Olivier Vernon

Ankle injury could keep Dolphins DE Olivier Vernon out Week 2

Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon (ankle) was limited in practice Wednesday, according to the Miami Herald.

Vernon left Sunday's win against Washington after suffering the injury. The Dolphins are still hoping to have Vernon available for Week 2, but he will need to show more in practice later this week for that to happen.

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Michael Oher, Olivier Vernon scuffle

Scuffle: After a lengthy lecture to players by Carolina coach Ron Rivera and Miami's Joe Philbin prior to practice, Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon and Panthers left tackle Michael Oher got into a scuffle during a speed-rush drill. Oher did a nice job of blocking Vernon, who went to the ground. With Oher standing over him, Vernon jumped up and took a swing. Players from both teams wound up in a big pile separating the two before it could escalate.

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Olivier Vernon with opportunity to have huge year

In his second season, 2013, Olivier Vernon had produced all of .5 sacks through three games. Didn’t matter. Anyone tempted to wonder if this defensive end from The U was going to pan out had his answer over the next month: Vernon recorded a sack the next week, then another, and before you knew it, he had gone four straight games with a sack.

Vernon finished the season with 11.5, including three in a rout of the Jets. Everyone knew the Dolphins had spent their third-round pick in 2012 wisely.
Fast-forward to today, when Vernon is staring at an opportunity unlike any he has seen to date.

With Ndamukong Suh playing alongside Vernon next season, and Cameron Wake playing alongside him (along with, say, DT Earl Mitchell), there aren’t enough men on a football field to allow offenses the luxury of doubling Vernon, too.

Vernon went from 57 tackles in 2013 to 46 last season. Instead of quarterbacks dropping, it was his sack total that fell, to 6.5.

More alarming: Vernon managed just one sack over the final six weeks last season. If that rings a bell, it’s no coincidence those six weeks are when the defense imploded. Vernon totaled just four tackles the final four games.

That is not meant to pin the defensive problems just on Vernon. He had tons of help as that unit gave up 32 points per game those six weeks.
What’s it all mean?

Vernon, still only 24, is the first to say his career with the Hurricanes wasn’t all it should have been. It’s why he wasn’t drafted until the 72nd pick.

His hot streaks in the NFL, especially during that second season with the Dolphins, prove he has the ability. It’s why he starts opposite Wake.

But with two Pro Bowl linemen alongside Vernon, including the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL, opportunity awaits. A unique opportunity at that.

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Dolphins high on RE Olivier Vernon

Dolphins RE Olivier Vernon said he would be open to signing a contract extension with Miami.

Vernon is one of the most underrated pass rushers in the league. LE Cameron Wake gets all the attention, but Vernon has posted back-to-back solid seasons with 2014 being his best. He started all 16 games as a 24-year-old and finished with 6.5 sacks and 48 pressures one year after registering 11.5 sacks. PFF graded Vernon as a top-17 4-3 end. He's entering the final year of his rookie deal. The Dolphins have a bunch of talent on the defensive line.

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Olivier Vernon Named Dolphins 2014 Walter Payton Man Of The Year Nominee

Olivier Vernon has been getting more and more recognition for his play at defensive end. He now has earned accolades for his work off the field.

Vernon has been announced as the Dolphins’ 2014 nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, presented by Nationwide.

The award, named after the late Hall of Fame running back of the Chicago Bears, is given annually to the player who best exemplifies a commitment to philanthropy and community involvement.

“I didn’t even know I was going to get that,” Vernon said Wednesday. “It’s a great thing. I want to thank all my teammates as far as trying to get me out there and helping me out with my camps and participating. Just giving back to the community is a big thing. I love just giving back to home. My home is in my backyard right now, so I’m just glad I had the opportunity to do that.”

The list of 32 Man of the Year nominees will be pared down to three finalists in January and the winner will be announced in Arizona, the site of Super Bowl XLIX, during the fourth annual NFL Honors awards show, a two-hour prime-time special Saturday, Jan. 31, from 9-11 p.m. ET on NBC.

Vernon and the other 31 team nominees will receive a $1,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to the charity of their choice. The three finalists will receive an additional $5,000 donation, and the winner will receive an additional $20,000 donation in his name.

The Dolphins have had three winners of the award: Dwight Stephenson in 1985, Dan Marino in 1998 and Jason Taylor in 2007.

Vernon, a third-year player from the University of Miami, has been actively involved in community activities for a long time, even before he joined the Dolphins.

“I’ve always done stuff when I was back at UM with (Coach Randy) Shannon or when I was in high school doing things for the community,” Vernon said. It’s just something else that’s natural. I was always trying to give back as much as I can.”

Vernon lately has been particularly passionate about helping to grow youth football in South Florida and has been heavily involved with the Dolphins Academy, which he attended as a youth, often running camps and clinics.

Vernon’s community work also has included working with local schools in team laser tag; distributing book bags to kids in need at Dave & Buster’s; walking in support of WalkAbout Autism; reading to kids at a local library; and donating a block of tickets for every home game to various charities through his participation in an All Community Team.

This past summer, Vernon spoke to 400 middle school students at a team summit at Florida International University.

NFL.com included a short explanation on how each team came up with its nominee, and this what was written about Vernon:

How has your nominee put the needs of members in the community ahead of their own?

“Olivier is a South Florida native and is constantly serving in various capacities to make his community better. In the offseason, he schedules vacations and leisure around his community events. He wants to make sure he gives back to the kids of his community. Olivier also volunteered his time to be part of the Dolphins’ first Heads Up Football Mom’s Clinic in July. He demonstrated the importance of proper equipment fitting and answered questions from a crowd of almost 300 women.”

What is your nominee’s next initiative?

“Olivier is very active in the South Florida community and is a consistent participant in our player events on Mondays. He will have his annual football camp in May and again be very involved in helping us teach and train youth football players in South Florida.”

When did your nominee start supporting this cause?

“He started almost immediately when he was drafted to the Dolphins. He started his football camps last year and has been working with our youth football department for the three years he has been with the organization.”

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Olivier Vernon: “Just Trying to Get This Win, Point Blank”

Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon joined the Joe Rose Show this morning on WQAM, with much of the focus on the challenge of beating the New England Patriots this Sunday in Foxborough, where Tom Brady’s squad is an unbelievable 27-3 over the last four seasons.

“Just trying to get this win, point blank,” he said. “We have a good gameicon1 on our hands.

“We’re coming off a tough loss. Our main goal right now is to get back into position that will help us further ourselves and make it in the playoffs.”

If the Dolphins were to upset the Patriots on the road, their playoff odds would surge back to relevance, but the task will be difficult considering they haven’t beaten the Pats on their home turf since September of 2008.

A third-round selection out of the University of Miami, Vernon has been a South Florida boy for his entire football career after graduating from American High in Hialeah. Playing professionally in his hometown has created a challenge with the mass of familyicon1 and friends hunting for free tickets to Dolphins games.

“I have to change my phoneicon1 number a lot.” Vernon said. “That’s pretty much what happens.

“You have to limiticon1 the tickets. Everybody’s gonna ask you left and right.”

Vernon had a career year last year, leading the team with 11.5 sacks. As for how he’s been able to develop into a productive player at the game’s highest level, he spoke about the mentality needed to be successful.

“You have to be relentless out there man, because you never know when your opportunity is going to come up to make a big playicon1 and change the game. You have to take that mindset on every snap.”

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Dolphins DE Olivier Vernon knows Dolphins OL Seantrel Henderson well

Miami DE Olivier Vernon had 11.5 sacks last year. He won’t square off against his former college teammate Seantrel Henderson Sunday, they’ll be on opposite sides of the formation, but Vernon still believes he’s one of the most athletically gifted big men he’s ever come across.

