The Dolphins spent a third-round draft pick on Olivier Vernon this spring because they thought the University of Miami product could give them a young pass rusher to eventually replace the retired Jason Taylor.
That part of it hasn't materialized yet, but the hit Vernon delivered Sunday on Raiders kick returner Coye Francies early in the fourth quarter certainly was memorable. Vernon even got a helmet-butt from Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter after that one.
"That was a first in my whole football career," Vernon said of that particular gesture from a kicker. "Have to set the tempo, man. We want to show everyone that’s in the league that we’re dogs and we’re trying to finish people."
Vernon only played 18 of 70 defensive snaps in Week 1 at Houston and probably about that many on Sunday, but he isn't about to let himself grow frustrated as he learns behind a Pro Bowl-laden group of starters.
"I always say to myself, just like the fortune cookie says, 'Patience is a virtue,' "Vernon said. "I’m a very patient person. I’m optimistic. I know when my time comes, I’m going to shine, I’m going to do what I can do."
And he'll most likely be doing it at 253 pounds, down about 15-17 pounds from the weight he played at last season for the Hurricanes. Part of that was due to the new Dolphins coaching staff demanding players be leaner and quicker in the 4-3 defense.
But part of it was simply due to Vernon being a Core Four player on special teams.
"I dropped weight because of all the specials teams I’m on," Vernon said with a smile. "I couldn’t help it. That just happened naturally."
He can already feel the difference.
"I still feel good," Vernon said. "I feel strong. I feel quick. I haven’t lost a step. I still have my strength. Just making up for it with speed. Coach [Philbin] wants us playing fast. Play fast, play hard. You get stamina once you’re lighter. You don’t have all that heavy weight."
The Dolphins are still hoping Vernon, in time, will become a heavyweight pass rusher for them.
Until then, it's all about heeding that fortune-cookie wisdom.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times