The third draft and free agency period under Dolphins General Manager Chris Grier and Head Coach Brian Flores is in the rearview mirror. A trio of draft hauls and free agent classes have remade the roster to the vision that the Dolphins' leaders collaboratively put together: tough, smart, team-first players.
With the 36th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Miami continued that theme with a feisty, vocal , ball-hawking defensive back out of the University of Oregon – one of Flores' favorite players in this draft to watch.
“I really enjoyed watching Jevon play for a lot of reasons. The way he tackles, the way he defeats blocks, a lot of ball production, his versatility – he played some nickel, played some deep safety. There are a lot of things to like… I think he’s got leadership qualities. I think he’s got the ability to communicate and really quarterback a defense because he’s smart.” Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins Head Coach
Turn on that tape and those traits are immediately evident.
This clip, shared by Brett Kollmann, from the 2019 Pac 12 Championship Game shows an instance in which Holland walled off an over route from the slot in man coverage, got his eyes on the quarterback, peeled off and broke up a pass, that was targeted for someone else's man.
Those instincts -- paired with his play-speed -- generate takeaways. Holland's nine interceptions between the '18 and '19 seasons tied for fourth-most in the NCAA. He added 10 pass breakups giving him a total of 19 plays of ball production in 27 games, 0.74 per game.
"I feel like I have a good sense of how the ball trajectory is going to be in the sky and things like that and I definitely think that added to my ball skills and ball-hawking ability, Holland said."
Adding playmakers on both the offense and defense was a goal this offseason for Grier and the Dolphins' brass.
“There’s places that we want to upgrade at all parts of the roster and obviously having playmakers on offense and defense is what the great teams have and we’ll keep doing that here in trying to address issues on both sides of the ball.” Chris Grier, Dolphins General Manager, January 5, 2021
Fast-forward four months; Grier notes Holland's playmaking ability both on defense and special teams.
"He's a very smart, instinctive football player that's been a very productive player," Grier said. "He's also been a punt returner there, which we talk about, too; but at the end of the day, this guy just has a nose for the football. But it was his football intelligence and getting to know the kid that stood out as well."
The NFL's top takeaway (29) and third-down defense (31.2 percent conversions allowed) in 2020 adds another piece to the puzzle. Holland's nose for the football and ability to play around the line-of-scrimmage, as well as in the deep portions of the field, could help create more flexibility in the defensive calls, presenting more potential confusion for opposing offenses.
ESPN's Louis Riddick was a big fan of the selection, stating his opinion that Holland operates like a Swiss Army knife.
"Very smooth, very skilled. Good hips. Very fluid closing ability. The kind of guy you would assume Brian Flores will find multiple ways to deploy him. You can send him on the blitz. You can match him up against tight ends. You can match him against running backs. There are so many different things you can do with a player like this. And when a team like the Dolphins that emphasizes good fundamentals in the second this is a good solid pick. You can see Brian Flores advocating for a guy like this."
Holland registered five quarterback pressures on just 14 pass rush reps in 2019, per Pro Football Focus. In coverage, he was charged with four touchdowns allowed compared to the nine career interceptions and an average of 7.02 yards per target. The Dolphins newest defensive back was also penalized only once in his college career.
With his range, instincts in coverage and fundamentally-sound tackling, Holland is dually versatile – both in his skills and his usage.
Jevon Holland's Career Pre-Snap Alignment at Oregon (PFF)
|Position||Snaps Played||Percentage of Snaps Played|
The Miami secondary that contributed to those league-leading takeaway and third-down ranks is chock-full of accomplished players with versatility similar to Holland's. In 2020, Miami utilized its defensive backs collectively for 5,116 snaps without a single player eclipsing 1,000 snaps. Only six NFL teams deployed six-or-more defensive back personnel last season than Miami.
Draft expert Daniel Jeremiah joined Riddick in his complimentary comments about the Canadian-born defensive back.
"Holland has an ideal blend of size, fluidity and ball skills. He has the athleticism to range over the top, but he is at his best when patrolling underneath. He has the agility to mirror in the slot or match up with TEs. He is quick to the alley and has some snap as a tackler. He has excellent ball awareness and dependable hands."
Agility drills and 100 pushups a day was a normal part of Holland's upbringing, a discipline that instilled work ethic and professionalism in the young man from an early age.
"I think that having those training regimens as a kid just puts me in a better place of organizing my own time and making sure that I'm holding myself accountable when no one else is trying to check me," Holland said. "I feel like that is a part of being a professional is holding yourself accountable and making sure you're getting your job done."
Opting out of the 2020 college football season, Holland worked out during the fall and spring in preparation for his Pro Day.
|Testing Metric||Holland’s Record|
|Bench Press||19 reps of 225 pounds|
Like all rookies, a lot of work lies ahead of Holland between now and his NFL debut. But the former Duck begins his pro career with a great foundation built on versatility, love of the game and hard work as he seeks to become a do-it-all defensive back for the Miami Dolphins.