“I still think he was good,” said Vernon of Henderson. “To this day, that’s the biggest, most athletic guy I’ve seen at his size. Even when I was at UM (University of Miami), I didn’t do anything. I feel like he’s going to be a good player for that organization. We’ll see what happens.”

Henderson said he won’t be overwhelmed playing against guys he watched on TV while he was in college at Miami.

“It’s not too weird. I know a couple of guys. Olivier Vernon I played with him, so he’s going to be out there,” said Henderson. “I know a lot of guys from the Miami Dolphins. I used to seeing them when I’m down in Miami, but as far as playing against them it’s going to be just like another game.”

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Olivier Vernon living his dream with hometown

For a Dolphins team that desperately wants to connect with its community, Olivier Vernon is marketing gold.

He’s local. He has a great smile. And he’s really good.

While Pitbull has gone worldwide, Vernon is truly a man of the 305. Born in Miami. Prepped at American High. Played his college ball at the University of Miami.

Smartly, the Dolphins have made him a face of the franchise. They recently released a promotional video starring Vernon — both from today and from long ago.

In the ad, Vernon holds an aging snapshot taken of him in the grandstand of the team’s training facility in Davie; more than a decade before the Dolphins drafted him, he was a camper at their summer academy, learning the basics of the game.

Vernon had dreams of one day playing for his hometown team, but said, “I didn’t think it would be possible. What are the chances of being in Miami, playing for UM and staying in Miami and playing professional football? The odds are pretty slim of that.”

Probably at least as long as the odds of Vernon being the most productive member of the Dolphins’ loaded defensive line a year ago. After a mostly quiet rookie season, Vernon emerged with a team-best 11 1/2 sacks.

And despite questions about his size — he’s listed at 268 pounds — Vernon proved plenty capable of playing every down. And he nearly did. Vernon had more snaps in 2013 than any other defensive lineman on the roster — including Pro Bowler Cameron Wake.

“I think he kind of evolved to be honest with you, and I think probably what happened a little bit is his productivity kind of maybe took off a little bit as well,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “We were comfortable with him being on the field in critical situations.

“Maybe one of the things initially as we went into it was, ‘Well, is he going to be able to hang in there against the run? Is he big enough against the tackle-tight end combination schemes?’ And all of that stuff. He kind of proved he could do that. Then he proved that he could get involved in the pass rush and have an impact there.”

The better Vernon played, the more responsibility the Dolphins gave him. He even proved he could drop into coverage — often the biggest challenge for pass rushers.

“It wasn’t like Week 1 we said, ‘Hey, he’s going to be our guy,’ but the more we watched, the more we liked,” Philbin said.

Same goes for the people of Miami. He’s gracious with an autograph, no matter what the jersey — Dolphins, Hurricanes or even American High Patriots.

But Vernon hasn’t let his recent fame swell his head.

When asked what he plans as an encore to his breakout season, Vernon said he just wants to play his role.

Mentioned as the possible heir to Wake, now 32: “I never heard that one. I’m not even thinking about [it],” he said.

And how about when the Dolphins traded up to draft Dion Jordan, who plays the same position, last year?

“It didn’t push me at all. It just added more talent to the D-line, more depth,” Vernon said. “Dion’s a hell of a player.”

It’s apparent that Vernon would rather show you what he can do than tell you. And both he and Philbin believe he can do more in 2014.

“There is always more you can add to your arsenal in terms of pass rush, and then there are still things in the run game, from a technique standpoint, a discipline standpoint, that he can improve upon,” Philbin said. “But the one thing that was clear when we watched the film was the pursuit and the effort that he plays with was really outstanding last year.”

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Olivier Vernon (back) adds to injury list

DAVIE, Fla. -- The injury list continues to grow for the Miami Dolphins. The team announced Tuesday morning that starting defensive end and 2013 sack leader Olivier Vernon has a back injury and is expected to miss multiple practices. Vernon suffered the injury during Monday's practice and didn't finish the session.

Vernon was the biggest name added to Miami's injury list Tuesday. However, backup running back Daniel Thomas (hamstring) and backup tight ends Michael Egnew (concussion) and Gator Hoskins (hamstring) also will miss multiple practices.

Do not expect any of these aforementioned players to participate in Friday's preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons.

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Olivier Vernon hoping for another productive year

DAVIE — Before signing with the Miami Dolphins, Branden Albert didn't know much about Olivier Vernon.

But it hasn't taken long for the third-year defensive end to earn the respect of Albert, a veteran Pro Bowl left tackle who joined the Dolphins in March and now lines up against Vernon in practice.

"I just knew when I came in that he had a lot of sacks, but I didn't know what type of player he was until the first couple of days of practice," Albert said of Vernon.

"I said 'I'm going to have my hands full during OTAs and training camp.' He's a hard worker, he's a hell of an athlete, a hell of a defensive end. I think he's going to be a special player. He's already a special player. I think he's going to make some noise."

It's hard to fault Albert, or anyone outside South Florida, for not knowing what Vernon can do.

Before registering 11.5 sacks last year in a surprising breakout season, Vernon was a young player trying to make the transition from the University of Miami to the NFL.


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Olivier Vernon: D-line 'heart and soul'

The Miami Dolphins have several question marks heading into the 2014 season. Fortunately for them, the defensive line is not one of them.

Miami has steadily built a strong collection of talent on the defensive line the past few years, via the draft and free agency. The Dolphins have one of the NFL’s deepest groups of defensive ends with Pro Bowler Cameron Wake, 2013 sack leader Olivier Vernon, valuable backup Derrick Shelby and former first-round pick Dion Jordan, who is suspended four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Miami also has a strong rotation of defensive tackles with Randy Starks, Jared Odrick and free-agent pickup Earl Mitchell.

The Dolphins must rely on this deep group for production as well as leadership this season.

“All of us defensive linemen talked to each other, and we pretty much know what we have to do, especially when it comes to game-time situations,” Vernon said recently. “When it comes down to it, the D-line is the heart and soul of the defense. If we’re not doing what we have to do, then things start falling apart. So that’s one thing we’re trying to focus on now going into the season.”

Vernon was Miami’s biggest breakout star last season. The 2012 third-round pick made a significant jump in Year 2 from a rookie backup to leading the Dolphins with 11.5 sacks. He followed up by having a strong offseason and looks primed for another solid year.

Wake, Starks and Odrick have been consistent producers for Miami. Mitchell signed a four-year, $16 million contract this offseason after the Dolphins lost Paul Soliai in free agency. The defensive line, on paper, should be one of Miami’s strengths.

“I would say just wait for the pads to come on,” Vernon explained. “I know what kind of group we have, but I’m not going to just talk about it. I’m not the type of person [that] I don’t want to show what we have. I think all of us on the D-line will show what we have.”

Miami’s defense faces a new challenge this year in training camp. The Dolphins are implementing a new offense under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Miami aims to use an up-tempo style with a lot of motion and formations to confuse and dictate to the defense. The Dolphins’ defense will see plenty of these elements in training camp, which starts on Friday.

“They’re doing a lot of things I’ve never seen before,” Vernon said. “They’re moving fast. [Quarterback Ryan] Tannehill is taking control and he’s showing his leadership ability, and a lot of guys are impressive.”

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Olivier Vernon’s Breakout Season Is Just The Beginning

Among the most pleasant developments for the Dolphins during the 2013 season was the emergence of defensive end Olivier Vernonicon-article-link as a pass-rushing force.

