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Scout's Notebook: Broncos SS Brian Dawkins

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Posted Dec. 21, 2011 @ 5:30 p.m. ET
By Nolan Nawrocki

Broncos SS Brian Dawkins
Height: 5-11 5/8 Weight: 210 Speed: 4.58

Notes: A three-year starting free safety at Clemson, Dawkins was selected 61st overall in the second round by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1996. Stepped into the starting lineup at the FS position as a rookie and became an anchor of the defense alongside Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, earning seven Pro Bowl nods during his 13 years in Philadelphia, when he broke the team record for games played. Finished his Eagles career starting 182-of-183 games in which he played, notching 898 tackles, 34 interceptions and 21 sacks. Signed a five-year, $17 million contract with the Broncos in '09, and earned a Pro Bowl nod at strong safety after starting all 16 games, recording 116 tackles and two interceptions. Played in only 11 games in '10, missing five games with right knee injuries. Played in the first 13 contests in '11, with 11 starts, before a neck injury sidelined him in Week 15.

Positives: Highly competitive. Intense, emotional on-field presence — ignites the defense with his energy. Treats his body like a temple and is still very well-conditioned in his 16th NFL season. Aggressive tackler with explosive striking ability to jar the ball free on contact (has 36 career forced fumbles). Runs the alley with abandon. Good downhill closing speed. Invokes fear in receivers entering the middle of the field. Good coverage instincts — nice eyes and route anticipation. Highly respected team leader.

Negatives: Is 38 years old and has lost some spring in his legs — needs to be protected in the box. Is a near-liability matching up with receivers in man coverage. Cannot range over the top like he once did — is tight-hipped and cannot easily transition out of breaks. Sacrifices his body so much in run support that he has been prone to injury throughout his career and is showing more signs of wearing down the past two seasons. Not a natural interceptor, with diminished burst to jump routes and make plays on the ball.

Summary: Hard-earned a reputation as one of the most physically intimidating ballhawking safeties in football the past decade. Dawkins' trademark toughness, physical playing temperament and intensity defined the Eagles' defense, and the decision to let him walk away coincided with the decline of their defense, weakening the middle of the field and slowing its pulse. Has had a long, distinguished, Canton-worthy career, but has begun to show signs of wearing down the past two seasons and has become merely a functional starter who's best defending the run when he is healthy.

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