First off, I'd like to thank Kevin for taking the time to answer our questions. He went above and beyond the usual effort, largely because he explains it as helping out "a school near to his heart" due to various personal and family connections. We can't thank Kevin enough, and if you're at all interested in the Dolphins I urge you to check out his website, which is an SBN partner of ours. On to the questions!
What position will Tariq Edwards play for the Dolphins?
It's an interesting question, because I'm not really sure at this point where the starters will be working this year. Dannell Ellerbe started at middle linebacker in Miami's 4-3 last season, with Koa Misi the strong-side and Philip Wheeler the weak-side linebackers. Reports have indicated that we could see Misi move to the middle this year, with Ellerbe on the weak-side and Wheeler on the strong-side - or losing snaps to Jelani Jenkins. It's a position in flux, so it's hard to judge exactly where everyone will fit.
Why do you think Edwards went undrafted?
I think it's a matter of teams not exactly knowing what to do with Edwards. Playing in VT's defensive system, Edwards does not immediately align himself to a middle or outside linebacker position. Perhaps he would best fit as the Sam in a 3-4, but Miami primarily uses a 4-3, so that's out (though the team does hybrid into a 3-4, or even a 2-5 at times, so it's not out of the question Edwards finds his way into the middle linebacker position in those formations).
Edwards is not fast enough to transition into a 4-3 DE or 3-4 OLB, and he's not as big as you would want for a run-stuffing linebacker. Maybe the best way to describe Edwards, at least from an NFL standpoint, is "almost." He's almost big enough, he's almost fast enough. He's just one notch below everything you would want in a linebacker, but doesn't quite hit the mark. That doesn't mean he can't perform at the NFL level, but it does lead to his draft stock falling.
What attributes of his made him an attractive UDFA signing for the Dolphins?
I think it's that "almost" quality. He may not ever be able to pick up a step or two on his speed, but he can get stronger and he can learn the position - middle or outside linebacker - at the NFL level. He may need time to develop, and given that Miami is returning all of their starters for this year, he should have that time, but he is at least intriguing enough for Miami to want to take a look, and that's the first step toward making a roster.
Who will Edwards compete against for a roster spot? What are their strengths/weaknesses?
Assuming nothing crazy happens, Ellerbe, Wheeler, Misi, and Jenkins are on the roster. That leaves a knot of Jonathan Freeny, Jason Trusnik, Marcus Thompson, Darrell Johnson, and Andrew Wilson to battle with Edwards.
Freeny and Trusnik are also returning to the team, though Trusnik is almost purely a special teams player, so, if Edwards can show an ability to contribute on coverages, he could usurp that role from Trusnik. Tripp was Miami's 5th round Draft pick, so I would imagine he has a lead on Edwards.
The Dolphins carried six linebackers most of the season last year, so Edwards will have his work cut out for him to beat the rest of the UDFAs (Thompson, Wilson, and Johnson) as well as compete with Trusnik and Freeny to earn one of those positions.
In the end, I would not be surprised if Edwards spends the year on the team's practice squad - giving him the time to bulk up and learn his position at the NFL level.
Are the Dolphins' locker room problems over now that Martin and Incognito have been exiled?
I still believe a lot of that story was overblown. There was obviously some things that crossed the line, but I think Richie Incognito really thought he was just kidding around with his friend, and Johnathan Martin simply never said enough-was-enough. It blew up, and, when the NFL did their investigation, they had to find someone at fault.
Incognito was clearly the ring leader of the offensive line, with the other two members of the group named in the Wells Report, center Mike Pouncey and guard John Jerry,following him. Jerry, Incognito, and Martin are now gone, while Pouncey is signed through the 2015 season. Pouncey, however, did just re-kindle some of the "bullying" talk when he tweeted that he can't wait to get his gift from first round pick Ja'Wuan James.
To answer your question, yes, I think the locker room problems are gone because I don't think Coach Joe Philbin or GM Dennis Hickey are going to let there be an issue this year. They recently brought down the hammer on safety Don Jones, fining and suspending him, after he used twitter to express his displeasure of Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend on ESPN when he was drafted.
The team dealt with something unusual and unexpected last year. I don't think there is any chance they continue to have the same problems this year.
What contingency plan do the Dolphins have in place in case Pouncey gets dragged further into the Aaron Hernandez legal mess?
Not a lot, which is kind of scary. In fact, the league has not ruled out suspending Pouncey for the Incognito-Martin saga either, so there are multiple things that could lead to Miami needing a center to replace their Pro Bowler. Reserve guard Sam Brenner, who saw some starts last year with the Incognito suspension, is the team's backup center, so he would likely become the starter in place of Pouncey, but really, there's not a lot of depth at the spot.
That said, I don't think anything will come out of the Hernandez case that wraps up Pouncey. There have been occasional rumors circulating that Pouncey could be investigated under the weapons charges that are thought to be coming for Hernandez, but so far they are just rumors. Pouncey and Hernandez were roommates at Florida for a while, so it's possible he knew of something happening, but it just seems like circumstantial evidence and rumor at this point.
Definitely an interesting beat Kevin covers down there, that story was gift-wrapped last year. However, it likely got to be a sadder situation to cover each day, kind of like the end of our 2013 football season, or this past basketball season. Anyway, thank you Kevin for your well-thought out answers.Let's just hope Tariq attends all mandatory strip club meetings #don'trocktheboat
We'll be back tomorrow with more of these Q&As.