It may have come to a surprise to some outside the organization, but the Dolphins had high hopes for Vernon from the time they made him a third-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft. And it certainly wasn’t anything unexpected from the man himself.

In fact, Vernon is confident it was only the beginning.

“With me, I always have high confidence in myself,” Vernon said. “That’s how you play the game. You play the game with confidence. You need to have a lot of confidence when you’re out there on that field. Even my rookie year I had a lot of confidence out there. I just didn’t play as much as I expected to, but that’s how it is as a rookie.

“Coming into this season, I’ve just got to elevate my game, got to get better than I was last year on certain things. I’m looking forward to it. I wish the season was next month.”

No matter how hard he tries, Vernon will have his work cut out to match his output of 2013 when he tied for seventh in the NFL with 11.5 sacks, the first time since 2008 (Joey Porter) that any Dolphins player other than Cameron Wakeicon-article-link had reached double digits in sacks.

The last thing Dolphins coaches should be concerned about, though, is Vernon getting complacent after his breakthrough season.

“The great thing about OV when you watch the tape, you’re hard-pressed to find guys that run to the football consistently like he does,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. “He’s a great effort player, he’s a team player, he has become a lot more disciplined. His rookie season, there was always that occasional one or two plays a game where he might have not cut a line correctly or missed an opportunity on something, but last year he was on point. He’s got a chance to develop into a dynamic player.”

When Head Coach Joe Philbin was asked about Vernon during the spring, he pretty much offered the same review of Vernon in terms of his nonstop effort.

It’s that work ethic that led, in large part, to Vernon’s success last season. It’s also why he wasn’t surprised by what he accomplished.

“Obviously I was really excited,” Vernon said. “My hard work was paying off and it was showing out there on the field. Pretty much the offseason I was just working on all my fundamentals and getting everything complete as far as my hand technique and stopping the run. As soon as the season started and the results started coming in I was kind of excited about it.”

Vernon’s emergence provided a big boost for the pass rush.

But even now, Vernon somehow gets overlooked because he plays a position where the Dolphins have one of the best pass rushers in the game over the past five years and also have the first defensive player taken in the 2013 NFL draft.

Rest assured Vernon won’t be overlooked this season by opposing offensive coordinators. Truth is, he probably can expect getting more attention.

“I hope not,” he joked. “Nah, I’m playing. It’s all about making your name known out there. Everybody wants to build that respect. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

And of being possibly overlooked by the media, Vernon simply says, “It is what it is. My play is going to speak for itself. That’s all that matters.”

For Vernon, it’s not so much about the results but about the process.

“My motivation is just competition, just competing,” Vernon said. “I have my own personal goals that I had last year. I’ve just written up some new ones for this year. It’s all about keeping yourself motivated by just competing out there. That’s one thing I just love to do. I love to compete. It’s the style of player (I am). My plays and the actions are going to speak for themselves.”

In that sense, Vernon is a little bit like the greatest pass rusher in Dolphins history, Jason Taylor.

Vernon got to pick Taylor’s brain in the offseason when Taylor spent some time at the Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University as a guest coach.

“I was kind of surprised when he came out here,” Vernon said. “I was excited in a way as well. I was excited for him coming into the building. That’s a future Hall of Famer right there. He did so much for this organization and to just pick his brain on anything that he has to dish out and just help us, I was excited.

“(He did) a lot with the hand technique, being able to get the offensive lineman’s hands off you as quick as you can, just recognizing how offensive linemen set, so better play recognition and what to expect before the play starts.”

The kind of advice someone like Taylor can dish out is only bound to help Vernon and the other Dolphins defensive ends.

For Vernon, every little bit can help. And that’s what it’s all about for him, always getting better. And that comes with hard work.

“(The 2013 season) wasn’t a surprise to me because I put in the work,” he said. “When you put that work in, you try to get some good results. This year I’m just trying to do the same thing, trying to get better as a player and a person and as a leader.”

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Olivier Vernon's stock continues to rise

ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker pegs RE Olivier Vernon as a player whose stock continues to rise.

Vernon led the Dolphins with his 11.5 sacks last season and returned to have a dominant spring. "He's real, real good," said new LT Branden Albert, who was beaten by Vernon for two sacks in a scrimmage last week. Vernon remains ahead of last year's No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan for the starting job opposite LE Cameron Wake. The defensive line is the clear strength of the team in Miami.

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Olivier Vernon excited about opening against Patriots

Excited about the Dolphins’ season opener against the Patriots? You’ve got nothing on Olivier Vernon.

The Dolphins defensive end, appearing on 790 The Ticket last week, said that he circled the date (Sept. 7, at Sun Life Stadium) as soon he got his hands on the schedule.

“What really got my blood pumping is that we got New England on the first game of the season,” Vernon said. “I’m just really excited to start it off with a bang, with a conference game.”

There’s a reason Vernon, who had a breakout season in 2013 with 11.5 sacks, sounds so eager. Part of him is still stewing about the way the previous season ended.

The Dolphins would have made the playoffs if they had beaten either the Bills or the Jets in the final two weeks of the season. They lost to them both, and within two weeks, general manager Jeff Ireland and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman were both out of a job.

When asked if the bad taste was yet out of his mouth, Vernon responded: “They never really leave until the season’s right around the corner, the season starts, and you have another crack at it.”

Vernon said it’s essential that the team remain “on the same page” and finish the games that got away from it a year ago.

The work on that began this week with the start of the team’s offseason conditioning program.

Vernon made it a point to praise the effort of Dion Jordan, the draft’s No. 3 pick a year ago who finished his rookie season with just two sacks.

Jordan has been a fixture in the film room this spring, “soaking everything up like a sponge,” Vernon said.

And yet, Jordan might again have trouble seeing the field if Vernon continues making plays. The two both play defensive end, and Cameron Wake isn’t going anywhere.

So what does Vernon do for an encore? He wouldn’t disclose his goals but did say that “15’s pretty good,” referring to a possible sack total in 2014.

Fifteen sacks would almost certainly put him into the Pro Bowl, which would be sweet, considering he wasn’t even on the ballot last year. His rise was so unexpected, it caught the league by surprise.

“There’s a lot of guys that before me, they’ve had great seasons and they didn’t make it to the Pro Bowl that year,” Vernon said. “That just adds more fuel to the fire. Can’t wait until this year and see all that work I put in show on the field.”

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Olivier Vernon receives NFL award

Miami Dolphins second-year defensive end Olivier Vernon was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his dominant play against the New York Jets.

Vernon recorded a career-high 2.5 sacks and 10 tackles in Miami’s 23-3 victory over New York. The win put the Dolphins (6-6) back at .500 and keeps them in the race for the final wild-card spot in the AFC.

Vernon leads the Dolphins with 10.0 sacks and has been one of the team’s biggest surprises this year.

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Olivier Vernon With Huge Game For Dolphins

Olivier Vernon, the second-year player from the University of Miami, had 2.5 sacks and 10 tackles Sunday. He now leads the teamicon1 with 10 sacks for the season.

Vernon sacked Jets quarterback Geno Smith on the first play from scrimmage, and sacked backup quarterback Matt Simms twice in the fourth quarter. Not bad for a guy who was supposed to be a backup to Jordan. Apparently that was a bit of motivation for Vernon.

"The offseason was big for me," said the third-round pick in 2012. "I was working on everything I needed to work on."

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Olivier Vernon Stepping Up His Game

First he soaked in everything he could as a rookie from veteran defensive end Cameron Wake, and now Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon is a solid compliment to the two-time Pro Bowler.

