Miami’s forte as a football factory may have taken a step back at the same time the program itself did but that doesn’t mean the NFL isn’t still loaded with Miami products. Taken from the crop of active NFLers who have moved on from being Hurricanes to pros, here is what a starting lineup of an all-Miami team might look like.
QB – Brad Kaaya, Stephen Morris
Ouch. The team is off to a rough start with Kaaya, who is a practice squader currently and Morris, who has bounced around with several teams since joining the league in 2014. Neither player has thrown a pass in a regular season game so the starting job is likely up for competition. For the sake of this article, we’ll go based off of college production, clearly making Kaaya the favorite.
RB – Lamar Miller, Frank Gore
Gore is entering his 14th (!) NFL season and is still an effective runner despite being 35. Forgotten about are his two ACL tears while at Miami which threatened to end his career early. Fortunately, Gore preserved and was rewarded with a long and illustrious career. On this team though, he’s backing up Lamar Miller. Since Miller’s time at Miami, he’s proven to be a consistent runner with an improved ability to run between the tackles. Unfortunately, he’s been misused in Houston, which has dampened his production. On this team, he’d be a true open field weapon.
AP – Duke Johnson
Speaking of open field, all-purpose weapons, the Duke of Coral Gables would make for a mismatch nightmare. He has proven to be more of a tweener at the next level, alternating between runner and slot receiver and has done it about as well as one could expect. He’s also managed to shake the injury bug in the NFL; playing in all 16 games through his three seasons.
WR – Allen Hurns, Phillip Dorsett, Travis Benjamin
Gone are the days of Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne wreaking havoc on NFL defenses. Still, this current crop of Canes’ receivers aren’t half bad. Hurns has exceeded all expectations after entering the league as an undrafted free agent. He’s proven himself at snagging the 50/50 ball downfield and is still the consistent chains-mover that we remember. Meanwhile, Dorsett has struggled living up to his expectations, playing for the Colts and Patriots after being drafted in the first round by the former. Dorsett is a solid complimentary receiver and of course, a dangerous deep threat. Benjamin is similar but has shown more consistency in his NFL career. He also doubles as a formidable returner.
TE – Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, David Njoku
It’s safe to say this team would run a lot of two and three tight end sets. This group is absolutely loaded, with the ageless wonder Greg Olsen still leading the way. He’s been a do-it-all threat and has thrived as Cam Newton’s favorite weapon in Carolina. Jimmy Graham has seen ups and downs in the NFL but his ability as a red-zone weapon has never wavered. Njoku is the youngest Cane on this team and should see a lot of flex snaps in this offense. He proved himself worthy of a first round selection in his rookie year and has nowhere to go but up. He’s a worthy heir apparent for the Canes’ TE throne once Olsen retires.
OL – Ereck Flowers, Jon Feliciano, Brandon Linder, Danny Isidora, Seantrel Henderson
This group encapsulates the issues Miami has had at offensive line over the past decade or so. Flowers will be playing RT this coming season but for this team, he’ll stay on the left side. The interior is solid with Feliciano the mauler, Isidora the Minnesota overachiever and Linder, the best piece of the group. Isidora impressed in his rookie year with the Vikings and figures to be the starter this coming season. Linder has been a force on the interior for the Jacksonville line and a versatile piece who can play any position on the inside if need be. Henderson fills out the RT spot and has shown himself capable of being a starter in the league even if his potential has never fully been realized.
DL – Calais Campbell, Olivier Vernon, Olsen Pierre, Allen Bailey
Sticking to the traditional Miami 4-3, this defensive line boasts a strong duo on the outside even if the inside is sub-par. Campbell has been excellent in both odd and even defensive schemes. He was a pass-rush terror in his first season with the Jaguars and has a strong tag-team partner in OV. Vernon has never been a big-time stats guy but he has consistently generated pressure and created chaos along the offensive line. Pierre has been a pleasant surprise at NT for the Cardinals and Bailey has been a solid 3-4 DE for the Chiefs. He’d play 3-tech DT for this team and could really excel as an upfield penetrator.
LB – Denzel Perryman, Sean Spence, Ray-Ray Armstrong
Perryman has been every bit the athletic, inside thumper in the NFL that he was at Coral Gables. He’s also improved his coverage ability at the next level and is a solid match-up against athletic TEs and RBs. However, outside of him, this LB group isn’t great. Spence and Armstrong have seen spurts as starters at the next level but haven’t been able to stick in these roles. It seems like the NFL Canes will be playing a lot of nickel sets.
DB – Artie Burns, Sam Shields, Ladarius Gunter, Adrian Colbert, Rayshawn Jenkins, Corn Elder
This is a pretty versatile group with a lot of guys who can play a multitude of positions in the defensive backfield. Burns is definitely the CB1 and has shown flashes of promise early in his NFL career. Shields has missed time lately with a string of concussions but is getting another chance with the Rams this season. At his peak he was an interception machine, worthy of wearing the turnover chain. Gunter has seen starter time with the Packers and Panthers and is at his best when used as a boundary corner on the short side of the field. He’s also played some at Safety. Colbert really surprised with the 49ers in his first season and is a great matchup player. He can play primarily at FS and move to play outside corner while Burns or Shields shifts inside. Jenkins was overshadowed by great Safety player with the Chargers but should be a capable starter at strong safety. Elder was lost to injury early in his rookie season but is another matchup piece and special teams x-factor.
ST – Matt Bosher (P), Michael Badgely (K)
Bosher has been a consistently great punter with the Falcons, making him a slightly better pick than Pat O’Donnell and Justin Vogel. Badgley is an undrafted rookie but fairly efficient when kicking within 40 yards.
This is a bit of weird, mix-matched team. On offense they would excel at running the ball. On defense, their biggest weakness is stopping the run. If Kaaya can prove himself at the next level then this offense could really score points in bunches. There is a lot of speed at each skill position and open-field, home run threats. On defense, this group should be able to hold its own thanks to the defensive line ability and defensive backfield depth. Linebacker is where they would struggle the most but with Perryman leading the way, they would be at least passable.