First of all- I would like to take this oppurtunity to say that I feel getting an elite pass rusher should be the Dolphins' #1 priority this offseason. There are several reasons for this:
1.) A having a ferocious pass rush can mask a LOT of weaknesses. With an opposing QB having pressure in his face throughout the game, it can help mask an average secondary, and generate more turnovers due to forced passes and QB fumbles.
2.) Limiting the opposing teams passing game forces them to be 1 dimensional. A predictable team is easy to stop, and it makes it hard to come back if they get behind on the scoreboard.
3.) It sets the tone for the rest of the defense psychologically, and helps give them a 'mental edge'.
Now I know we have Joey Porter, but in my eyes he faded big time down the stretch. Not getting a single sack in a playoff game is just unacceptable. Flacco did not have a "great" day passing, but he never turned the ball over. A big part of that was the fact that he could stand tall in the pocket and wait for his receivers to open up, and if they didn't he had ample time to throw it away. Not to mention his stats would have looked significantly better if he had completed a few passes that he had wide open and simply missed. Getting a pass rusher would suddenly far lessen our need to get a big time Corner or Safety, and could even help the offense by consistently generating good field position.
Now, with THAT out of the way, I would like to present an OLB prospect not many of you may have heard of.
Clint Sintim is the starting Outside Linebacker for the University of Virginia Cavaliers. Simply put, their team stunk this year. But Sintim stands out for a number of reasons. For one, the Cavs run a 3-4 defense very similar to our own. This is very rare among big time colleges, and it is a big help that he wouldn't be adjust from another position like DE. An OLB in a 3-4 scheme is expected to do A LOT more than a DE in a 4-3, and Sintim fits the mold perfectly. At 6'-3" and 254 pounds, he has an ideal build. And with a 4.70 40 yard dash time, he is only .08 seconds behind Aaron Curry ( the #1 sure fire top 5 pick OLB prospect), and he is actually .05 seconds FASTER than Brian Cushing, the consensus 2nd best OLB.
Clearly he has the look, but what about production? Lord knows we don't need to draft Vernon Ghoulston v2.0. Well how about this: He has been the starter since his redshirt freshman year. He seemlessy took over for Chris Long as the leader of the defense. Has no history of injuries. No history of character problems. Works hard at his craft and doesn't take plays off. Equally effective at playing the run as rushing the passer. He consistently fights off blocks, and takes good angles to the ball carrier. He can even drop back into coverage when called up.
His senior year #s are as follows (keep in mind, these do NOT include a bowl game):
69 tackles (38 solo, 5.75 per game average)
12.5 Tackles for a loss (1.04 per game average)
11 sacks (.92 per game average)
3 passes broken up
4 QB Hurries
1 Forced Fumble
Pretty good numbers- and this was with VERY little help around him. And he didn't pad his stats against a bunch of scrubs while being held in check against good teams.
Against teams with a winning record his averages are: 5.6 T/G, .8 TFL/G, and .7 Sacks/G.
These were vs. 10 teams with a winning record; 3 teams that were ranked.
So whats not to like? Why on earth would such a stud be available with our measly 26th or so pick in the draft?
Well, mostly, nobody saw him play because he played on a team with NO offense, and few defensive playmakers around him. He could stand to strengthen up against the run. He doesn't cause as many fumbles as you would expect for as often as he gets into the backfield. Other than that, he could maybe stand to add a few more pass rush moves, but that shouldn't be tough to coach up in training camp.
Some scouts already have him rated above Brian Cushing on their OLB boards- as high as #2 behind Aaron Curry. They say the only reason Cushing may go above him is the benefit of playing under the bright lights at USC.
Just to compare, Cushing is averaging:
5.6 Tackles/G, .81 TFL/G, and only .23 Sacks/G. Only 1 QB hurry and 1 forced fumble all year (though he does have 1 INT, and 6 passes broken up). This is vs. 7 teams with a winning record; 4 ranked teams. That is 1 more ranked team than Clint, but 3 less teams with a winning recorord ( in fact, I believe all the Trojans got to pad their stats vs. winless Washington).
Looking at the raw #s, and considering the fact that Cushing played on a FAR better team, was able to play "fresher" due to having an offense that can stay on the field, and that he has a significant injury history- I am becoming an official "Clint Convert".
Look for his stock to rise at the combine similar to fellow Cav Chris Long last year, and don't be surprised if he is long gone by our pick!