyone an early glimpse of Odrick’s play-making ability. He corralled a deflected Tom Brady pass at the line for an interception and rambled 40 yards to the Patriots’ 9 to set up a game-tying touchdown. Odrick is appearing in the right places again.

“I think that Jared is starting to show up more and more every game. He’s making a factor play a game,” Sparano said. “I think with Jared missing the amount of time that he missed, block recognition, seeing the scheme, all those things that he didn’t have are starting to get there. He is healthy but he didn’t have the offseason to see these things in practice. The first time he saw them was in training camp and I think that is probably just taking a little bit of time.”

“Jared is a perfectionist. He wants to be right on all those things fundamentally and that’s a good quality to have, and then he plays with a high motor on top of that. That helps us a lot.”

Despite hearing these comments and picking up some of these accolades, Odrick is not even close to being satisfied.

“I don’t want to become a guy that is known for one thing, whether it’s stopping the run and not playing the pass or playing the pass and not stopping the run,” he said. “I’d like to be an all-around player, but there are some things I still need to work on. Right now a few things went my way and I’m not upset about it.”

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