As much as the Miami Dolphins’ front office, their coaching staff and their fans are rooting hard for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to be their breakout player this season, I just don’t have enough confidence in him for right now. Instead, Dolphins safety Jevon Holland is the most likely candidate for a breakout season in Miami in 2022.
Holland was the Dolphins’ second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft after the team took receiver Jaylen Waddle and edge rusher Jaelen Phillips in the first. During his time at Oregon, the safety showed off excellent football intelligence, athleticism and range that altogether made him a super versatile player. The skill set he displayed in college was enough for the Dolphins to take him as the first safety off the board.
To begin his rookie season, Holland only started one of his first five games with the Dolphins. Once he got the role as a regular starter, he immediately started showing the NFL why he was well worth a second-round selection.
It seemed as if Holland was able to do everything his coaches asked him to do for Miami. He became a fixture of the 2021 Dolphins defense because he could line up almost anywhere, whether it be in the box, over a slot receiver or even on the line of scrimmage. Holland’s 65 pass rushes were the second most of any NFL safety in 2021.
Of course, as the Dolphins’ free safety, Jevon Holland was at his best when he patrolled the center of the field in the secondary. The rookie was often the deep guy in single-high, Cover 1 looks where he could range over to break up a deep pass at the last moment or come up to lay a big hit on a runner or receiver.
With more starting opportunities and time on the field came more opportunities to make big plays. The ball-hawking skills that had been such a big part of Holland’s college tape showed up in a big way in his rookie season. His 10 recorded passes defended were tied for fourth-most among safeties.
Holland played with good physicality, too. He had some big hits over the middle that would often jar balls loose and cause incompletions. That physical play clearly helped out in his pass rush as well since he was fourth of all safeties in 2021 with 2.5 sacks. Holland was also second of all NFL safeties with seven quarterback hits behind only teammate Brandon Jones and tied with Pro Bowler Derwin James.
As a versatile safety who can line up anywhere and defend both the pass and the run, Holland proved himself to be a big part of the future of the Dolphins’ defense already after just 13 starts. He already admitted that making the transition to the NFL was something that made him nervous just a year ago, especially after sitting out for the 2020 college season. A confession like that only makes the first impressions he gave in his rookie season that much more impressive.
In 2022, Jevon Holland will have that rookie season to build off and the game will only further slow down for him as he keeps gaining more experience at the NFL level. He enters his second season more comfortable and once again alongside Brandon Jones and flanked by cornerbacks Byron Jones and Xavien Howard in the Dolphins’ talented secondary. Should he turn some of those pass breakups from 2021 into more interceptions in 2022, all Holland will have to do to become one of the NFL’s stars is, well, keep being himself.
All signs seem to be pointing toward a big breakout season from Miami’s second-year safety. At the very least, he’ll further cement himself as a crucial piece of the Dolphins’ secondary. Given the high expectations Miami has going into this season, a big year from Holland would only push them further in the right direction.
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