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1992: Shula puts 'D' back in Dolphins
Tired of teams piling up points and yardage, the Dolphins piled on the defense in Day 1 of the 1992 draft.
It was almost a clean sweep, with coach Don Shula taking five defensive players in the first four rounds: cornerback Troy Vincent of Wisconsin at No. 7, linebacker Marco Coleman of Georgia Tech at No. 12, nose tackle-in-training Eddie Blake of Auburn in Round 2, defensive end Larry Webster of Maryland in Round 3 and linebacker Dwight Hollier of North Carolina in Round 4.
The offense`s sole representative: tackle Chris Perez of Kansas in the fifth round.
This was the first time the offense-minded Shula has taken more than two defensive players consecutively to start the draft.
``We`re still trying to come up with defensive people,`` Shula said after the fifth pick. ``We wanted to get more physical and we`re adding strength and size to our football team.``
Defense has been blamed for the team`s recent woes. After missing the playoffs five of six years, Shula apparently decided enough was enough. The backbreaker: last December`s swoon, when the team blew fourth-quarter leads in the final two games to finish 8-8 and miss the postseason.
The defensive deluge started early with a big assist from Shula`s son David, rookie coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. The Dolphins had a big drop-off on their draft board rankings after the first five defensive players and were prepared to trade down if the top five were gone.
But the kid gave the old man a break.
First, the Redskins traded up with Cincinnati at No. 4 to grab receiver Desmond Howard of Michigan. Two picks later, the Bengals caused the first big wave by taking Houston quarterback David Klingler.
That left one of the top five -- Vincent -- on the board. And the player everyone wanted to trade up for -- Klingler -- was gone.
No deals, no sweat, no-brainer.
The Dolphins jumped on Vincent, a big (6 feet 1, 191 pounds), fast cover cornerback who many considered the best in the draft. Florida State`s Terrell Buckley was the first cornerback taken, at No. 5 by Green Bay. But Vincent was happy Buckley was Wisconsin-bound while he would be headed the other way.
``I`m delighted to be part of the organization,`` said Vincent.
The feeling was mutual.
Vincent was given a jersey with the No. 22, the same number worn by Tim McKyer, but unlike the flamboyant cornerback who lasted only a year in Miami, the humble Vincent wouldn`t make any bold pronouncements about his impact.
``If I have to work into it through special teams and the nickel package, I`ll do that,`` Vincent said. ``I just want to work as hard as I can.``
Coaches are confident he`ll be able to start immediately and upgrade the secondary. Dolphins cornerbacks intercepted only one pass last year.
Vincent intercepted only four in his four-year college career, but it`s not because of bad hands. Vincent said that quarterbacks often didn`t throw his way. Vincent was beaten for only one touchdown last season.
While the Dolphins heard almost unanimous praise for the first pick, the remaining picks all brought questions.
Coleman might be caught between positions, like 1988 first-round flop Eric Kumerow. Webster was an underachiever and Hollier broke his foot twice last year.
The biggest gamble: Blake, a 321-pound lineman who failed a drug test in February. He was regarded as one of the better guards in the draft, but Shula will use him at nose tackle. He played on Auburn`s goal-line defense and told Shula he`d be open to the switch.
Vincent and Coleman`s first appearance in Miami will come May 7 for the start of minicamp. Both plan on attending without contracts.
And both will command hefty signing bonuses.
Vincent will be represented by his ``godparents,`` James and Linda Bodley of Yardley, Pa. He lived with them in high school.
``Brian Ransom,`` he said. ``As in holding somebody ransom.``