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Unknown, But Important Contributors – Miami Dolphins Edition

Miami is a favorite tourist destination for those in the North East that grow weary of winter. It has been most inhospitable to San Diegans on business trips, when your business is NFL football. Who are the guys that we will get to know on the first day of 2014’s Daylight Savings Time?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

UBIC – Offense

Jarvis Landry, WR (#14) – Landry was selected in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft. He played his college ball at LSU, where he was that team’s primary deep threat for 3 seasons. Landry’s primary asset is SPEED and lots of it. At 6’ even and 205, he will be one of the best pure athletes on the field Sunday, and perhaps the fastest.

Landry has provided immediate benefits to the Dolphins. His 842 all-purpose yards lead the team. He is second on the team in receiving yards (255) and receptions (25) behind team leader Mike Wallace. It is in the kicking game though, both punt and kick-off returns, that he has done the most damage. He has an average kick-off return of 31.4 yards, with his longest return being 74 yards so far. He is threat to take it to the house every time he fields a kick-off. He has returned 16 punts, with a 6.3 average return on punts.

With Nick Novak’s inability to produce touchbacks, Landry will have his chances on Sunday. Make no mistake about his receiving abilities, though. He is second on the team in receptions per targets percentage, behind only Lamar Miller. The Dolphins will be looking for him to make big plays on special teams and providing an outlet receiver for Ryan Tannehill, as Mike Wallace the usually double teamed.


Honorable Mention

Lamar Miller, RB (#26) – Miller was never supposed to be the team’s primary running back. The team had Daniel Thomas on the roster when Miller was selected in the 4th round of the 2012 draft. Thomas had been disappointing, but the 5’11" 215 pound Miller was only supposed to be a change of pace or short-yardage back when drafted. The Dolphins pursuit and signing of Knowshon Moreno highlighted the limited expectations for Miller that the Dolphins had going into 2014.

An injury to Moreno and the continued disappointment with Thomas have combined to put the "every-down back" mantle squarely on Miller’s shoulders. As he was with the Miami Hurricanes, he is now the ‘phins leading rusher, with a 4.9 YPC average. He has also emerged as a credible receiver, having caught 20 passes for 136 yards this season. Look for him to get 20-25 touches on Sunday.


UBIC - Defense

Jelani Jenkins, OLB (#53) – Jenkins is almost emblematic of the team the Dolphins are trying to put together. Almost an afterthought in the 2013 draft, he slipped to the 4th round of the 2013 draft before being picked by Miami. While he had a splendid career at the University of Florida, his speed did not project well as OLB in the NFL, while his size (6’ even, 240 pounds) did not project well for ILB. The Dolphins took a chance, figuring at least that he would be a good special teamer, something he did quite well as a Gator.

Jenkins emerged this pre-season as quicker, more powerful version of the special team player and LB depth rookie he was in 2013. Winning the job of starting SAM LB in Miami’s 4-3 defense this season, Jenkins is now the leading tackler for the Dolphins. He has also chipped in 1.5 sacks and forced 2 fumbles.

Jenkins is a high motor player, a hard hitter, has good fundamental tackling technique, and seems to have natural leadership on and off the field. His weaknesses are in pass defense, which is his still learning, and speed to keep up with faster backs. He is still learning the NFL in many ways, but does seems to have good instincts and will use his good short area quickness to get to his spot when he makes a diagnosis. This season, he has been right about the diagnosis more often than he is wrong, and when he gets there, ball carriers notice. You can expect to see #53 on the bottom of a lot of piles during the game.


Honorable Mention

Olivier Vernon, DE (#50) – When you go to Pro-Bowls as a pass rushing specialist, like Cameron Wake, you are frequently dealing with double teams on pass plays. Your team will then need to find a complementary rusher that makes life difficult for QB and offensive coordinators. Vernon is filling that role quite well this season for the Dolphins.

The 6’3" 265 pound Vernon is almost the same size as Wake. Unlike Wake, he did get drafted by the Dolphins, in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft. He was also a Hurricane in college, which continues the Dolphins recent trend of finding talent in their own backyard. Olivier and Dunlap should be an interesting battle to watch during the game. While Wake deserves every bit of attention he gets, leading the team with 5.5 sacks, Vernon is also good at that job. He is second on the team this season with 3.5 sacks. The Dolphins are averaging 3 sacks a game so far in 2014.