When training camp begins, Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is going to get all his starters back from last year's sixth-ranked defense. In addition to getting '10 first-round DE Jared Odrick back healthy, Nolan's nickel defense should get a boost from ILB A.J. Edds, who missed his entire rookie season after tearing the ACL in his right knee at the start of last year's camp.
"I was able to rehab all the way through with my knee with the Dolphins' staff in Miami right before we got locked out, so I was able to get checked out and cleared out to start working on my own," Edds told PFW.
Players are unable to see team physicians during the lockout, so Edds was fortunate to complete his work with them before the March 11 lockout.
"I bulked up a little bit," Edds said when asked to compare himself physically from this year to last year. "I spent a lot of time in the weight room and I'm a little bigger than I was last year. I'm moving just as well but I won't get a feel for that until we get into camp. Physically, I feel good — the body feels good." Edds worked out with his teammates in South Florida and has been splitting time in his home state of Indiana.
A fourth-round pick out of Iowa, Edds will be counted on to help cover running backs and tight ends in the team's nickel defense. While the Dolphins ranked 11th in the league on third-down defense, the linebacking corps struggled in coverage.
Jets TE Dustin Keller had nine catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns in two games against the Dolphins, and they'll see him twice again in 2011. Patriots rookie TE Rob Gronkowski had 106 receiving yards and a score in his two games against Miami. TEs Benjamin Watson, Visanthe Shiancoe and Brandon Pettigrew also had big games against Miami.
And running backs got to the Dolphins' defense as well. Jahvid Best's 53-yard catch and run helped the Lions score a victory in Miami. Ray Rice totaled 7-97-0 receiving and Willis McGahee had a 32-yard TD catch in the Ravens win over the Dolphins.
Last offseason, Edds said head coach Tony Sparano and former Dolphins advisor Bill Parcells told him how they envisioned him in Miami's defense — to be a guy who can come in and help cover backs or tight ends on third down. Edds joins a veteran group of ILBs — Karlos Dansby, Channing Crowder and Tim Dobbins. Crowder is generally a two-down 'backer and Edds will be counted on to improve the unit's coverage, a role he is more than comfortable playing.
"It's something I took a natural liking to at Iowa — running with guys that, on paper, I shouldn't be able to," Edds said. "I pride myself on being able to flip my hips, move pretty well and play in space. That's something I hope I can come in and help spark that area to become more of a key part of the defense."
Edds also said he is ready and willing to help the special-teams unit, a black eye for last year's squad. "I'm looking forward to helping out with covering kicks and punts. I'm all for doing whatever I can to help out."
In terms of his knee, Edds said he has never had to return from a serious injury, but he isn't too concerned about how it will react when he finally gets back in pads on the field.
"Having talked to guys that have had this injury, it will take a couple weeks. The first time you'll really trust it you'll be moving so quickly and naturally make a move without thinking about it and feel fine doing it," he said. "You unconsciously do it one time, you feel that your knee is stable and safe and that's all it takes. Once you do it one time without even thinking about it, it comes naturally from there."
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