Miami Dolphins GM Chris Grier is judged on his ability to draft brand new talent every season. With the amount of high draft picks Miami’s had over the past few seasons, that scrutiny has intensified. Already there are concerns regarding CB Noah Igbinoghene, and several other Grier draft picks are under the microscope based on other players that were available to draft. However, this year’s draft class already seems to be catching the eyes of veterans and coaches, as many of them are being given opportunities to take snaps with the starting units. And not only that, many of them are doing well with those opportunities. Such as safety Jevon Holland.
All throughout training camp, Holland has rotated in and out of the starting lineup with veteran defensive back Jason McCourty. As of late, Holland is getting a lot more shots to practice with the starters while McCourty moves to the boundary corner position. He answered the call by diagnosing plays well, keeping pace with tight ends running routes, and capping things off with interceptions against Tua Tagovailoa.
“I think my interactions with him early on when we first got here, you can see the intelligence.” DB Jason McCourty said on August 4. “I think that’s the toughest thing, especially a rookie, of being able to learn the defense. Because as a safety, you’re the key communicator. You’re the guy who has to get checks out, who have to tell guys what to do. So you have to be able to master the defense. Early on when I first jumped on the Zoom calls, you saw that from him. Whenever a question came his way, he knew the answer. He knew what to anticipate and you can see it out here on the field. As we go on, he’s making more and more plays. He’s a hell of an athlete and he’s a fun guy to be around.”
As the first safety selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, Jevon Holland has lots of expectations attached to him. In fact, his versatility on the field is drawing comparisons to Minkah Fitzpatrick, who the Dolphins hoped would become their Swiss army knife on the field. He’s now a star safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers. There are signs that Holland can do the same.
“I feel like I’m learning the playbook and getting the fundamentals down, really.” Holland said on Saturday. “When you get the fundamentals down and do the little things, then plays come to you. You don’t have to really go find them. That was the result of one of them. But that’s in the past. I’m just looking forward to continuing to execute and capitalize on those things that come to me.”
It’s one thing to have expectations about a player. Many draft pundits considered Jevon Holland the best safety in the entire draft. No Oregon safety has been drafted so high since Patrick Chung in 2009. Which is convenient considering Chung’s history with Brian Flores as a New England Patriot. So far, Holland is showing excellent signs that he can become just as good in Miami.
“I would say he’s doing a lot of good things. He’s smart, he’s tough, it’s important to him. We’re asking a lot of him – multiple positions. I think he’s doing a nice job. But it’s not necessarily the interception – and that’s a good play, one that everybody sees – but it’s getting guys lined up, getting himself lined up, being in the right position, being in good position to make a last line of defense tackle, communication with the corners, with the linebackers, down and distance situation.
“There’s a lot that goes into that position. I think he’s taken on that responsibility and been very – let’s call it forthright and trying to do a good job as far as taking on that leadership or signal-caller spot, which is hard for a rookie. I would say to step in there and tell somebody else what to do – that’s what the position calls for. He’s growing. He’s getting better. There’s still a long way to go.”
Make no mistake, there will be a learning curve. Fans recall that Bobby McCain – now with Washington – was a key facilitator of the defense for years. It will take time for Jevon Holland to gain that comfort level. However, all signs so far point to Holland becoming an excellent NFL safety, a playmaker that the defense can use to rise to the top of the league.
“I think it’s just TNT’s – the ‘takes no talent’ type things.” Holland said. “It’s just about effort and wanting that ball. ‘Coach Camp’ (Anthony Campanile) talked to us about just feeling like the person with the ball is taking your livelihood and to attack the ball every play like that. Nobody has an answer for that – that 100 percent effort to the ball every time. I think that’s one of the main things of trying to play fast is making sure you know what you’re doing so you can react and just go run to the ball.”
Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for seven years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung