Video Feature: Miami Dolphins LB Tim Dobbins
by Chris Kouffman
One of the more overlooked draft decisions by the Miami Dolphins last weekend was to acquire Restricted Free Agent linebacker Tim Dobbins from the San Diego Chargers as part of the deal that saw the Dolphins trading down from #12 overall to #28 overall in exchange for the Chargers’ #40 overall pick, where they selected OLB Koa Misi of Utah. In addressing the acquisition, Jeff Ireland noted that Dobbins would be a core special teams player, and that he was among the Restricted Free Agents that the team had targeted as being of interest to the organization this off season.
On draft night, I was at a bar watching the first round with a friend. I was expecting the name “Jerry Hughes” to roll off the tongue of Commissioner Roger Goodell when he announced the Miami Dolphins’ selection at #12. Instead, we heard terms of a trade between the Chargers and the Dolphins, and though I could barely hear what the Dolphins received over the din of the bar crowd, I did manage to hear the words “Tim Dobbins” and could barely disguise my excitement. This of course made me look like quite the football nerd in front of my friend, for even knowing who Tim Dobbins was, let alone knowing enough about him to be excited by his presence as a meaningless tack-on to a draft day trade.
So, I set out to show people why I have liked the Dobbins move so much. Below is a compilation of his snaps with the San Diego Chargers in 2009:
About the Video
You should know that these are highlight clips. He took 299 snaps in 2009 and I want to say that about 57 of them are represented in this video.
There is absolutely some bad tape that is left out of the movie. There’s bad tape of every linebacker in the business, and a lot of it, truthfully. I do feel there is value in sticking with the kinds of plays a guy makes at the high end of the spectrum, especially as it gives you a feel for how often the guy does something that looks flat out impressive (57 plays out of 299 total ain’t bad).
I usually split these up into useful sections but this one I did chronologically and there was a reason for that. Dobbins was a part time player that started to earn his way into the lineup, especially when Kevin Burnett took injury. He played more and he played really well, as you can see on the video, and it culminated with his becoming a full three-down starter in Week 7 against the Kansas City Chiefs, where he laid down 10 tackles, 6 of them “stops” according to PFF, and also had an interception.
But then in the very next week against Oakland, where he was again a full time three-down player, at 4:40 into the video he took a really nasty fall right onto the side of his leg, the kind you think could easily tear a guy’s ACL.
He missed two games after that and during that time Brandon Siler played more and he played really well in Dobbins’ place. When Tim did come back his snap counts on defense were extremely limited (we’re talking between 4 and 8 a game for the next 4 games). His season had basically been de-railed. In Weeks 15 and 16, he started to get more snaps and he did OK with it against the Bengals in Week 15 with 10 tackles and 5 “stops”, but in Week 16 against Tennessee he was looking pretty ragged and then the Chargers decided to start him full time again in Week 17 against the Redskins and let me tell you he had a terrible game, the worst of his entire season. He did not look motivated, he didn’t hustle, he was slow with his reads, lacked any kind of aggression, he didn’t make plays on the ball, anything you can say about it…it wasn’t the same guy.
That game was a meaningless game against a bad team, so it could have purely been a motivational thing. However, he had also had a sub-mediocre game against the Tennessee Titans the week before and I wonder if he wasn’t wearing out because of the earlier knee injury. Now, keep in mind, I don’t know that it was the knee. It could have been a motivational or even work ethic issue, and that would certainly explain why the Chargers were anxious to get rid of the guy. I just want to say that for whatever reason, he was not the same guy in Weeks 16 and 17 that he was in the weeks prior.
Overall, I counted and just by simple math I had 41 clips (not counting replays) that fit into my highlight category for his 159 snaps prior to the injury. That’s 1 out of 4 times he’s on the field, he’s doing something that really impresses me and makes me want to put it on video. After the knee injury, I only had 16 more clips, out of 140 snaps, barely 1 in 10 plays. Clearly he had dropped off significantly after the knee injury, and whether he was wearing down due to injury or there was something there character-wise, his dropoff in play post-knee clearly has to be the reason the Chargers ran him out of town.
The first thing that jumps out at you is this guy hits like a ton of bricks. Due to the way I create these videos, I really can’t add audio to them. I wish I could with Dobbins because if there was audio, you could probably just listen to his YouTube soundtrack without even watching it, and you’d be impressed. You would hear “CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!” over and over again.
The other thing that jumps out is how aggressive he is when he gets it. There’s no hesitation in how to approach the ball, he just gets up there and delivers a blow to the blocker and the ball.
He’s strong enough to stand up these big, huge offensive linemen, and he’s helped the Chargers make short yardage plays because of that strength. He’s also helped make those plays because of his aggression and ability to knife into the backfield.
He does a solid job in coverage from an instincts standpoint, but his movement is really pretty decent. He’s not slogging around out there and he’s got a quick twitch to him when going from forward to reverse and vice versa. He’s not a guy that naturally tracks the ball in the air but obviously he doesn’t have hands of stone either, as he pulled down that popped up interception pretty easily.
The one area where he is just woefully deficient is in blitzing. Generally speaking, let’s say I had 60 plays in this video, out of 299 snaps. That means that I clipped 1 out of 5 plays, or thereabouts. How many plays are there in that video where he blitzed the passer on a pass play? I think about 2 of them, total. That means that only once every 16 blitzes did he look impressive enough to bother including the play…whereas he’s running 1 out of 4 or 5 clipped plays on all his other snaps. There’s a reason for that. It’s not just the numbers. It’s what you look like that counts, it’s your technique, it’s the physical ability. Those things are going to be the source of your playmaking and he’s just BAD at blitzing. He doesn’t find the open lane, he has no answers for when a linemen picks him up, just doesn’t have a lot of tools in the toolbox.
Overall what this all means is that for the Dolphins’ system Tim Dobbins will be Channing Crowder’s direct backup at SILB (unless Spitler wins that job but my guess is Spitler goes #3 in the pecking order). In Nolan’s system out in Denver, D.J. Williams was the guy that blitzed the very least. The other guys in his 3-4 blitzed often, even the other inside linebacker Andra Davis who blitzed on probably about 35-40% of plays out of a 3-4 alignment for Denver. I think that Dobbins could be more than just a core special teams player. I think that Channing Crowder tends to get nicked up a little and if Dobbins is healthy and gets to take the place of an injured Crowder, do not be surprised if he runs away with that job and never cedes it back. I was very excited about the Dobbins trade when it happened, inordinately excited where I think everyone just sort of glossed over it (and is still doing so). But this to me is a guy that has the ability to make plays in Miami’s system and to me he’s a much more exciting addition than Chris McCoy or Austin Spitler (whom I like), but they’re getting a little more press right now.