Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon experienced the NFL equivalent of a growth spurt last season. After posting just 3.5 sacks as a rookie fourth-round pick in 2012, Vernon had a team-best 11.5 sacks last year.http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/miam ... ?track=rss
"He's got a chance to develop into a dynamic player," defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said.
Still, Vernon works in relative anonymity.
When most people talk about Dolphins defensive ends the focus is on Cam Wake, the three-time Pro Bowl selection, and then it drifts over to Dion Jordan, the No. 3 pick of the draft in 2013.
After those two have been analyzed, then the chatter eventually gets around to Vernon.
"It is what it is," said Vernon, the former University of Miami standout. "My play is going to speak for itself. That's all that matters."
What mattered most to the Dolphins last season was Vernon's hustle.
It became apparent very quickly in last year's training camp that Vernon was better against the run than the angular Jordan. Vernon was able to "set the edge," or turn the play back inside, and use his speed to make tackles on the other side of the field.
"The one thing that is clearly evident when you watch the film is this guy plays hard every single play," coach Joe Philbin said. "He runs to the football. He created some things on his own.
"Sometimes our job as a coach is to put players in a position to be successful. I thought our staff did an outstanding job of that last year, but he made some plays on his own, just pure, old-fashioned effort and hustle."
That, coupled with the 11.5 sacks, which was tied for seventh in the NFL, caught some people off guard. Vernon had a pair of stretches in which he got at least one sack in four consecutive games.
His two multiple-sack games came late in the season, when the Dolphins needed them most. Vernon had two sacks in a 20-16 loss to Carolina on Nov. 24 and three sacks the following week (Dec. 1) in a 23-3 bounce-back victory at the New York Jets.
"The great thing about OV (Olivier Vernon) is when you watch the tape, you're hard pressed to find guys that run to the football consistently like he does," Coyle said. "He's a great effort player, he's a team player, he has become a lot more disciplined.
"His rookie season, there was always that occasional one or two plays a game where he might have not cut a line correctly or missed an opportunity on something. But last year he was on point."
If Vernon keeps that up this season, he'll work in anonymity for long. He'll start to get double teams, chip blocks, and all the things Wake attracts.
"Yeah, but when you do that, that's what you want, that's what you expect," Vernon said. "And that's what separates the great players from the good."