Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Dolphins view Olivier Vernon as a breakout candidate


22-year-old Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon is very familiar with the city of Miami, as he is a former Miami Hurricanes standout. The Dolphins third-round pick in the 2012 draft, Vernon has drawn praise from General Manager Jeff Ireland, and it sounds like the Dolphins view Vernon as a potential breakout star in the near future.

Elite pass rusher Cameron Wake is the best 4-3 DE in the NFL today, and he told the Miami Herald, “This is a big offseason for him, and that’s an understatement.”

An understatement? Sounds like the Dolphins have extremely high hopes for the second-year player in 2013. Wake knows quite a bit about breaking out of nowhere, as the former CFL star burst onto the scene a couple of years ago to become one of the most feared players in the NFL. It’s crazy to think Sebastian Vollmer held him down in Week 17 when healthy, because the New England Patriots star right tackle (the best RT in the league) was manhandled (it must be noted that he was not even close to being at full strength in that game) the first time the two stalwarts faced off. Man, it’s going to be fun watching these two AFC East stars battle it out in the trenches for the near future.

Anyway, back to Olivier Vernon. Ireland told Barry Jackson in the Sunday column that Vernon is ““going to get much, much better.” Jackson notes that Vernon recorded 2.5 sacks in the team’s first six games as  a rookie before falling off.

Wake will be working with Vernon closely this offseason, so Vernon is certainly in good hands with an excellent mentor to help guide him. Vernon is an intriguing and versatile defensive end, because he is athletic enough to drop off in coverage. He received significant snaps as a rookie and actually fared out about average despite being ineffective as a pass rusher. The ‘Canes alumn showed some prowess in run defense, but he does need to be more consistent at rushing the passer.

That’s where Wake will come in, and Vernon has upside as a pass rusher despite being streaky last season (almost all of it was a cold streak, though). I get why the Dolphins are high on Vernon, because he has all the physical tools to be a breakout performer for this team. This offseason is a significant one for him, so let’s keep a close eye on what’s brewing down south in the AFC East division.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.

Tags: Cameron Wake Jeff Ireland Miami Dolphins Olivier Vernon