Chalk one up for Miami Dolphins general manager Chris Grier.
Actually, I should say chalk up one more for Grier, and I mean that on a couple of levels.
The Dolphins recently signed inside linebacker David Long Jr. from the Tennessee Titans during free agency, and by most accounts Miami got a versatile and athletic player. A guy who is intelligent as well as instinctive.
So, following the theme of the past 12 months, chalk up a good acquisition for Grier.
And in keeping with another theme of the past 12 months, chalk up another injury-risk acquisition for Grier.
And you know what? I’m all for it.
I applaud Grier and the entire Dolphins organization for their ”win-now” approach.
This effort might not result in a title, but I like the “go-for-it” attitude.
We all understand such an attitude causes you to take chances.
Long, whose acquisition has been generally praised by online football gurus as a shrewd move, is one of those chances.
Long was available largely because he’s missed six games in each of the past two seasons due to hamstring injuries. In other words, there are questions about his durability.
In that sense, Long joins an impressive list of talented Dolphins players acquired in the past 12 months.
Left tackle Terron Armstead. Running back Raheem Mostert. Edge rusher Bradley Chubb. They’re all high-alert injury risks because of their injury histories.
And that list doesn’t even include the team’s No. 1 injury risk — quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
But Long is a bit different in this sense: he was singled out by his former head coach in a season-ending news conference in January. Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel hinted Long brings the injury situation on himself.
Vrabel called Long and cornerback Kristian Fulton soft-tissue injury repeat offenders. He said they must figure out a way to prevent such ailments and made it seem as though better training might help. Vrabel pointed out safety Kevin Byard hasn’t pulled a hamstring. Vrabel went on to say there’s a durability factor to playing professional football.
“There’s guys that are durable, there’s guys that aren’t,” he said.
Long said he was surprised by Vrabel’s comments.
“I was, because if you watch film, since my rookie year to the end of , every play I lay it out on the line,” Long said Wednesday in a video conference call with reporters. “So that was a surprise to me and I feel like it kind of created a narrative a little bit as far as how I take care of my body.
“But if you ask anybody I’m the ‘First one there, last guy out’ type of guy. And he knows that as well.”
Long said Vrabel’s thoughts weren’t related to him previously. Long, who called free agency a “stressful process,” said Vrabel’s words put a bigger chip on his shoulder, but he’s taking it all with a grain of salt.
“I’m going to just get back to work,” Long said.
Grier expressed his opinion on the topic during his season-ending news conference in January. He was asked whether the team will be more cautious about acquiring players with an injury history.
“I think you can’t be scared with stuff,” Grier said.
That’s the way Grier should think in this “foot-to-the-floor” season. No fear, no regret.
That’s where Long’s acquisition comes in.
Long, a 2019 sixth-round pick out of West Virginia, spent four seasons with the Titans.
In many ways he seems to be what the Dolphins need on the inside.
Long has 26 starts in 50 career games. He has 230 tackles, four interceptions, 14 passes defended, and two forced fumbles.
No, he doesn’t have any sacks.
But don’t worry about that.
Long is athletic, versatile and aggressive. He plays downhill against the run and has the footwork to be good in pass coverage. He’s a three-down linebacker, a bonus in today’s NFL.
He’ll team with fellow inside linebacker Jerome Baker to give the Dolphins youth as well as the skill set to play the run and pass. Behind them is Duke Riley, who possesses a similar skill set. You see the trend.
Long has four interceptions over the past two seasons and he’s done it in a zone-heavy system, which is what the Dolphins will likely employ under new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
Last season Long had a career-best 86 tackles, including seven tackles for loss, two interceptions and five pass breakups.
Pro Football Focus ranked him 27th among linebackers last season. Baker was ranked 31st.
Long ranked 58th among linebackers in pass coverage, according to PFF, No. 6 in run defense, and graded out at No. 142 out of 167 in tackling. Whatever.
Give Long credit for this — he knows who he is, knows his role, and knows what he must do to be successful. He doesn’t care what others say.
“I’m not trying to prove anything,” Long said. “I know the type of player I am. My main focus is keeping my body together. That’s basically my main focus.”