Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Dolphins coordinator Josh Boyer has eye for defensive back gems | Schad


Joe Schad

Palm Beach Post

MIAMI GARDENS — In the days leading up to the last NFL draft, Kader Kohou was a bit surprised by the interest of the defensive coordinator of the Dolphins, Josh Boyer.

Kohou was hoping to be drafted. But Kohou had played at Division II Texas A&M-Commerce and hadn't even played varsity high school football until his senior year.

Yet Boyer wanted Kohou to know he believed in his talent. And so Boyer stayed in contact with the cornerback, paving the way for him to sign as an undrafted free agent.

"He knows defensive backs," Kohou said in the locker room after Miami's final preseason game. "I think he loves everything about defensive back play. He loves to talk about it."

Kohou entered training camp as a long shot. Boyer didn't care. Everyone gets an equal shot at evaluation, which makes sense consider Boyer himself once coached at Division II Bryant and NAIA South Dakota Mines.

He does not care where you come from. He does not care where you played. All Boyer cares about is — can you play?

On Tuesday, Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel and general manager Chris Grier held a news conference to discuss the initial 53-man roster. It included Kohou.

"The jump in level of play is real," McDaniel said. "But he, from the onset, let it be known through his play that this was not too big of a stage for him."

In the locker room late Saturday night, Kohou was recalling how he didn't have a college offer and resorted to direct messaging a Texas A&M coach who was looking for players.

"He said he wanted dawgs," Kohou said. "So I reached out."

Kohou moved to America at 9, not speaking English, only French. His family moved here from Ivory Coast, where the football is not oblong at all.

Yet what Boyer saw from the first practice was a dogged competitor, a player who learned from his mistakes and made aggressive, fearless plays on the ball.

After all, what did Kohou have to lose? Nobody expected him to make it.

A few strides away from Kohou on Saturday night was Elijah Campbell, who can play safety and cornerback and excels on special teams.

Campbell actually played 131 snaps for the Dolphins last season.

That's 131 on special teams. And zero on defense.

Yet Campbell, another Boyer discovery, was the only Dolphin to record an interception this preseason. He returned one for a touchdown against the Eagles on Saturday.

"I had outside leverage," Campbell said. "I raised my hands and the rest is history."

Campbell, a Minnesota native, played his college ball at Iowa Western, Northern Illinois and Northern Iowa.

Campbell played for the Birmingham Iron of the AAF in 2019.

Campbell played for the DC Defenders of the XFL in 2020.

Campbell made Miami's initial 53-man roster for the 2022 season. In the locker room Saturday night, he was asked who he'd call first if he made it.

"Oh, gotta be the wife," Campbell said. "Gotta be the wife. And then obviously the family. We got a whole group message. So just hit up everybody. It'd be a long day and phone calls for sure."

When Campbell signed with the Dolphins in September of last year, this reporter jokingly asked Boyer if he had watched every AAF and XFL snap of Campbell's career.

But it was no joke. Of course Boyer had.

Nobody watches more film. Boyer will watch tape of any player in any league in America. The guy craves film like a fat kid craves cake.

Earlier this summer, Dolphins defensive back Eric Rowe (drafted to play cornerback and converted to safety) recalled that Boyer flew to Utah to work him out before the draft.

This was not a typical workout, Rowe recalled. There were very specific, unique drills designed to give Boyer a feel for how Rowe might fit into the Patriots defense.

Rowe was drafted by the Eagles, but then played his next three seasons in New England. Boyer knew he liked what he saw and Rowe flourished up north.

It's no surprise that Miami's initial 53-man roster includes another Boyer discovery, former undrafted cornerback Nik Needham of UTEP.

All Needham has become is an extremely dependable NFL nickel cornerback.

"I never had a lot of stars or anything like that coming out of high school," Needham recalled in 2019. "I only played one year of varsity my senior year, so I didn’t get a lot of recruiting. My junior year we went 0-12. My senior year 1-11. Not a lot of people watched UTEP."

But Boyer did.

It's no surprise that Miami's initial 53-man roster includes Keion Crossen of tiny Western Carolina. Crossen was a seventh-round draft pick of the Patriots in 2018.

Oh, guess who New England's cornerbacks coach was that season? You guessed it. Boyer. Crossen was so good this summer he's a candidate for Dolphins defensive snaps in the first four games, which Pro Bowler Byron Jones will miss.

"He’s a good coach and gets the best out of his players," Crossen said of Boyer. "And that’s exactly what I’m looking for.”

Boyer seems to be more than a good coach. He's also a hell of a scout.

Joe Schad is a journalist at the Palm Beach Post part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach him at jschad@pbpost.comHelp support our journalism. Subscribe today.

Popular Posts