DAVIE - The strength of the Miami Dolphins the past three seasons as been the defensive line, and the one constant during that tenure has been assistant coach Kacy Rodgers.
When the Dolphins decided to retain Rodgers on the new coaching staff it was a huge victory for new coach Joe Philbin because Rodgers is widely respected in the industry as one of the best NFL assistant coaches.
And I expect the Dolphins defense, which finished third in the NFL against the run last season, to carry the team till the offense gets up to speed with the west coast scheme.
Here is how Rodgers assessed the development of his group.
"We're working on gelling together. The units in the past had certain qualities and a certain chemistry. These guys, we've just got to play together and find our niche," Rodgers said. "The beauty about it is coach [Kevin] Coyle is going to give them a chance to be aggressive and get some negative plays."
The defensive linemen in Miami's previous scheme were gap controllers, who were rarely called on to get upfield. That approach is changing.
"Jared's a first rounder, so he's always going to have pressure on him. Kendall [Langford's] shoes are going to be hard to fill. He ate a lot of snaps for us, but he's not here anymore," Rodgers said of Langford, who signed a lucrative contract with the Rams as a free agent. "Kendall was very dependable, and Jared has to step into that role and become dependable.
"Jared has big play ability," Rodgers said about Odrick, who contributed 21 tackles, six sacks and one interception as a platooned player last year, his first full NFL season because of a foot and leg injury that spoiled his rookie year. "But he has to become consistent every day. He's not now, but we think he can do that."
Odrick isn't the only youngster Rodgers and the Dolphins need to see blossom. Vernon will fill Jason Taylor's old role as Miami's pass rushing specialist, entering the game on obvious passing downs to hunt quarterbacks with Wake.
That means the Dolphins need this former University of Miami standout the team selected in the third-round to produce disruptive plays (sacks, interceptions, tackles for loss, deflections, forced fumbles, or draw holding penalties).
Rodgers is confident Vernon has the ability to get the job done, but is this Miami native mentally prepared for the challenge?
"Being a rookie, this is his first training camp, his head is swimming with all the things being thrown at him. The older guys in the room are gravitating to him because they see his potential," Rodgers said of Vernon, who contributed 82 tackles, nine sacks and one interception in his suspension shortened three college seasons. "The guy has the right temperament. He's not backing down.
"But he doesn't get a redshirt year. We need help right away and we think he can do it."