Sometimes coaches see things through a different prism than the rest of us. They see things through the prism of the truth. They see things through the prism of motivating a player. They see things with an eye on the future. They see things after watching and studying game tape.
Well, we cannot account for the part about motivation and the future agenda.
But we all watch the games. We can look at the All-22 tape available on the Internet. And thanks to ProFootballFocus.com, we have the ability to see grades from a tape study of games from eyes with no agenda.
And that's why I was kind of curious on Tuesday when Dolphins coach Joe Philbin was asked about the play of Olivier Vernon. Vernon, Miami's starting right end, didn't really factor in the Cleveland game because Joe Thomas generally erased him from view. And although he didn't play a renown tackle against Indianapolis, he only collected an assisted tackle and half-a-sack against the Colts.
That's not a lot of production so far. And judging that limited production, Philbin said this:
“I think he’s doing a good job," Philbin said. "I don’t see the same things. He’s playing hard. He’s playing sound. I think he’s improving. I see some good things. Obviously we anticipate there will be more production as the season goes on. We think he’s giving us a good effort and has played well."
Quick Dolphins In Depth quiz: Mando has said many times there is activity and accomplishment. Do they equal each other?
Answer: Activity does not equal accomplishment.
Any NFL player can play hard. I'd say a majority do. But that is merely activity. To win, one must accomplish something. On defense, one must tackle, or sack, or intercept, or fumble cause, or fumble recover, or gobble blockers to create opportunities for teammates.
Playing hard is good but playing hard without accomplishing at least one of those is just activity.
And the reason I bring this up is because witnessing the games and using the tape grades from PFF, it's obvious Vernon isn't doing a whole lot while other Dolphins defensive ends are producing more with fewer opportunities.
Vernon is the No. 48 rated defensive end in the NFL, per ProFootballFocus. He's had 84 pass rush snaps in two games and managed five total pressures and that .5 sack. He has that assisted tackle in the two games combined.
Miami also has the No. 3 rated defensive end in the NFL, per ProFootballFocus ... Expected right? Well, not so fast. That No. 3 rated player is not Cameron Wake.
It's Derrick Shelby.
(Wake, with 2.5 sacks and six QB hits, is the No. 17 rated defensive end, according to PFF).
But I digress.
Back to Shelby ... He is a backup for Miami. He has only 20 pass rush snaps in two games. And in that short amount of playing time he has three solo tackles, an assist, two sacks, and two forced fumbles. Those are official statistics from the Dolphins. PFF also credits him with four total QB pressures.
So Shelby has some 60 fewer snaps than Vernon but much, much more producton.
“He’s very technically sound, a very good fundamental football player," Philbin said of Shelby. "He keeps his shoulders square. He has his hands where they are supposed to be. He’s smart and instinctive. He’s done a really nice job. I really like what he’s done."
The question is if OV is producing at his current rate and Shelby is producing at his rate, how long before Shelby starts getting more opportunities?
Furthermore, rookie Dion Jordan is also doing more with less. Jordan also has 20 total pass rush snaps and has two tackles, a sack, and three total pressures. He is the No. 13 rated defensive end in ProFootballFocus's ratings.
Now, I understand limiting Jordan the last couple of games. He's still coming back from that shoulder issue, he's catching up after missing much of the preseason, and he's a raw, young player that needs grooming.
But how long will he and Shelby be allowed to bang on the door of the starting job before someone answers? And even if you don't want to upset the order of things with Vernon as the starter, how long can the Dolphins continue to give more plays to a less productive player?
These are important questions this week because the Atlanta Falcons have the ability to throw the football about as well as anyone in the NFL. But they also offer the grand opportunity to give up sacks and strip sacks and possibly scores because both their offensive tackles are, in a word, atrocious in pass blocking so far this season.
In other words, the Dolphins will have opportunities to hit quarterback Matt Ryan on Sunday.
So do they give those opportunities to a player who has produced less so far? Or do they give more opportunities to players who are so far earning more snaps but not getting them?