In this week’s edition of Making The Team, former Prairie View A&M and current Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Quinton Spears tells us a little about his first week of training camp and his life as an undrafted free agent.
The Dolphins reported to camp last Thursday, July. 28 and Spears reported to camp just like any other undrafted free agent, optimistic, eager and ready to prove himself. When he reported to camp, one of the first things they went through was jersey assignments; Spears will wear No. 48 for the Dolphins.
Spears will spend the majority of his camp living out of the team hotel with his roommate and fellow undrafted free agent linebacker Jonathan Freeny from Rutgers. The team takes care of their living situations and provides them their meals throughout the day during training camp, giving Spears’ and his fellow teammates time to focus on football rather than the daily obstacles of life.
The team has already completed five days of camp and Spears has experienced his first few days as an NFL linebacker.
“The first day of camp was exciting, I was anxious because I didn’t quite know what to expect at practice,” the 6-foot-4, 240-pound outside linebacker told joltleft.com on Tuesday. “Of course we were learning new plays on defense, I feel like that went well, we also participated in special teams drills, that part of practice is very competitive, over all I think the first day went really well for me, I got my feet wet, I learned and just went out there and competed.”
A common analogy you often hear with these young kids making the jump from college to the NFL is adjusting to the speed of the game, players that were superstars in college often find that it’s hard to keep up with the speed of the NFL at first and it often takes time to adjust.
Spears’ transition could be even more difficult as he transitions from the speed of an HBCU school among the FCS ranks to the high velocity of the NFL, he was an All-Conference defensive end for The SWAC but there will no doubt be an adjustment period for a player at any level.
“The speed of the game is quicker, you have guys that are all-around faster than your competition in college,” said the former All-SWAC defensive end. “You have to read your keys a little faster, you have to react a little faster and just go out there and compete. All in all I don’t think it’s a real big transition if you have the speed to react, it’s a little faster, but it’s not so fast that you can’t keep up.”
At outside linebacker in the Dolphins defense, Spears will have a varied list of responsibility, one down he could be rushing the passer and the very next down he could be playing out wide covering a speedy wide receiver.
“It’s a fun defense for an outside linebacker,” he said. “So far in practice we’ve been doing a lot of drills, we’ve done tackling circuits, strip the ball circuits, hit and lift on the sleds, pass rushing drills and special teams drills.”
Spears has already made an impact on the practice field, in the first few days of camp he managed to get a sack during one-on-one pass rushing drills and also notched a sack in the team drills as well. But still says it can be tense as an undrafted free agent.
“I think it’s tense for everybody in my position,” Spears said. “You want to do your best, you never want to lose a one-on-one or make a mistake out there, if you get beat one play, it’s tense because that was a negative play and you don’t want anything negative to be shown on the field. So it’s very competitive because everyone you’re going up against wants to beat you and everyone at your position wants to do their best as well.”
One things Spears may have going for him that could potentially help him learn is the dolphins signing former All-Pro outside linebacker Jason Taylor, who even gave Spears a little advice during his first day at camp.
“Yesterday during his first day here, he kind of coached me up a little after one of my one-on-ones,” Spears said, he came over and told me some things I might need to do and work on. Getting feedback and positive coaching from a guy like that is just priceless.”
One thing an undrafted free agent can do to help himself make a team is to excel on special teams, which Spears has done in his past. During his senior season Spears had three blocked punts and the Dolphins are lining him up in the punt return formation to utilize his punt blocking ability almost in the same position he played at Prairie View A&M, if he is able to make his mark on special teams he could stick around for a while.
Spears and the Dolphins will have seven more days of camp before their first preseason game when they travel to Atlanta on Friday, Aug. 12 to take on the Falcons. Kickoff time is slated for 7:30 p.m. EST.
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