Teacher and pupil were on equal footing two days ago at Sun Life Stadium in Miami’s pivotal 20-16 win over the San Diego Chargers with both coming up with clutch sacks in the fourth quarter. Wake now leads the team with 6.5 on the season but Vernon is right on his heels at 5.5 and recorded at least one in four consecutive games, proving his slow start is a thing of the past.

“He’s been a tremendous part of this defense and this is not a surprise by any means to us,” Wake said. “We’ve seen him do it from the moment he got here so it’s great to see him actually getting some more recognition outside of the locker room. He’s literally a four-down kind of guy and that’s what you want to do when you play this game. He’s not just a specialist. On first down he’s stopping the run, third down he’s rushing the passer, he’s doing special teams and he’s done it all. So I’m glad to have him on the other side for sure.”

San Diego put rookie left tackle D.J. Fluker on Vernon the entire game, figuring his 6-foot-5, 339-pound frame would be too much for the much smaller ex-Hurricane to handle. Vernon is 6-2, 268, so he was giving up three inches in height and 71 pounds in weight.

As it turned out, Vernon pretty much had his way with Fluker and led the Dolphins in tackles with six (five solo), one for loss and two quarterback hits. His sack of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was the turning point of the game as he pushed them out of field with 4:07 remaining, knocking Fluker off balance and to the ground before wrapping up Rivers from behind.

“It’s about angles and he plays with great angles,” said defensive tackle Jared Odrick, who also had a sack in that fourth quarter. “He had Fluker’s weight going one way and then he came back on his inside shoulder and (Fluker’s) foot wasn’t posted into the ground so it slid back. It was really well executed but that’s the thing, he does that all the time in practice and he did a good job doing that.”

The comfort level Vernon has shown on the defensive line has been noticeable, especially considering the fact that he missed half of his junior season at the University of Miami. He settled into the role of defensive end nicely and finished 2012 with 3.5 sacks and 22 tackles (17 solo).

Vernon also made his mark on special teams as a rookie and was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for games played the week of October 25th-29th after he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown and blocked a field goal in Miami’s 30-9 win at the New York Jets. His sack of St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford two weeks earlier at home, which was his second of the game, forced the Rams to try a 66-yard field goal that missed in a 17-14 victory, but defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has seen even more improvement.

“He graded out very well,” Coyle said. “Oliver has really stepped up his game. He’s playing very good. That sack that you mentioned was a real big play in the game to get them out of field goal range.”

All three sacks by the defensive line in the fourth quarter were impactful, with Odrick’s early on forcing San Diego punt from its own end zone and set up Miami’s offense with excellent field position. The Dolphins added a field goal on the ensuing drive to make it a four-point game and alter the offensive strategy of the Chargers.

Wake’s came in the final minute and forced San Diego to burn its final timeout on the drive that came up short. But both Wake and Odrick pointed to Vernon’s sack as the biggest one because of the circumstances and how much time was left, with Wake taking pride in the fact that it came from another “hybrid” defensive end. Odrick put it into a broader perspective.

“Sacks like that are the ones that you dream about, being able to really not only affect the game but in a sense end it. That’s an awesome accomplishment for O.V. to just be able to do that in that moment and I’m sure it felt great because it felt great for us to have a D-lineman finish the game like that. O.V. had a helluva game and he’s the type of player that he just keeps getting better.”

This Sunday, Vernon gets to face the big and elusive Cam Newton, quarterback of the Carolina Panthers, which will be another challenge he’s willing to take on.

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Ref explains controversial call on Olivier Vernon

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Miami Dolphins had a tough day with the officials. The biggest call came in the fourth quarter following a sack on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Down three points, Dolphins defensive back Jimmy Wilson forced Brady to fumble with nine minutes left in the game. Miami defensive end Olivier Vernon was closing in on the recovery but could not corral the football.

The ball bounced 14 more yards and Patriots left tackle Nate Solder recovered at Miami’s 45-yard line. However, the official threw the flag on Olivier for illegally batting the ball forward.

Instead of losing 22 total yards, New England gained 10 yards on the penalty. The 32-yard swing led to the Patriots scoring their final touchdown four plays later in a 27-17 victory against Miami.

“You know, our stance was we thought he was trying to recover it,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “And they said he illegally batted it.”

Here was referee Walt Anderson’s explanation after the game via the pool report:

“The official on the field, what he ruled was that the player batted it forward, which is an intentional act. Players cannot bat the ball forward. With it being the defensive team they couldn’t bat it in that direction. The offensive team likelwise could not have batted it forward from their side of the field.”

Anderson further explained that the play was not reviewable.

Players in Miami’s locker room would not elaborate much on the questionable officiating Sunday. That may have been an edict from Philbin. It also prevents players from getting fined.

There were a few other plays such as a defensive holding call on Miami cornerback Dimitri Patterson and a potential sideline catch by receiver Rishard Matthews that didn’t go the Dolphins’ way. But Vernon’s call was clearly the most important.

“I was trying to make a play,” Vernon said. “But the ref called it and that’s what it is.”

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Dolphins who attended UM react to NCAA penalties

DAVIE – Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon, who attended the University of Miami, said Tuesday he thought UM losing three scholarships a year for the next three years was a bit too harsh of a penalty.

Vernon, who served a six-game suspension in 2011 for his role in the scandal, said he thinks UM’s self-imposed penalties should have sufficed. But he also understood the NCAA had to do something.

“I don’t think they should have (received any additional penalty),” Vernon said, “but they were under that scrutiny for a while so they had to do something.”

Vernon, however, said Tuesday’s announcement was palatable.

“I think it was better than what was expected,” he said. “You only got a few scholarships taken away for three years. So that’s better than what was expected was going to come down on us. I’m happy for those guys.”

Running back Lamar Miller, a former UM player, said, “losing three scholarships later on will be a big factor, but right now it really doesn’t matter.”

Miller said he thinks the self-imposed bowl ban was successful judging from Tuesday’s announcement.

“I thought it was going to be a bowl ban, too,” he said, “but the last two years they didn’t go to a bowl game.”

Miller played with the cloud of NCAA sanctions and scrutiny hanging over his head in his junior season, and possible sanctions were one of the factors that made him enter the draft a year early.

“I think it’s a relief for (the players),” he said. “When I was there we really didn’t know much about it until after the season.

“Everyone wants to play in a bowl game. That’s what you work hard for the entire season. Now it gives (the players) more motivation to want to go to a BCS bowl because we haven’t been there for a while now. I think they will be more motivated and hungry to go get it.”

Recently-acquired offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie also said the end of the bowl ban is a good thing.

“I’m glad they get to go to a bowl game because they’ve had a good season so far,” he said. “I’m glad it is behind them and they can move forward now. I’m happy for them.”

That seems to be the bottom-line thought of all the Dolphins that are former ’Canes.

“It’s done with,” Vernon said. “It’s finally overwith, behind, so now those guys can move forward and play for something.”

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Olivier Vernon (3.5 sacks) surprising team leader

DAVIE —— Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon had no idea who was leading the team in sacks when he was told Tuesday afternoon.
It's Vernon, with 3.5. He's barely ahead of defensive tackle Randy Starks (3.0 sacks) and end Cam Wake (2.5 sacks).

"I didn't even know that," said Vernon, a second-year player. "I'm just trying to keep grinding it out and do things my coaches ask for."

Vernon started slowly this season, struggling against the run and pass. But his play has improved greatly the last three weeks, which, coincidentally, has been when Wake, the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end, has been slowed due to a knee injury.

Nowadays, Vernon is good against the pass and a better than average against the run. The latter is a sign of hard work. Vernon was almost exclusively a pass-rushing specialist last season, when he totaled 3.5 sacks.

