New Miami Dolphins linebackers get strong reviews from their former coaches
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. —
Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland signed linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler in free agency because he wanted to get “younger, faster and more explosive” at the position.
“We just felt like there was an opportunity out there to create a more physical presence on the defense,” Ireland said this week at the NFL owners’ meetings. “We’ve made some really great moves.”
At least three people agree wholeheartedly with Ireland — and all are coaches who most recently had Ellerbe and Wheeler on their teams.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he wasn’t shocked that the Dolphins swooped in and offered Ellerbe, 27, a five-year deal worth $14 million guaranteed on the first day of free agency.
“Not surprised – disappointed,” Harbaugh said. “We were hoping to hold onto Dannell. The offer they made him was just a great offer for he and his family, and he’s worth it. I thought Jeff Ireland did a nice job evaluating the linebackers, and they found a good one.”
Wheeler, 28, was the Raiders’ leading tackler last year. The Dolphins gave him a five-year deal worth $13 million guaranteed, and also snagged him on the first day of free agency.
“Listen, we didn’t want to lose him, obviously,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “But that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Ellerbe, entering his fifth NFL season, gives the Dolphins a good “three-down linebacker,” according to Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who was previously the defensive coordinator in Baltimore. Ellerbe entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia in 2009, learned under Ray Lewis and early in his career served as the Ravens’ “dime” linebacker in passing situations.
“So he’s played a defensive back’s role,” Harbaugh said. “He’s really become a real pro in the last couple of years. He’s fast, he’s explosive, he’s very physical at the point of attack, he can cover. He’s just a complete linebacker and a good guy.”
Pagano also called Ellerbe “a real thumper” in the run game. Ellerbe stands 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds and can play middle or strong-side linebacker.
“His best ball is still ahead of him,” Pagano said. “Really excited and happy to see what he’s done with his career. Coming in as (an undrafted) free agent, it’s really remarkable. It’s a testament to Dannell and his perseverance.”
Wheeler, meanwhile, has developed into a solid all-around linebacker after a slow start to his career as a third-round pick for Indianapolis in 2008. He became a full-time starter for the Colts in 2011, signed a one-year deal with Oakland last year and cashed in with the Dolphins two weeks ago.
Wheeler is known to be an excellent blitzer, and is likely to fill Kevin Burnett’s spot as the weak-side linebacker. Allen said Wheeler’s passion for the game and his all-out mentality during practices are among his strong suits.
Last training camp, Wheeler delivered a crushing hit to Raiders teammate Mike Goodson, knocking him out and sending him to the hospital. (Goodson was OK and played in Week 1.)
“When you love football, that’s the way you practice,” Allen said. “They’re getting a guy that’s going to be very active, that’s going to be very versatile, that’s going to do things the right way, and loves the game of football.”
“He’s going to fly around, and he’s going to do everything you ask him to do. I think he’s a great addition.”http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/sport ... ws-/nWyfG/