Christian Wilkins, Grier’s first move in this era, has become a decent NFL defensive tackle in his third season. Not great. Not a Davis-style handful. But the kind of productive player good teams need.
The offensive line? A 3.2-yard rushing average says it didn’t do much. It’s full of Rebuild Kids, too, draft picks from the past three years. It also missed left tackle Austin Jackson, who was put last week on the restricted COVID-19 list before being activated at the last minute.
An obvious distrust of back-up Greg Little meant rookie Liam Eichenberg started at left tackle despite working at right tackle and left guard all summer. He looked like he hadn’t played left tackle since Notre Dame. A sack. A couple holding penalties. But he did OK considering the difficult situation he was put.
Here’s the bottom-line: More Waddles, less who-are-they is needed. Waddle’s first game wasn’t some great surprise. It confirmed what he did this summer and why the Dolphins made him the No. 6 pick. The jolt of electricity seen on that first catch. The speed and playmaking in a 30-yard catch. The 3-yard touchdown catch and dive for the pylon.
He dropped a ball, too, which he also did on occasion in summer practices. So he’s not perfect. But he’s impactful. You saw the flash of fun he brought to what’s been a slow-footed offense in recent years.
Some perspective, too. Waddle’s four catches for 61 yard is notable. It probably doesn’t crack the pantheon of Dolphins great debuts. Dan Marino threw three second-half touchdowns in a midseason game in 1983 to announce his arrival in a 38-35 loss to Buffalo.
Zach Thomas had nine solo tackles and a sack in 1996. Jason Taylor had six tackles, three solo, and a sack in 1997. Richmond Webb and Keith Simms anchored the left side of the line for 177 rushing yards and no sacks against New England.
One game isn’t a conclusion. It’s a statement of what can be, though, as those names show. Waddle’s statement comes with that glowing word he kept using even in describing his touchdown.
“It was great,’’ he said. “it was a great play call.”
One kid starred Sunday. One kid was inactive. We’re coming out the other side of the rebuild. But for it to work as planned the idea is clear. They need more Waddles.©2021 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Visit sun-sentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.