Miami’s offense hit the ground running when Mike McDaniel became head coach, but the defense struggled to keep up. The Dolphins gave up 24.1 points per game in Josh Boyer’s system, and following a 34-31 playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills — a change was needed.
The Dolphins didn’t search for an up-and-coming coordinator, paying up to have Vic Fangio’s 41 years of coaching experience at the core of the defense. It’d make sense if players needed time to adjust after four years of Boyer’s blitz-happy defense — that’s not the case for Jevon Holland.
A former second-round pick, Holland is nothing short of a nightmare to opposing offenses. The third-year safety has 25 tackles, two forced fumbles, and two pass breakups. He spent an extended period playing slot cornerback as a member of the Oregon Ducks, something Fangio takes advantage of.
Holland has already lined up in the slot 39 times this season — more than his rookie-season total of 36. In fact, he’s on pace for 221 snaps after 102 snaps lined up in the slot last season. He spent 94 snaps at free safety and another 64 inside the box.
“He has a tremendous impact,” Fangio said on Thursday. “We utilize his abilities a lot. And as you alluded to, some of it’s not very visible to the average person.
“He’s just a tremendous player. He has a chance to be a special, special player in the NFL.”
Lining up closer to the line of scrimmage allows Holland to be a disruptive force. For example, take his two forced fumbles against the Denver Broncos. He’s been consistent in the middle of the defense — but wait, there’s more.
Holland has been targetted 13 times, opposing quarterbacks are completing 65 percent of passes at an average of 8.1 yards per reception — good for a 91.8 — PFF’s highest coverage grade among safeties.
“It feels good, but it doesn’t really carry over to next week,” he said of his Week 3 success. “So if I’m not performing week in and week out, then it doesn’t even really matter. It does feel good though. My dad is happy. If anybody is happy… my pops. He’s definitely bragging to his homeboys and what not.”
PFF’s highest-graded safety through three weeks, Holland appreciates the recognition but needs just one person’s approval.
“Really the one that’s more important is what [Brian Baldinger] thinks of me,” Holland said. “That’s the most important. He’s like the best analyst I’ve come across. I love what ‘Baldy’ says.
“If I’m in ‘Baldy’s’ breakdowns at the end of the week, then I know I did something right.”