The Miami Dolphins are winners of two in a row after beating the Ravens 22-10 on Thursday night, in large part due to stellar defense and the emergence of rookie Jevon Holland.
This Baltimore team wasn’t like the ones of the past, showcasing less of a slashing run game. Instead, they opted for more of a vertical passing attack. This can be partially attributed to the loss of number 1 and 2 running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards.
Nonetheless, Miami knew Baltimore wanted to run long-developing routes, and they had a plan to stop it.
To give Jackson little time to improvise, Miami showed cover-0 (an all-out blitz look) a staggering 40 times on Thursday night. Thus, guaranteeing shorter passes and free hits on the quarterback, preventing the playmaking Jackson from operating in his comfort zone.
Miami often dropped in-line defenders towards the center of the field to shore up soft spots, while sending safeties and linebackers into the backfield.
The key to this aggressive defense, however, came from a new face in the DB room, rookie safety Jevon Holland.
In the 2nd round of the 2020 Draft, Miami made a decision that many questioned. Instead of making a trade for fan-favorite running back Javonte Williams, the Dolphins selected Jevon Holland one pick later.
After having a promising first two seasons at Oregon, Holland sat out in 2020 due to COVID concerns. Thus, much like other players, he lost the ability to show NFL scouts he was a first-round talent.
When the NFL Draft came around, the opinion on Holland was mixed. While most scouts liked his traits and performance, a lack of experience left him in varying places on big boards. It was difficult to tell where safeties such as Holland, Trevon Moehrig, and Richie Grant would land.
However, Miami seemed to have an affinity for Holland. His ability to play almost everywhere on the field caught Brian Flores and Chris Grier’s eyes, especially for a defense that uses a myriad of different coverages.
This, as we know, ultimately led to Miami taking Holland, making him the first safety drafted in 2021.
Early Season Spark
Through the beginning of his rookie season, Holland showed flashes. Standout plays such as sacks on Matt Ryan and big hits on Jonnu Smith made waves on social media. Fans and media began to see why Holland was taken so highly, and it seemed he just needed a moment to shine.
It seemed that this time had manifested against the Houston Texans. Just after Miami’s defense put together a pretty strong outing against the Bills, they looked to gain some momentum and potentially salvage the season.
With Miami facing a potential 8th straight loss, Holland made a huge play. Coming over from the middle of the field, he was able to intercept a pass in the back corner of the end zone.
Showcasing his range and playmaking ability that led to nine interceptions in his first two college seasons, it was clear that Miami had uncovered a gem. It was just time to display it to the national media.
With the Baltimore Ravens coming to town, it was clear that Miami’s defense had a major test. After failing to stop dual-threat quarterbacks in Brian Flores’ first two years as head coach, this would be one of their toughest challenges to date.
With the lights shining their brightest, it was the rookie Holland who stepped up to the plate.
With Miami using more of a blitz-heavy scheme, more responsibility was placed on the safeties. The Dolphins overloaded the box, often giving Brandon Jones and Holland a free rush. The key was getting there quick enough, rushing the ball from Lamar Jackson’s hands.
Holland excelled in that role.
Tallying 6 more of his position leading 14 pressures, Jevon Holland was able to rattle Jackson early and often. His quickness and instinct off the edge were rare for a player of his position, as many coverage players struggle as rushers.
Being a crucial part of Miami’s gameplan, Holland’s pressures caused Lamar’s passes to come out quickly and inaccurately. He was even able to tally a sack against Baltimore’s elusive QB, in which his speed off the edge gave Jackson little time to react.
Versatility in Space
Holland’s work in the open field was just as impressive. Tallying 5 tackles, he displayed the range that, in large part, led him to be selected so high.
On several occasions, he was able to move across the field and prevent big plays.
One particular play saw Holland begin on the opposite side of the formation on a jet sweep. After the receiver got to the second level, the young safety was able to get to the second level and make a play on the ball. His hit to force Duvernay out of bounds was extremely important, as he was the last line of defense, giving room for a potential touchdown.
His ability to threaten the entirety of the field while playing free safety gives the Dolphins much more margin for error, allowing them to run the exotic defenses we’ve seen recently.
The Bottom Line
It’s clear that Jevon Holland has the makings of the elite defensive back for the Dolphins, and his progression through the first 10 weeks has been immense. Miami has used him in a myriad of ways, and I expect that trend to continue.
Holland’s young career has been fun to watch thus far, and I only expect him to grow as it unfolds.
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