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Most Important Guys You’ve Never Heard Of: Miami Dolphins Edition

It is an unusual season when a tackle and left guard are getting more ink than a QB or the high priced FA WR brought in to put the team over the top. It is not unusual for a team to have a player emerge from obscurity to become important, or come back to Pro-Bowl form after injury, or start filling the promise of a fairly high pick in a recent draft.

Mike Ehrmann

On the Offense

The fullback position was once one of the most important in the game. In fact, one of the game’s true legendary players, Jim Brown, spent his career listed at this position. In the last few years though, entire systems are being played in this league without using a fullback except in rare situations or perhaps not at all. Other systems have modified the position to a sort of Tight End / Fullback hybrid; this is what Delanie Walker did for years in San Francisco before moving on to greener pastures in Nashville. The Dolphins Most Important Guy You Never Heard Of (MIGYNHO), Charles Clay (#42), has only taken three years to become more of a Tight End than a Fullback.

Why He Is Important

Playing his college ball at the University of Tulsa, Clay was taken in the 6th round of the 2011 draft as a fullback by the Dolphins. The 6’3" 245 pound Clay is about 2 – 4 inches taller than the prototype Fullback, but the Miami coaches were quick to discover his pass catching ability. He also has decent enough bulk to block effectively.

Seeing spot work on 3rd downs in 2011 and 2012, Clay has started 8 of the 'phins 9 games this season and has caught 36 passes for 384 yards and 3 TD’s. He has also rushed 5 times for 15 yards and a TD. Despite being drafted as a FB, this is the first season in which he has recorded any rushing yards.

Clay has found his niche as Ryan Tannehill’s bail out receiver on 3rd downs or when a quick outlet is needed. He is not especially fast or elusive, but is willing to make the tough catches and has good hands. Expect to see him working between the numbers about 7-15 yards downfield on Sunday.

Honorable Mention

Nate Garner (#75); Left Guard - With all of the issues on the Dolphins Offensive Line over the last two weeks, Garner finds himself starting in place of Richie Incognito, the nastiest and (arguably) the best offensive lineman the Dolphins had at the start of the season. The 6’7", 318 pound Garner was a 7th round pick out of Arkansas originally drafted by the Jets in 2008. Starting his career as a tackle, he lacked the quickness and athleticism to stay with the Jets, but has found a home in Miami. He has played at just about every offensive line position for the Dolphins since joining them in 2009. He will be tasked with containing Corey Liuget and Cam Thomas on Sunday.

On the Defense

Life on the island can bring fame, huge contracts, and a lot of recognition if your name is Deion Sanders, Darrelle Revis, or Patrick Peterson. It can also be a position that a player grows into after a lot of hard work and overcoming long-shot odds. Since I am writing about the MIGYNHO for the Dolphins defense, which category do you think that Brent Grimes (#21), one of the ‘phins starting corners, fits into?

Why He Is Important

The word for Grimes over his career is "small". Graduating from a small school (Shippensburg), the 5’8", 180 pound Grimes was passed over in the 2007 draft, due to the belief that he was too small to make an adequate NFL CB. Signing as camp fodder with Falcons, Grimes earned a spot on the team with his speed, excellent technique, and good reactions in all facets of the game. He started his career with a small workload in 2007 (appearing in 2 games) that grew to a Pro-Bowl selection in 2010 after starting all 16 games for the Falcons that year.

Grimes has been injury prone in his career; he only appeared in one game for Atlanta last season and has only been fully healthy in his career year of 2010. The Dolphins took a chance on him in the FA market this year after Atlanta let him walk. He has rewarded Miami’s front office by starting every game so far and leading the team in passes defended (9). He also has two picks, with one being returned for a TD.

Grimes will be tasked with shutting down Keenan Allen and Vincent Brown. While he remains undersized, his speed, leaping ability, and superb techniques make him one of the more capable opponents the Bolts' receivers will face this season.

Honorable Mention

Olivier Vernon (#50); RDE - D.J. Fluker will be starting at left tackle for the Bolts this Sunday and will be tasked with keeping Vernon off Philip Rivers. While not as well known as Cameron Wake, (one of the best pass rushers out of a 4-3 system in the NFL), Vernon presents his own challenges. While Wake gets the attention, Vernon has only one fewer sack than Wake does this season. Vernon has started one more game than Wake, has 4.5 sacks (Wake had 5.5), and 15 tackles, which is 9 more than his bookend buddy. Miami's 2012 3rd round pick, a former Miami Hurricane, is a crowd favorite and a nearly perfect physical specimen for a 4-3 DE at 6’2" and 260 pounds. Fluker is larger than Vernon, but Vernon's quickness will have to be negated to keep River's blindside clean.

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