Watch the video below.
It is a compilation of Alex Mack highlights from 2013. Mack, the center for the Cleveland Browns, truly is among the best at his position in the NFL. But that's not the reason the video is on here.
The reason comes around the :34 second mark.
In that play you see Trent Richardson taking the ball around his 48 yard line and gaining 11 yards to around the Dolphin 41 yard line.
In that play you see Mack getting to the second level and locking on to Dolphins middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. And you see Mack driving Ellerbe back ...
... and back.
... and back.
Richardson is tackled by Dolphins safety Chris Clemons. Meanwhile, a couple of more yards down the field, Ellerbe is still being blocked by Mack.
The Dolphins middle linebacker got locked up just beyond the line of scrimmage. He didn't get off the block, like, at all. And he got driven off the line of scrimmage some 15 or so yards by the time the running play ends.
And you wonder why the Dolphins run defense struggled in 2013?
And you wonder why the Dolphins are working with Koa Misi as the middle linebacker now and Ellerbe, signed to a five-year, $34.75 million contract last year, was a bust in his first year with Miami?
Yes, Ellerbe was second on the team with 101 tackles. But only three of his tackles were for a loss. Three tackles for losses is the same number Reshad Jones had in 2013.
And Jones plays safety, often 15 yards off the line of scrimmage.
(Anyway, watch the video before I continue below. Remember, the play in question starts at the :34 second mark.)
The Dolphins hoped Ellerbe could be their new Zach Thomas or Bryan Cox (he played MLB for a year in Miami) or John Offerdahl. He had been a solid fill-in for Ray Lewis when Lewis was injured in Baltimore.
But the move simply did not translate in Miami.
And so what to do with a player who is making $6 million this year, is costing $7.425 million against the salary cap, and cannot be cut because the move would weigh the Dolphins down with $11.6 million in dead money.
So Ellerbe is headed outside, with Misi now the MLB.
Well, the attempt to sign D'Qwell Jackson in free agency did not pan out. He went to the Colts. The idea of drafting Ryan Shazier did not pan out. He was drafted by the Steelers before the Dolphins could even make a decision on the clock. And Jordan Tripp, drafted in the fifth round, is not ready.
Koa Misi, everyone.
"Since I’ve been here, one of the things that we’ve emphasized strongly have been fundamentals on defense whether it is block protection, pursuit, tackling, creating turnovers," coach Joe Philbin said Monday. "One of the things we’ve liked about him, that I’ve liked in particular, is when we do a year-end cut-up and we show examples how to take on a block, how to tackle properly, how to pursue the football. He shows up on a lot of those cut-ups.
"Football, as I like to tell the team, is not complicated. Defensively, we want to do those things. We want to see him do those things and we want to take a look at him from the interior, from the middle. We think he has great leadership qualities. We think his play has certainly exemplified that over the course of period of time that I’ve been here. He plays football the right way, so we are going to see how we adjust to that position and how he relates to the other players at his position and the defense in general. So far he’s done a nice job."
Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said he's not ready to commit to Misi as the starting MLB just yet. But, honestly, what choice does he presently have?
Brian Urlacher is not walking through that door. (Well, maybe he might in Dallas.)
So ... Misi.
“I’ve always been open to anything," Misi said, thus dismissing an inaccurate report that he was unhappy with the move to the middle. "Like I said to these guys, since I got here, I’ve been switching positions. I’m always open to try something new. Like I said, if it works, it works and, if not, we’ll go back to the way things were."
So far, it is working as far as adjusting to the new spot and comfort level are concerned.
"I’ve played defensive end, I’ve played outside linebacker (and) all of our reads were from the outside in," Misi said. "I was walked out on number two. I’m playing Mike (linebacker) now, I’m in the middle. I’m reading everything inside out. I’m dropping in the middle. Everything’s different. I’ve got a lot more calls to make. I’ve got a lot more reads. With work, it will get better.”
"Once I get this defense down playing, playing Mike, I think I'll be all right.
"I’m already feeling a lot more comfortable."
The team didn't ask him what he thought of the move.
"They just told me they were thinking about some things," Ellerbe said. "I’m down for it. Where ever I can stay in and get comfortable and be able to help the team and play my best, I don’t care where they put me."
The Dolphins are still in the middle linebacker market. As they should be. They'll keep an eye out for possible candidates as teams make cuts between now and training camp and then again before the regular season.
The next phase of this experiment is obviously to see how Misi handles the middle when hitting begins. Then everyone will see how he handles the middle when the preseason games begin.
Amazingly, a team that paid so much to fill its middle linebacker spot a year ago still has uncertainty with the quality of play at that position.