"From last year to this year, I feel like I've improved much more, especially in the run game," he said. "That's one thing I didn't have that many [plays] last year because I was coming in as a specialist. This year, I knew I was going to have to take on some more roles and I've been trying to grind it out every day and show up on Sundays."

Vernon is now part of a developing defensive end rotation that also includes Derrick Shelby and rookie Dion Jordan. Vernon's contribution will be needed even more this week when the Dolphins travel to New England to take on quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski and that dangerous Patriots passing game.

Vernon will be ready.

"I felt like coming into the season I prepared well during the offseason, worked on a lot of things I had to improve on," he said. "It might not have shown stat-wise at the beginning of the season, but play for play, I felt like I was much better than last year."

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Miami Dolphins Q&A: DE Olivier Vernon

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins completed their 2013 training camp Thursday, and one of the top players in camp was second-year defensive end Olivier Vernon.

The former third-round draft pick has been arguably Miami's most improved player throughout organized team activities, minicamps and training camp. Vernon beat out No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan for the starting job at defensive end, although Jordan has been hampered by an injured shoulder.

Vernon was a backup for the Dolphins last year and registered 3.5 sacks off the bench. This year he’s looking for more. I caught up with Vernon Thursday after the final practice of camp to get thoughts on his progress.

James Walker: Olivier, you and left tackle Jonathan Martin have been going at it a lot in this camp. How much are you making each other better for the regular season?
Olivier Vernon: We’re making each other a whole lot better. We try to go against each other every time in practice. As far as pass-rush moves, with me using my hand techniques, I’ve learned so much [facing Martin]. I’ve grown so much from last year to now, it’s like a whole different person. I have him to thank for that. He helped me a lot, and being able to see him, he’s gotten so much better. It works hand and hand.

Walker: I was going to ask about your growth since your rookie year. Has the game slowed down for you in Year 2?
Vernon: Last year was a whole boatload I had to learn. It was kind of overwhelming. But I just tried to go out there and played my best. Now, this year I feel like I know most of the things that’s going on. So it’s much easier. You don’t have to worry about, “Do I have to do this? Do I have to do that?” It slows down for you mentally.

Walker: What’s it been like playing for Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle?
Vernon: He’s a real cool dude. He sets people in position to make plays. If you know your role and you’re good at your role and do your job, you’re going to make plays. Last year was a new coaching staff, so he couldn’t put everything in. We had to crawl before we [could] walk. So this year it should be more things added on defense-wise.

Walker: Miami’s defensive line has a lot of depth. What’s the ceiling for this group?
Vernon: It can be great. We got a special D-line group. We all try to make each other better, especially with competition. The sky is the limit I feel like for this D-line.

Walker: Any predictions for your alma mater this year: the University of Miami?
Vernon: For the U? I know they’re going to beat the Gators [laughs]. That's for one. But I feel like they’re going to be okay. They’re going to be alright. It all depends on what happens with this whole NCAA thing [investigation].

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Olivier Vernon trying to prove he can play every down

When the Dolphins took Dion Jordan with the third overall pick in the draft, everyone looked to him as the player who would line up opposite Cameron Wake and help maximize the pass rush on defense this season.

Jordan may wind up filling that role, although he’ll have some catching up to do once he gets off the non-football injury list. Until he does, Olivier Vernon is playing with the first team at defensive end and the 2012 third-round pick isn’t planning on giving up the job without a struggle.

“Last year was that learning year. I had to soak everything in and play my role,” Vernon said, via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “This year I’m just trying to get a feel for everything that will be thrown at me. I’m trying to be an every down type of player. I’m trying to prove something out here.”

Vernon’s role last season was almost totally that of a situational pass rusher. He had 3.5 sacks in 445 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, a number that shows some promise as a complement for Wake if he succeeds in proving that he can play the run as well. Should the Dolphins get that to go with Jordan, their pass rush would take a big step forward from last season.

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Olivier Vernon opens camp as starter

Dolphins 2012 third-round pick Olivier Vernon opened training camp as the team's starting right defensive end.

The Fins loved what they saw from Vernon at spring workouts, and he flashed with 3.5 sacks on limited snaps as a rookie. This position may eventually go to Dion Jordan or perhaps incumbent RE Jared Odrick, but the Dolphins want Vernon geared up for an increased role. He has explosive pass-rushing traits.

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Olivier Vernon Stock Watch

Olivier Vernon, Miami Dolphins defensive end: Vernon capped off a solid offseason with Miami during mandatory minicamp. After moving 2012 starting defensive end Jared Odrick inside to defensive tackle, Vernon is now the early favorite to start at defensive end heading into training camp. The 2012 third-round pick received an additional boost up the depth chart due to 2013 first-round pick Dion Jordan's absence. Jordan could not participate with the Dolphins this offseason due to the quarter system at the University of Oregon. He also is recovering from shoulder surgery in February. Therefore, Vernon got a lot of valuable reps with the first-team defense and showed many of the flashes he displayed his rookie year. It’s no secret that Jordan, the No. 3 overall pick last April, will eventually supplant Vernon in the starting lineup. But Vernon did all he could to hold his spot and may be in the starting lineup for Miami in Week 1.

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Olivier Vernon hopes versatility lands him starting spot

DAVIE— Olivier Vernon's first step is definitely explosive, but the ones that follow his take off are even more impressive.

But we're not talking about this Dolphins defensive lineman's pass rushing repertoire. Vernon's rush skills are still being polished.

What sets Vernon apart from his counterparts on Miami's defensive line is his unique ability to drop back into coverage and run downfield stride-for-stride with tailbacks, tight ends, and even receivers.

The former University of Miami standout did it occasionally during his college career, and in instances during his rookie season with the Dolphins.

But it appears defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle will be turning up the volume, calling on this hybrid player to drop back more in 2013. Coyle continues to install some rather unique blitzes that the defense was experimenting with this offseason.

"I like what we see from him, no question," coach Joe Philbin said of Vernon, whom the Dolphins selected in the third round of last year's draft.

With Jared Odrick moving inside to defensive tackle, Vernon has spent every snap this summer as the Dolphins' starting right side defensive end. His tweener skills have encouraged the coaches to get a little creative.

"The good thing about him is he can put his hand on the ground and he can function. You can put him in a two-point stance and he can function. And then as he grows as a player you can maybe move him around to a couple different spots," Philbin said.

"That creates what we call targeting issues for the offense, and identification issues."

The Dolphins new-look defense is all about creating confusion about roles, assignments and coverages; therefore, versatile players such as Vernon will be the key.

But that's if Vernon manages to keep the starting spot. The Dolphins used a first-round pick to draft Oregon's Dion Jordan, a player with similar tweener skills, and comparable athleticism to Vernon.

Jordan, whom the Dolphins traded up to select third overall, played outside linebacker in Oregon's 3-4 defense, and routinely dropped back into coverage. When he finally joins the Dolphins during training camp, which opens in late-July, Jordan will be moved to defensive end, where he'll compete with Vernon for the starting spot opposite Cameron Wake.

Vernon doesn't seem too concerned about his competition's first-round draft status.

"Everybody will have an opportunity, especially during training camp." said Vernon, who contributed 32 tackles, 3.5 sacks and forced one fumble in his 445 snaps as a rookie. "Whoever is the best fit for the position will have the spot.

"If he can help the team he can help the team. That's what we need. We need guys who can come in and make plays."

But Vernon has no intentions of backing down, nor should he considering pound-for-pound he's one of the best athletes on the roster.

"Olivier did an outstanding job for us as a rookie. He had a tough learning curve but he did an excellent job," defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers said of Vernon, who started just 16 games at UM before leaving after his suspension-shortened junior season.

