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2014 NFL Draft: Virginia Tech's Tariq Edwards Goes Undrafted, Signs With Miami Dolphins

Can Tariq Edwards join James Anderson and become a Hokie linebacker who sticks in the NFL?

Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

After the 2014 NFL Draft ended, VT Football announced on its Twitter feed that former Hokies’ linebacker Tariq Edwards had signed with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent.

Tariq, the son of former Virginia Tech WR Bo Campbell (1989-1992) and twin to brother/fellow VT commit Tyrell--who ultimately gave up football--was a three-year starting linebacker for Coach Bud Foster’s LPD. He finished 2013 second on the team in tackles and tied for second in tackles for loss. The Hokies (generally) utilize a sort of variation of a 4-2-5 defensive scheme, and in it, Edwards held down the Backer spot. Players who play Backer in the LPD possess a skill set that generally translates to the NFL as an inside linebacker, as the LPD Backer is physical enough to bang around in the box taking on blocks or filling gaps to stop the run, yet speedy and fluid enough to also be able to match up against RB’s leaking out of the backfield—or when faced with certain formations to defend, inside WR’s—in the passing game. Players who play LPD Backer generally lack the speed and explosiveness necessary to play "sideline to sideline" and are best-suited playing with everything in front of them, only having to go forward. Otherwise, they would play Whip for Coach Foster.

On Paper

At 6-2, 235, Tariq falls within the traditional height range for an NFL ILB, but is about 10-15 pounds light. With a clocked Pro Day 40 time of 4.76, he is a couple steps slower than many teams would prefer their ILB’s to be, as players who run in the mid/high 4.7’s are generally 4-technique defensive ends.

How Miami Should Best Utilize Him

Tariq projects best as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He could conceivably play 4-3 outside linebacker, but would likely struggle having to cover shifty inside receivers in space. Edwards does not possess the speed or explosiveness necessary for a 3-4 outside linebacker: for comparison’s sake, former Hokie DE/current Steelers’ OLB Jason Worilds’ posted a Pro Day 40 time of 4.49 and a 20 time of 2.53. Edwards’s best bet would likely be to bulk up 10 or 15 pounds and bump inside; however, with a 40 time already in the mid/high 4.7’s, the excess weight would almost certainly bump him up into 4.8 land, which is no bueno for an "unknown" guy trying to scratch and claw for a roster spot.

I’ve seen comparisons with Edwards to former Hokie linebacker/former Panthers/Bears linebacker James Anderson. Those comparisons are valid in that the two attended the same college and played the linebacker for the same coach. Anderson (40: 4.59, 20: 2.68) played Whip in the LPD and was speedier than Edwards, and even he bumped inside during his recent time in Chicago.

Will Edwards Fit In Miami?

Edwards, as all UDFA’s, has quite an uphill battle to earn a roster spot. The Dolphins run a 4-3 scheme and are returning their entire starting linebacking corps from last season, including Sam Backer Koa Misi (6-3, 254), Mike Backer Dannell Ellerbe (6-1, 245), and Will Backer Phillip Wheeler (6-2, 240). The only recognizable name in the Dolphins’ reserve linebacking corps is former Florida standout, Will Backer Jelani Jenkins (6-0, 243).

Edwards’s best bet in Miami is to bulk up and bump inside. Outside, he would be a Sam and would draw the unfortunate straw of having to cover Patriots Super-TE Rob Gronkowski and Rex Ryan’s new toy: Jets second round draftee TE Jace Amaro. Inside, not only would he avoid appearing on Gronkowski posters, he would be able to play more downhill and come up and smack running backs—a strength of his. Either way, there will be a transition period for Edwards, as the LPD doesn't exactly operate under the same principles as your more "traditional" NFL defenses. Hopefully, he can reprogram his brain quickly and impress Joe Philbin & Co. with his ball skills.