RB Lamar Smith is a physical player who prospers between the tackles
It was 27 degrees and sunny throughout the Miami Dolphins' game in Buffalo last Sunday, which qualifies as a nice day at Rich Stadium. It also should be noted that, according to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' advance scout who was in attendance, the press box at Rich Stadium serves very good hot chocolate.
So our scout was comfortable, and his gaze unaffected by sleet or snow, making for a good three hours of Dolphin evaluation. With the Buccaneers engaging the Dallas Cowboys on that same day in Tampa, but set to head to Miami a week later, Tampa Bay had their eye in the sky on the scene to fashion a scouting report.
There are, of course, no shortage of strong players to watch on that 10-3 Dolphins squad, which unexpectedly dismantled the Bills, 33-6. The scout has already prepared a 50-page report that the Bucs' coaching staff is perusing this week. Let's take a look at a few of his observations.
· With 15.5 sacks, second-most in the NFL, DE Trace Armstrong is obviously having a career year. Our scout reports that Armstrong's numbers are even more remarkable as he is used exclusively in passing situations, when the Dolphins bring in their nickel or dime packages. So, how is Armstrong racking up such numbers in limited time? Well, he presents a difficult problem from tackles because his a dual threat. On one hand, Armstrong is a good technician, a strong player who makes good just of his hands. On the other hand, he has just enough speed to get to the edge on the tackle, which means you have to respect him both inside and outside, and that sometimes lead to the blocker becoming off balance. He's a good 'combo' guy, sums up the scout. · In the inside, defensive tackles Daryl Gardener and Tim Bowens have made it tough on opponents to run because they are both thick, strong players. Gardener, says the scout, is playing the best football of his career because he's displaying better body control and balance. Gardener has good football strength, and he's utilizing it better now by staying low, despite his above-average height for a tackle, and getting underneath his opponents' pads. As for Bowens, he is your basic 'plugger', and when he rushes the passer, it's basically 'right up your numbers' – a bull rush, so to speak. As a tandem, Gardener and Bowens hold up well against the double team and don't lose ground, keeping tackling lanes open for their linebackers to come up and make plays. · Much has been made of the Dolphins' replacement for Dan Marino, as Jay Fiedler has beaten out Damon Huard for the job. Though Fiedler's 2000 statistics are not overwhelming, our scout says that he takes command of a game well. The best thing about Fiedler, says the advance man, is his ability to make good decisions quickly. He gets rid of the ball fast and doesn't take a lot of sacks or turn the ball over frequently. Fiedler has even shown better accuracy than was expected, and he has developed a good pocket presence. He has a feel for when the pocket is collapsing and is able to step up and away from the pressure. · The Dolphins, however, are most definitely a running team, and while there was a host of runners in a confusing situation when the season began, Lamar Smith has taken full control of that job. Smith has always been a good, tough, physical runner, but he's finally getting a chance to be 'the guy'. He was previously stuck behind Chris Warren and Ricky Watters in Seattle. Smith has good hands, which is important because Miami sets up a lot of play-action passes and screens. Smith's number-one trait, says our scout, is his toughness to run between the tackles. He's not overly fast, but he runs hard and gets to his top speed quickly. · If you're looking for a sleeper, keep an eye on FB Deon Dyer. Dyer has done an excellent job of blocking in short-yardage situations, and he plays very hard. Dyer hasn't carried the ball, but our scout feels that the Dolphins are setting up a play-action pass to him. They haven't used that play yet.