Dolphins coaches have been preaching good tackling technique for several weeks now and it has gotten to the point where Jimmy Wilson has become something of the poster boy for ... how not to do it.
Wilson is about to become a Dolphins starting safety the first four games of the season because starter Reshad Jones is suspended for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances.
So Wilson will be part of the Dolphins last line of defense.
But Wilson has been, well, inconsistent in the manner he protects that last line this preseason. In the first preseason game he bought a fake and totally whiffed on a tackle opportunity by a backup Atlanta running back. The back scored on a 50-plus-yard run, although it was called back because of a penalty.
Last week in Tampa, Wilson attacked Tampa's Mike Evans after the receiver caught a pass. Wilson hit him ... and simply bounced off. Evans turned and ran and would have had a 43-yard score had Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes not hustled from the other side of the field and caused a fumble to go out of the end zone for a touchback.
Regardless of the fact the plays didn't count, they made Miami coaches cringe.
And so they singled out Wilson in film study this week.
"Obviously we showed the whole team the play," coach Joe Philbin said. "We talked about the tackling. We talked about the great hustle creating a turnover aspect of the play. We have these things that hang in on our meeting rooms on how we tackle, how we pursue to the ball, how we create a turnover, how we get off of a block, and conversely we have a bunch on offense. That’s not how we tackle. Throwing your shoulder into a guy and turning when you should be having your chin up, wrapping your arms and accelerating your feet. That’s not good enough. You can’t tackle that way.”
The message has reached defensive players not named Wilson.
“If you’re on defense that’s probably, might be the top thing in your job description," defensive end Cameron Wake said. "Your resume needs to be full of tackling because whatever you’re doing in pass coverage or whether you’re rushing the passer, at some point you have to tackle. Obviously, it’s early, rusty a little bit. But at the end of the day, that’s what football is so however you’ve got to get it done, you’ve got to get it done and get the ball on the ground."
I believe Wilson has gotten the message as well. Although he is expected to be the starter in place of Jones, that is not guaranteed. Michael Thomas and rookie Walt Aikens are also vying for the role.
If Wilson corrects his little tackling issues, he'll be the guy.
But the Dallas game -- the important third preseason game which teams use as a dress rehearsal for the season -- will be big for him.
He better not miss tackles in that game.