Secondary Thought: Breaking Down Potential Dolphins’ Steal Isa Abdul-Quddus
Background & Stats:
Isa Abdul-Quddus has completely turned around his career. Signed by the New Orleans Saints in 2011 as an undrafted free agent out of Fordham University, Abdul-Quddus spent the beginning of his career strictly as a key contributor on special teams; that changed this past season. Looking for answers for a struggling defense, the Lions’ coaching staff substituted Abdul-Quddus into their starting lineup. The results were so promising that he became a fixture in their secondary for the rest of the season.
2015, understandably, turned out to be a career season for the five-year veteran. He totaled 57 tackles, notched his first sack and forced a fumble as well. He turned that production into a significant payday. Abdul-Quddus and the Miami Dolphins recently agreed to a three-year deal worth $12.5 million. It is now up to him to prove that they made the right decision.
It was actually a surprise that no team selected Abdul-Quddus on draft day. Despite hailing from the Patriot League, he impressed scouts with notable athleticism for his size. At 6’1” and 201 pounds, Abdul-Quddus ran a 4.47 second 40-yard dash at his pro day. He also displayed great versatility in college, spending time at safety, cornerback and linebacker. This versatility should suit him nicely as he attempts to transition to free safety in Miami.
Isa Abdul-Quddus is a very capable tackler; as a rookie, he forced five fumbles. He takes strong angles to the ball carrier, and has very active hands. Watch the play below, as the talented safety quickly closes on the ball carrier, wraps him up and forces the fumble:
Although the strip ultimately backfired for Detroit (Randall Cobb recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown), Abdul-Quddus’ playmaking ability would be a welcome addition for any defense.
The former special teams’ star has shown potential in coverage as well. He provides strong help over the top and has displayed the type of soft hands that are desired out of a team’s free safety. Each of these points is depicted in this play against the Giants:
As well as in this play against the Buccaneers:
Coming out of college, draft pundits lauded Abdul-Quddus for his hip fluidity and change of direction skills. These two attributes help him in both his ability to assist cornerbacks in coverage, as well as in breaking on plays as they develop in front of him:
Overall, Abdul-Quddus is still young at 26 years old and has many of the attributes needed to succeed at his new position.
While Abdul-Quddus has the potential to improve in pass-coverage, due to his professional inexperience, he definitely needs some refinement. For example, he doesn’t always turn his head to locate the ball when it is in the air:
He was flagged for defensive pass interference on this particular play. He is also better when covering a zone rather than in man-to-man. On the play below, Abdul-Quddus is tasked with covering Alshon Jeffery out of the slot:
Abdul-Quddus ultimately gives Jeffery way too large of a cushion. Jeffery takes advantage and is able to easily get to his spot in the end zone. The play resulted in an 11-yard touchdown.
In addition to his faults in coverage, Abdul-Quddus should work on his consistency in tackling. While he is certainly a presence in the run-game, his tendency to search for a big hit can lead him to miss tackles at times.
It should also worry Miami that Abdul-Quddus’ only true success occurred over the course of a half-season. His play suggests that Miami got itself a bargain when it signed him to a three-year contract. However, assuming that his impressive performance will automatically continue as a Dolphin would be misguided.
How He Fits in Miami:
The Dolphins are attempting to address their horrendous pass defense this offseason. That much was obvious when they acquired Byron Maxwell in their trade with the Eagles. Then it was rumored that they were interested in Bengals’ safety George Iloka. However, after it was clear that Iloka was out of their price range, Miami immediately turned their attention to Abdul-Quddus.
Isa Abdul-Quddus should transition seamlessly into Miami’s secondary alongside pro bowl safety Reshad Jones. Jones’ range in coverage may allow Abdul-Quddus to spend more time in the box than the typical free safety would. This is where he will best be able to take advantage of his physicality and versatility.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this addition is his potential relationship with Vance Joseph. Joseph has obviously done a ton of work with defensive backfields throughout his time in the NFL, and former players rave about the effects that he has had on their careers. Miami evidently hopes that the result will be similar with Abdul-Quddus. He will be entering his first season as a full-time starter, and the team needs him to perform at the same level as last season, at least.
Mike Tannenbaum clearly took a risk by signing Isa Abdul-Quddus to a starter’s contract despite only starting eight games in his career. However, the potential rewards seem to far outweigh the risk. Detroit tried diligently to retain Abdul-Quddus, and the fact that Miami was able to convince him to leave the team that gave him his first real chance speaks to the interest from both sides.
Abdul-Quddus should perform well under Joseph, and his acquisition could be huge for a rebuilding secondary. His abilities complement Jones’ nicely, and his play should be positively affected by the likes of Mario Williams, Cameron Wake and, of course, former teammate Ndamukong Suh.
While the front office had to give Abdul-Quddus a serious payday, they still saved money by dropping out of the race for Iloka. His play called for a raise and, if he plays to the best of his abilities, he will be well worth it. Throughout his experience with football, Abdul-Quddus has been overlooked. In fact, he didn’t even start at Fordham until his junior year. It would hardly be a shock to seem him outperform his expectations once again in Miami. For this reason, it certainly seems like this was a risk well worth taking.