Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores is usually shy about showering players with too much praise, especially youngsters who can get it on its head.
Asked about versatile rookie safety Jevon Holland, he inspired that approach this week, giving him the enthusiastic endorsement of “mature beyond his years,” which is probably why he felt comfortable praising him.
After Holland recorded five tackles, a sack, another quarterback hit, and two pass deflections against the Baltimore Ravens on November 11, Flores said, “He’s a lot more professional,” Flores said.
“From an abstract point of view, he has a lot of things we’re looking for. You combine it with his athletic ability, his ability to do many things. If he practices the way he prepares, the way he practices. That’s the way he thinks about getting better, if he’s going to be okay in this league.
That maturity Holland has brought to his game, between his early years in Canada – as the son of former CFL player John Robert Holland – and then off the field while moving to Oakland before arriving in Oregon to play his college ball. Was established.
“I must say it’s my parents, really, giving me the freedom to grow up, take care of my sister, and take her to school,” Holland said. “Small things like this make me move on to grow up sooner than I am. Again, being my brother—he is four years older than me. He is close enough in age where I can learn from him and his mistakes and the things he does well and then far enough away that I can fix them myself or avoid something.
Holland has put it all together with 38 tackles, two sacks, one interception and five pass deflections in 10 games, including seven starts, in his rookie season entering Sunday’s game at the New York Jets.
“So far better than my expectations,” said Holland, selected with number 36, an early second-round selection in the April draft.
He began as a rotational backup in a four-safety mix that included second-year player Brandon Jones and veterans Eric Rowe and Jason McCourty, now in a position where the Dolphins cannot take him off the field. In the win against Baltimore, he and Jones were at every defensive snap, while Rowe still played 60 percent of the plays in various packages. McCourty has been ruled out for the season with a leg injury.
“It’s a product of Jevon getting to know and understand the system better,” said defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, “and I think he’s using his athletic ability.” And he’s a real physical and spontaneous kid.”
That versatility from Holland and Jones led to an effective, blitz-heavy game plan to take down Electric Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. According to Next Gen Stats, the two combined for 38 blitzes, the most by a defensive back in a game since at least 2015.
Blitzing isn’t something Holland does a lot in Oregon. With two sacks already through 10 NFL games, he never had one in college. His ability to ward off a passerby actually originated from a practice accident.
Holland recalled, “It was like that time Brandon and I went on a blitz in practice to get where he was supposed to go, but I went.”
Everything he did on that blitz could have served as a revelation, but the coaching staff knew firsthand that he had a defender who could be used in many ways.
“You can see, as a player in college, he was very versatile – whether in deep defense, whether it was around the line of scuffle, whether he was playing man-to-man,” said defensive back coach Gerald Alexander. he said. “You knew he had the potential to do a lot. We’ve been able to use his skill set to be really versatile, that’s exactly what we want in our defense.”
On November 7, against the Houston Texans, Holland intercepted a pass for the first time in his professional career. Unlike Sacks, he did a lot in college, where he made nine interceptions.
It was something that Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker saw for him back in training camp, showing rapid improvement along the way from missing plays, eventually intercepting four practice passes in the preseason—two of Dolphins quarterbacks. against and in a combined season each with the Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons.
“First, he was a step back,” Baker said, “and then he was removing the ball, and then the next week he was actually catching the pick.”
Holland’s ball skills also come from playing receiver in high school. Oregon coach Mario Cristobal told him he wanted him to contribute to the offense ahead of the 2020 season, where Holland pulled out due to COVID-19.
Even at the age of 21, Hollande has established herself as an outspoken leader.
“What makes them unique is their work ethic, their confidence,” Rowe said. “They already have a voice on defense. When it comes to cheaters, it’s not – I wouldn’t say rare – but there aren’t a lot of cheaters who come and try to take charge from day one.”
It’s something that impressed Jones when he realized he needed to take a huge leap from Year 1 to Year 2 to get where he was.
“It’s hard to tell, if you don’t know him, that he’s a rookie,” Jones said. “The way he plays, the way he talks about the game and his overall knowledge.”
As for the attack, don’t get used to always being the same as the Dolphins did against the Ravens in the plan for Jackson.
“It won’t always be as blitz-heavy as it was last week,” Flores said. “Sometimes it’s a coverage game, sometimes it’s a blitz game, sometimes it’s a mix of both. I think it’s specific to what kind of team we’re playing with.”
But the threat of Dolphins’ recent success with the Blitz has caused opponents to change their strategy. Jets are starting quarterback Joe Flacco on rookie Zack Wilson and young Mike White, a fellow at the University School, as they choose to center the 36-year-old veteran to handle the pressure from Miami.