"When [the coaches] went through the cut ups [of film] in the offseason we felt like we have to get this guy on the field to play more."

Rodgers said Vernon has made "great strides" during the offseason program. He's been working out weekly at the team facility since January, and hasn't taken a break from weight lifting.

As a result he's bulked up to 268 pounds, which he believes will help him set the edge better.

Wake said the biggest improvement Vernon has made is his "football awareness," understanding situations, schemes, formations better. That's an edge he'll have over Jordan, who has missed all of the Dolphins' offseason program because of NFL rules.

"Last year was a welcome to the NFL type situation," Wake said. "Now [Vernon] knows what's going on."

He also knows what to expect.

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Olivier Vernon taking 1st-team reps on D

Dolphins second-year DE Olivier Vernon has taken reps with the first-team defense at OTAs.

With Randy Starks (franchise tag) and Dion Jordan (late graduation) both away from the offseason sessions, Vernon has worked as the first-team right end and Jared Odrick has been the starting tackle next to Paul Soliai. Vernon won't be an every-down player in 2013, but he should have a role in sub-packages. The 2012 third-round pick registered 3.5 sacks off the bench as a rookie.

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Olivier Vernon: Dolphins Youth Camper To Dolphins Draft Pick

Little did they know it back then, but a decade ago the Miami Dolphins were developing their first true homegrown prospect in 12-year-old Olivier Vernon.

Vernon, now 22, remembers his experience at the team’s youth football camp in 2003 like it just happened. It was then that Vernon decided for himself that football and not soccer was going to be his passion and he planned his future.

“Actually, during my first week of OTAs last year that was going through my head,” said Vernon, a defensive end who was chosen in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Dolphins out of the University of Miami. “Where we have lunch now, that’s where I would eat lunch as a kid because that’s where we had the little snacks and stuff. Then they brought us into the team meeting room and we watched the season highlights of the Dolphins. What are the odds of me being in the team meeting room again as a Miami Dolphin?”

If the resume Vernon put together for a high school a project is any indication, he already was setting some favorable odds. His objective at the top of the page read, “To obtain a position in the National Football League.” Clearly a lofty goal to some at the time, but Vernon was serious.

The fact that he was named the MVP of the Dolphins football camp in that summer of 2003 added credence to Vernon’s vision, and that was the third consecutive summer he participated.

His father, Lascelles, was a soccer player back in his native Jamaica before an unfortunate accident ended his career in high school, so while initially he was saddened by his son’s choice to stop soccer for football, he had no doubt that Olivier would reach his goal.

“Anything he puts his mind to he always sees it through and he doesn’t like to lose,” Lascelles Vernon said. “He’s very competitive and that’s what he wanted to do since he was a kid. It was very exciting watching him at Dolphins camp and everyone was amazed at how fast he was and how much stamina he had. That came from soccer and he was excited to tour the facilities and meet the Dolphins players.”

Bernadette Vernon proudly displays the jerseys her son wore all those years ago in Davie, including one with former Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler’s autograph on the back among others. She also kept the autographed Dolphins football Olivier received for being named as the camp's MVP along with lots of photos of him and his friends practicing and playing.

After watching her son excel at soccer as well as an art student, Bernadette also was caught a little off guard about his newfound passion for football. He pursued it at Miami American High School and used the skills he learned at Dolphins Camp to get a leg up on the competition and his mother realized this would be his calling.

“He knew what he wanted do from the time he was in middle school and I saw how much fun he was having at that football camp,” said Bernadette, who got to watch Olivier play in the same stadium as the Dolphins with the Miami Hurricanes. “It’s incredible. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remind me that it’s real and that my son who wrote on his resume that he was going to be in the NFL is there now.”

Vernon can laugh now about what he was like as a young camper taking instructions from former Dolphins and NFL players.

He even got to experience a role reversal last year with the rest of his rookie closs as the student became the teacher at a special rookie clinic for kids. There was no doubt Vernon enjoyed sharing his story with them.

“Kids look up to people like us at this level,” he said. “I let them know that dreams can come true and that I was sitting right where they were when I was their age dreaming about being here.”

Oliver Vernon’s dream started at the Dolphins Academy football camps 10 years ago, sign up today and maybe yours will start there as well.

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Dolphins GM Excited About Olivier Vernon's Future

Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland said DE Olivier Vernon is "going to get much, much better." Vernon, a 2012 third-round pick out of Miami, will spend the offseason working out with and learning pass-rush moves from Cameron Wake.

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Olivier Vernon Participates In Souper Bowl Of Caring

Richard Marshall, Kheeston Randall and Olivier Vernon along with Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders and T.D. visited an art class at Nova Blanche Forman Elementary in Davie. The Dolphins players joined a group of 5th grade students making bowls out of clay to support the Empty Bowls program. The students were selected to make the bowls with the players because they have been performing well in school.

The bowls will be auctioned off as a part of the Empty Bowls program, which helps to raise money for Souper Bowl of Caring. The Souper Bowl of Caring is a youth-focused, national effort working to see Super Bowl weekend become the largest weekend of giving and serving in the life of our country. Participation includes youth representing a variety of faith groups, schools, civic organizations and businesses in all 50 states and several other countries. 100% of all funds raised from the school auctions will be directly donated to Feeding South Florida.

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PHOTO: 49ers & Dolphins proCanes Represent After Game


proCane Dolphin Olivier Vernon, 49er Frank Gore & Dolphin Lamar Miller throw up “The U” after their Week 14 matchup in which the 49ers won. proCane 49ers LB Tavares Gooden was not in the picture as he was in the locker room nursing an injury he suffered during the game.

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proCanes' Reactions to UM's Self Imposed Bowl Ban on Twitter

Tyler Horn @Tyler63Horn
I understand the decision and not for one second blame the coaches or the Admin. I just think the process needs to be expedited by the NCAA.

Tyler Horn @Tyler63Horn
The NCAA needs to change. Making 2 classes w/ an overwhelming majority of innocent players miss out on what they earned is just plain wrong

DeMarcus Van Dyke @D_VanDyke8
Let the seniors enjoy what they worked for! We don't know what the NCAA is going to do so don't tell me that BS

DeMarcus Van Dyke @D_VanDyke8
This is like we are punishing them kids for a bad report card their big brother receive

Ottis OJ Anderson @OJAnderson24
Say what?! “@hurricanesports: Miami Hurricanes Make Unprecedented Decision to Forego Bowl Opportunity in 2012http://bit.ly/T6AnYR ”

Alonzo Highsmith @alonzohighsmith
I am done with Miami!!! God bless them and wish them well? Will worry about Packers? Run right from the top!!!

Alonzo Highsmith @alonzohighsmith
Will not commit anymore on the Miami situation anymore? What's done is done? Did Donna give up her pay check?

Sean Goldstein @Sgoldie_daU53
As a UM fan and former player today couldn't be much worse. We self-impose another bowl ban and nd is ranked 1 #yikes

Sean Goldstein @Sgoldie_daU53
I couldn't feel any worse for those guys on the team who have to deal with another bowl ban. Too much work gets put in for this to happen

Jacory Harris @12JHarris12
Wow, those guys worked to hard to get where they are this year!

Kyle Bellamy @KyleBellamy_U
I wonder if the NCAA will care that UM has self imposed bowl ban passed 2 years. They never really liked us in first place

BonecrusherDan Sileo @DanSileoShow
What are the Canes waiting for...Ohio State REGRETS not giving last years bowl up..so does USC...HUGE mistake if we DONT

Brian Monroe @TrainerRoe
Smh! #staystrong #ufamily

Brandon Harris @HarrisNOFLYZONE
"I'm pissed why punish yourself twice the NCAA could care less about self imposed they still bringing the hammer,” he posted.

