- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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The former third-round draft pick has been arguably Miami's most improved player throughout organized team activities, minicamps and training camp. Vernon beat out No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan for the starting job at defensive end, although Jordan has been hampered by an injured shoulder.
Vernon was a backup for the Dolphins last year and registered 3.5 sacks off the bench. This year he’s looking for more. I caught up with Vernon Thursday after the final practice of camp to get thoughts on his progress.
James Walker: Olivier, you and left tackle Jonathan Martin have been going at it a lot in this camp. How much are you making each other better for the regular season?
Olivier Vernon: We’re making each other a whole lot better. We try to go against each other every time in practice. As far as pass-rush moves, with me using my hand techniques, I’ve learned so much [facing Martin]. I’ve grown so much from last year to now, it’s like a whole different person. I have him to thank for that. He helped me a lot, and being able to see him, he’s gotten so much better. It works hand and hand.
Walker: I was going to ask about your growth since your rookie year. Has the game slowed down for you in Year 2?
Vernon: Last year was a whole boatload I had to learn. It was kind of overwhelming. But I just tried to go out there and played my best. Now, this year I feel like I know most of the things that’s going on. So it’s much easier. You don’t have to worry about, “Do I have to do this? Do I have to do that?” It slows down for you mentally.
Walker: What’s it been like playing for Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle?
Vernon: He’s a real cool dude. He sets people in position to make plays. If you know your role and you’re good at your role and do your job, you’re going to make plays. Last year was a new coaching staff, so he couldn’t put everything in. We had to crawl before we [could] walk. So this year it should be more things added on defense-wise.
Walker: Miami’s defensive line has a lot of depth. What’s the ceiling for this group?
Vernon: It can be great. We got a special D-line group. We all try to make each other better, especially with competition. The sky is the limit I feel like for this D-line.
Walker: Any predictions for your alma mater this year: the University of Miami?
Vernon: For the U? I know they’re going to beat the Gators [laughs]. That's for one. But I feel like they’re going to be okay. They’re going to be alright. It all depends on what happens with this whole NCAA thing [investigation].