The Miami Dolphins are making savvy moves.
The AFC East is becoming more and more loaded. With the heavyweight favorites Buffalo Bills, the consistently competitive New England Patriots, and the fast-rising New York Jets, the Miami Dolphins had to make significant waves in the offseason to stay as contenders.
Already, the team has made significant strides. The Dolphins used a third-round selection and tight-end Hunter Long to make a deal for Rams superstar cornerback Jalen Ramsey. This gives their defense two fantastic outside coverage players, as the six-time Pro-Bowler is paired with Xavien Howard, who has led the NFL in two of his seven seasons.
We explore the other move that was frugal but could prove fruitful for the Dolphins’ emerging defense.
The Fins Snag A Linebacker.
The Miami Dolphins have made a frugal signing.
The AFC East team agreed to terms with David Long for two years, $11 million. The former Tennessee Titans linebacker is entering his fifth year as a pro and has a sound career thus far. The 2019 sixth-round selection has started just 26 of his 50 games thus far, including all 12 of his appearances last season.
Despite being undersized at just 5’11”, 225 lbs, Long was a productive member of the Tennessee Titans in his four years with the team. The 2022 NFL Season represented his best play, as he ended the campaign with 86 tackles (seven for loss), five passes defended, and two interceptions. Those statistics were in just 12 games played.
While injuries may be a concern for teams, the Miami paid a reasonable price for a productive linebacker. PFF also credited Long with 40 stops and 18 total quarterback pressures. In coverage, the defender allowed just a 74.1 passer rating when targeted. Despite being smaller, he also managed a terrific 89.0 run defense PFF grade.
What Can Long Do For Miami?
David Long is a unique linebacker.
The 5’11” defender is not only undersized but incredibly strong despite his lighter 225-pound frame. He is elusive, enabling him to evade blockers for the most part. When he does engage, he can keep a wide frame and absorb initial contact very well. Long then can shed effectively and aggressively hit ball carriers.
In pass coverage, the four-year pro has impressive instincts. Despite a middling 62.9 PFF coverage grade, Long’s hip flexibility and ability to quickly change direction are truly unique. He has the speed necessary to drop into a deep zone and anchor the middle of the field in Tampa 2 sets. Thus, he can stay with opposing pass catchers. He clocked in at a blistering 4.45 40-yard-dash and a very solid 18 reps on the bench press.
Long’s run defense is simply excellent. While seven tackles for loss may seem solid, not spectacular, his incredible 40 PFF credited stops were as stout as they come. Furthermore, while statistics and grading show his brilliance, galvanized by his 89.0 PFF run defense grade awarded in 2022, his tape is even more indicative of his success. He has a knack for positioning in the run game, and deceptive power coming downhill to displace blockers.
He does a fantastic job of moving through gaps, sorting out the trash, and strafing across blocks to get to the ball carrier. He also has the unique ability to play light on his feet, while maintaining power and a wide base. He can show in a gap to a ball carrier and then seemingly teleport to the hole they cut back to.
Athletically, Miami is getting a strong, fast, explosive linebacker that can contribute immediately. His versatility should unlock the second level of the defense and allow Miami to employ multiple different zone coverages and run fits.
What To Expect In 2023 For Long?
The Dolphins have themselves a stout defensive lineup.
If David Long can stay healthy, Miami will have acquired an immediate contributor for a bargain price. The 26-year-old can affect the game in a variety of ways.
Long stuffed the stat sheet in 2022 for the Tennessee Titans, who were only able to play the linebacker 740 snaps in total for the season. Within that span, he was able to finish third on the team in tackles, second in interceptions, and fourth in tackles for loss. Moreover, he also was able to notch 18 quarterback pressures, and that was in just 47 pass-rushing snaps. Perhaps the Dolphins will find a way to creatively use him to get after the quarterback more often.
A year after acquiring wide receiving superstar Tyreke Hill from the Kansas City Chiefs, the Dolphins have splashed again to grab Jalen Ramsey from the Los Angeles Rams. While the move to bring in the All-Pro cornerback is getting all the attention, the AFC East should also consider the implications of facing a diverse weapon in David Long.
The Dolphins are once again, on the rise. Promise is creeping back into the streets of Miami.
Don’t forget to check out Stadium Rant’s social media and follow us for all of your sporting news!