Olivier Vernon told the sun-sentinel: "Sometimes I guess you feel like the school doesn’t have your back," said Miami Dolphin Olivier Vernon, a member of the 2011 Hurricane team that also sat out a bowl ban. "You work so hard in the season to get to a bowl game, get to ACC championship, and to know that your school gave up a bowl bid kinda hurts a little bit but I’m not there so I ain’t worrying about it right now." Vernon also recalled how the 2011 team responded a week after being told a bowl was out.

"A lot of guys were down," he said. "It’s not a good feeling. But you’ve got to wish the best for things to come next year and the following (years)."

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Olivier Vernon named AFC Special Teams Player of Week

Dolphins rookie defensive end Olivier Vernon, who scored a touchdown off a blocked punt and blocked a field goal in Sunday’s 30-9 victory over the New York Jets, was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week Wednesday.

The award is the first won by a Dolphin this season and marks the first time a rookie has won since 2008, when placekicker Dan Carpenter won for his performance against Buffalo on Dec. 7, 2008. Carpenter kicked three field goals _ from 50, 35 and 27 yards _ that accounted for the margin of victory in that 16-7 win.

Vernon is one of only four non-kickers to win the award. The others were punt returners Nate Jacquet in 1992 and Wes Welker in 2009, and kick returner Ted Ginn Jr. in 2008, who had two returns of 100 and 101 yards for touchdowns in another win over the Jets.

A third-round pick out of the University of Miami, Vernon was in the right place at the right time after Jimmy Wilson blocked a Robert Malone punt, grabbing the ball just as he was headed into the end zone to give Miami a 10-0 lead.

Then, just before the half, Vernon broke through the line to get a hand on Jets’ kicker Nick Folk’s 35-yard attempt that would have cut the Dolphins’ halftime lead to 20-3.

Vernon has two tackles on special teams and a forced fumble this season to go with the blocked field goal. On defense, he ranks third on the team with 2.5 sacks and has also been credited with 10 tackles, three passes defensed, one tackle for loss and three quarterback hits.

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PHOTO: Olivier Vernon Dances Gangnam Style


Miami Dolphins' Olivier Vernon (50) celebrates with teammate Jonathan Freeny (59) after returning a blocked punt for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets.

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Olivier Vernon dances Gangnam Style after Dolphins blocked punt for touchdown


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Cam Wake tutors Olivier Vernon in finer points of pass rushing

MIAMI GARDENS — It’s a circle Dolphin coaches hope will never be broken.

A young player arrives, raw, eager to learn, and a veteran steps forward and becomes his mentor. It happened when Jason Taylor taught Cam Wake how to play outside linebacker three years ago, and it’s happening again now with Wake and rookie defensive end Olivier Vernon.

“I remember Koa (Misi) doing the same thing (Vernon) is doing now a couple years ago,” Wake said. “Coming to me and asking, ‘What are the packages?’ ‘What do I do when they do this?’ I want to pass on my wisdom as much as I can, and help him utilize the assets he has.”

Vernon was about as raw as a rookie can get when he arrived as a third-round pick out of the University of Miami last summer. Leaving UM after his junior year, he took Wake as his role model at the defensive end position and, with his playing time limited early this season, has watched and learned.

“When I’m on the sidelines during a game I just look at him and I’m like, ‘Man, how did you do that?’ ” Vernon said. “He gives me some pointers and I try to apply it.”

Wake said their size similarity — Wake is 6-foot-3, 258 pounds while Vernon is 6-2, 268 — means they face similar challenges in getting to the quarterback.
“We’re that ‘Too big to be a linebacker, too small to be a defensive end’ size,” he said. “You’ve got to have a mentality every time you step on the field and you’re giving up 80 pounds to an offensive lineman. You’ve got to be able to say, ‘I don’t give a blankety-blank how big you are, I’m just as strong, and powerful, and explosive.’ And he has that.”

Vernon impressed General Manager Jeff Ireland in a workout prior to the draft, but was still surprised when the Dolphins, who were switching from a 3-4 defensive scheme to a 4-3, selected him.

“I could have sworn I was going to a 3-4 team, because every team I met with was playing a 3-4 scheme,” he said. “So when I came to the Dolphins and heard (they were playing) a 4-3, I was like, ‘All right, cool, I’ll put my hand back in the dirt.’

“But the coaches have given me a little leeway with a two-point stance. I feel a lot more comfortable in a two-point stance (standing up).”

Vernon’s ability to get to the passer from the early days of offseason workouts impressed not only Wake (“he was chasing Ryan Tannehill all over the field&rdquoWinking but also defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, who recognized that underneath the unpolished exterior was an athlete with the size, strength and quickness to consistently pressure passers.

“It’s an ongoing process … but just using the natural speed he had, he was able to excel with some of the rushes he would use in college,” Coyle said.
“(Then) he started to realize he has to continue to develop his repertoire of pass rush moves. (Defensive line coach) Kacy Rodgers does as good a job as anybody in the league coaching those defensive linemen. Now you’re seeing a guy who’s going to be an impact guy from here on out.”

Vernon had five tackles in his first five games including a half-sack against the New York Jets, but his coming-out party was the Oct. 14 game against St. Louis, when his four tackles included two sacks of Sam Bradford. Among Dolphin rookies, only A.J. Duhe (1977) and Marco Coleman (1992) have had more in a game.

Vernon said watching Wake haul down Bradford earlier in the game inspired him.

What made that day even more special is that his father, Lascelles, a Miami Beach police officer, and mother, Bernadette, were in attendance, as they have been at all his games since his days at American High School in Miami. He was heavily recruited by Alabama and Florida State, but family ties led to the decision to stay home and play with the Hurricanes. Now he makes his living not 10 minutes from where he grew up.

“I grew up on 199th Street, so when I went to middle school the bus would pass (Sun Life) stadium every day,” he said. “To play there now, it’s crazy.”

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Olivier Vernon, Lamar Miller happy where they are

On the first day of school at Miami American High in 2005, a lanky freshman named Olivier Vernon walked into coach Morty Bernstein’s office and signed up to play football.

Even though he had never played organized football, Vernon soon found himself on the Patriots’ varsity team. The freshman got pummeled.

“I wanted to play safety because I admired Sean Taylor so much,” Vernon said. “They saw my size and put me on D-line. I was only 175 pounds. There were a lot of big dudes out there.”

No one, at least not then, could have envisioned Vernon playing down the road at Sun Life Stadium as a member of the Miami Dolphins just seven years later.
Last Sunday, the rookie defensive end had his best day as a member of the Dolphins, sacking quarterback Sam Bradford on the Rams’ final offensive play. After the 3-yard loss, St. Louis attempted a desperate 66-yard field goal. The kick drifted left and the Dolphins held on for a 17-14 win.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be playing in the NFL, much less for the Dolphins,” Vernon said. “This is a great opportunity for me and I truly feel blessed.”

Vernon and fellow rookie Lamar Miller, a running back, are both rarities within the Dolphins as both have been able to spend their entire football career — to this point, anyway — without leaving Miami-Dade County (aside from practices in Davie).

The only other player in Dolphins history to play his entire career within the 305 area code is recently retired offensive lineman Vernon Carey (Miami Northwestern).

Defensive back Bobby Harden, a native of Pahokee, played four seasons with the Dolphins after being a 12th-round pick out of Miami in 1991.

Randal Hill came close to being the first as the Miami Killian High grad was taken with the 23rd pick by the Dolphins in 1991. After one game, Hill was traded to Arizona for a first-round pick. Hill returned to Miami in 1995 and played in 26 games over the course of two seasons.

Even though South Florida is rich in football talent and the University of Miami produced 114 NFL draftees from 1992 to 2011, the Dolphins haven’t stayed local very often as Vernon was the first UM player drafted by the Dolphins since Carey in 2004.

Since the Dolphins’ inception in 1966, the franchise has selected 17 players from Miami — nine since Miami won its first national championship in 1983. The Dolphins have signed former UM players — such as Bernie Kosar, Craig Erickson, Cleveland Gary, Leon Searcy and Lamar Thomas — years after other teams drafted them.

Vernon and Miller say they appreciate the opportunity they have to suit up for their hometown squad.

“I can’t believe I’m playing in my hometown. To play high school, college and pro in one town is a true blessing,” said Miller, who played at Killian High before spending three seasons with the Hurricanes. “I used to watch the Dolphins and was a high school Player of the Week a few times, so I got to come to a few games. Having my family here at every home game is real motivation.”

Like Miller, Vernon has plenty of family support in the stands each week.

His father Lascelles — who is a Miami Beach police officer — and mother Bernette never missed a UM game once he joined the Hurricanes in 2009. And although they haven’t traveled yet this season, they are planning to do so. They have, however, been there for his four home games (including the preseason) with the Dolphins.

“The Dolphins believed in me,” Vernon said. “The funny thing was, just before I got picked, my mom hugged me and said ‘I hope you don’t go anywhere.’ I had no control over it. But then it all fell into place. My mom has been at every game I’ve ever played going back to soccer. She’s my No. 1 fan.”

Lascelles Vernon is known for his tailgate spread, something his son gets to partake in once his day is done. On Sunday, however, rainstorms rolled through and the party had to move indoors. Olivier celebrated his big game — he also sacked Bradford in the second — by polishing off a few of his dad’s famous chicken breast sliders.

The pride Lascelles Vernon has in his son is evident. Being able to watch his son play in the NFL not far from his childhood home is special to the entire family.

“I would have liked for him to go somewhere away from home to experience something else, but I’m real happy the Dolphins chose my son,” the elder Vernon said. “I’m happy to have him home. This has been good for him and I’m happy for him. He’s a self-made man. I may be the proudest father in South Florida right now.”

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Breakout game for Miami Dolphins’ Olivier Vernon a big hit

On third down at the 45, the Dolphins talked about getting pressure on St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford at any cost.

Down by three points, if the Rams picked up a nice chunk of yardage, they would have been in prime real estate for a tying field goal.

“We tried to put as much pressure on him as we could,” Olivier Vernon said. “A batted down pass, some pressure so he would throw over the receiver or into the ground. We had to do something. We knew we couldn’t let them get into field-goal range.”

Vernon took business into his own hands as the rookie out of the University Miami had his professional coming out party in the Dolphins 17-14 win. Vernon came up the middle and took down Bradford for a three-yard loss.

“It was a great feeling,” Vernon said.

The Rams decided to try and give the strong-legged Greg Zuerlein a chance at an NFL record with a 66-yard attempt, one that had the distance but was off wide left.

“I’m so happy. I feel blessed to be able to make a play for the team,” said Vernon, who ended with two sacks, four tackles and three hits on Bradford.”

Vernon almost wasn’t on the field for the Rams’ final offensive play. In the second quarter, Vernon went down after rolling his ankle on a kickoff return after the Dolphins’ first touchdown.

After missing little time, Vernon was back on the field.

“It takes a lot to keep me out of a game,” Vernon said. “I felt like I was good. I just needed a little tape, a little gum and I was good.”

Said Cameron Wake: “He was [like] Paul Pierce, with the drama. That shows the kind of competitor he is. This is a man’s game. It sounds harsh, but nobody cares about your injuries. They want you out there, making plays. ‘What are you going to do for me now?’ I’m glad he’s on my team.”

Vernon, a third round pick from UM, came up with a big sack of Bradford earlier in the game. With St. Louis up 6-0 and driving in the second, Vernon hit Bradford for a loss of eight yards on a third-and-six from the Dolphins’ 26. Vernon came off the line untouched and hit Bradford as he was still backpedaling out of a shotgun formation.

On the next play, Zuerlein missed his first field goal of the season — in what would be a string of three consecutive field goal misses in the game.

The win was sweet for Vernon and the Dolphins, who had struggled in close games earlier this season. The Dolphins lost overtime games to the Jets and Cardinals, but have now held on to take out the Bengals and Rams in successive weeks.

“Everyone is playing as one on both offense and defense. We know we can win,” said Vernon, a graduate of Miami American High.

“Everyone has doubted us throughout the year. Even me, growing up, people have been doubting the Dolphins. This is a good win for us, shows we can win in a dogfight. Those overtime games, we can finish them now. We needed to prove that to ourselves.”

Vernon planned to celebrate the victory the way he usually does after each home game: By joining his dad’s tailgate outside the stadium. “You want to play good in front of your family,” Vernon said, “represent the name. It’s good to have them all here supporting you.”

Vernon enjoyed those postgame tailgates after Hurricanes games as well — he spent three seasons playing for the University of Miami at Sun Life Stadium before deciding to leave early after an abbreviated junior season.

Vernon had 1.5 sacks in six games for Miami last year after being suspended for the first six as part of the Nevin Shapiro investigation.

“He’s one of those guys who works really hard,” teammate Koa Misi said of Vernon’s big game. “He’s a rookie we can depend on. He makes plays. He made big plays [Sunday]. He’s quick and hustles to the ball. He’s good.”

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VIDEO: Olivier Vernon knocks Coye Francis back to Cleveland

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Olivier Vernon is staying patient

The Dolphins spent a third-round draft pick on Olivier Vernon this spring because they thought the University of Miami product could give them a young pass rusher to eventually replace the retired Jason Taylor.

That part of it hasn't materialized yet, but the hit Vernon delivered Sunday on Raiders kick returner Coye Francies early in the fourth quarter certainly was memorable. Vernon even got a helmet-butt from Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter after that one. 

"That was a first in my whole football career," Vernon said of that particular gesture from a kicker. "Have to set the tempo, man. We want to show everyone that’s in the league that we’re dogs and we’re trying to finish people."

Vernon only played 18 of 70 defensive snaps in Week 1 at Houston and probably about that many on Sunday, but he isn't about to let himself grow frustrated as he learns behind a Pro Bowl-laden group of starters.

"I always say to myself, just like the fortune cookie says, 'Patience is a virtue,' "Vernon said. "I’m a very patient person. I’m optimistic. I know when my time comes, I’m going to shine, I’m going to do what I can do."

And he'll most likely be doing it at 253 pounds, down about 15-17 pounds from the weight he played at last season for the Hurricanes. Part of that was due to the new Dolphins coaching staff demanding players be leaner and quicker in the 4-3 defense.

But part of it was simply due to Vernon being a Core Four player on special teams.

"I dropped weight because of all the specials teams I’m on," Vernon said with a smile. "I couldn’t help it. That just happened naturally."

He can already feel the difference.

"I still feel good," Vernon said. "I feel strong. I feel quick. I haven’t lost a step. I still have my strength. Just making up for it with speed. Coach [Philbin] wants us playing  fast. Play fast, play hard. You get stamina once you’re lighter. You don’t have all that heavy weight."

The Dolphins are still hoping Vernon, in time, will become a heavyweight pass rusher for them.

Until then, it's all about heeding that fortune-cookie wisdom.

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