Welcome back to the Dolphins Draft Film Room series. We are three picks into Miami’s 2021 draft class, meaning today’s subject is former Oregon safety Jevon Holland, selected with the 36 overall pick. 

The Dolphins released longtime starter and team captain free safety Bobby McCain early this week, leading to a lot of debate over who should fill his spot. There are reports the coaching staff likes Holland to fill his spot, and there are some reports the team is looking to sign former Colts safety Malik Hooker, who is a free safety by trait. 

If you follow me on Twitter, then you know Holland’s selection was my least favorite of the Dolphins’ class. However, it has less to do with Holland the player and more to do with Miami having bigger fish to fry and better safeties on the board. 

Holland finished outside my top-100 overall players for the 2021 Draft, and Miami picked him at 36. However, now that he’s a Dolphin, I tried to take another objective look at his film to see if I missed anything or if I was right the first time and whether or not he’s a good candidate to replace McCain. 

Which one did it end up being? Let’s dive into the film and find out. 

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Holland the Run Defender: 

Before getting into the nitty-gritty stuff, I want to highlight Holland’s ability to play the run because I actually quite like him near the line of scrimmage. Oregon gave him a ton of reps as a stand-up EDGE player like you see above. 

Holland swipes the hands of the tight end away, bends underneath him, and then makes a strong tackle on the ball carrier. This isn’t anything overly impressive, but not many DBs play with this level of physicality against the run like Holland. An even fewer number of them actually play on the line of scrimmage as consistently as Holland did. 

Generally speaking, Holland is a good tackler with good wrap-up form. Once in a while, he can be an ankle biter or arrive to contact unbalanced, but those reps are anomalies. 


Now, my only concern with Holland in the running game is overall size. When you line up a player this close to the line of scrimmage this often, he’s going to have to tangle with the big boys upfront. 

Holland got driven into the ground and finished by the tight-end pretty bad on this play. This isn’t something overly consistent on film; however, guys are stronger in the NFL, so it’s something to keep an eye on. 

Brian Flores wants versatility from his players, and Holland’s ability to be a solid run defender this close to the line of scrimmage certainly qualifies. I’m not sure he will take many reps like this in Miami, but regardless the instincts and tackling will translate anywhere on the field. 


Holland in Man Coverage: 

Holland was not used as a typical safety in Oregon. Instead, he played almost all of his reps either as an EDGE like in the two plays highlighted in the last section or as a slot cornerback like in the play above. 

Holland’s best trait is his ability to be a man coverage slot cornerback, which is quite valuable in today’s NFL. In this play, Holland plays off his man but does a good job getting out of his backpedal and breaking downhill to contest this throw. 

He doesn’t quite get there because former Washington quarterback Jacob Eason has a cannon, but he makes this a contested catch through contact despite being such a short throw. This play demonstrates good reaction time plus click and close ability—all things you want from a potential slot cornerback option. 


Here’s another rep where Holland is playing man from the slot position again. This time he arrives a little earlier and does a good job undercutting the route and getting his hand up. 

Not only does this give him a chance to make a PBU, but it also obstructs the view of the wide receiver trying to make the catch. Holland kept his eyes on the quarterback and flashed a good downhill burst to make this play. 

Another thing to note is how he didn’t pull the wide receiver with his off-hand. Of course, that is a pass interference call every single time in the NFL, but Holland doesn’t seem to have the bad habit in his game right now. 


Holland is a pretty physical player in man coverage. He likes to stand flat-footed and jam receivers at the top of their stem, including players bigger than he is. 

This play is a good example of how effective this can be for Holland. He jams the receiver at the top of his route throwing off the timing of the route. Holland also does a tremendous job of using the sideline as an extra defender on this play. 

He guides the receiver into the boundary with his body preventing him from ever really getting past Holland. The only person who could’ve made a play on this throw was Holland himself, and that is about the best thing you can say about a man coverage rep. 


This rep is essentially the same as the one above, except we get to see Holland’s ball skills. Again, he does a good job staying in phase and then getting his eyes around to play the ball in the air. 

Auburn quarterback Bo Nix underthrew this ball quite a bit, but still, it is good to see Holland get his around and make the play. Holland recorded four interceptions and four passes defended during the 2019 season which is solid ball production. 

I’m not sure he’s going to create a ton of ball production on his own, but he will make the easy plays, and that is half the battle.


While I believe Holland can be an effective slot corner in a heavy man coverage defense, he does have some flaws. The first of which is how he deals with players who are physical. Holland likes to jam at the top of routes, and as I outlined above, it can work wonders for him at times. 

However, it’s a double-edged sword because sometimes receivers decide they’ve had enough and start to push Holland around. This play is a good example as the Cal receiver pushes Holland at the top of the route and creates separation. This throw forced him to make a wild catch, but Holland got beat. 

Holland isn’t a dense player. He’s pretty thin, and if a receiver from Cal can give him a good jolt at the top of a stem, then I would expect receivers in the NFL to be capable of the same thing. 

My other main concern with Holland’s man coverage ability is how he deals with explosive and sudden players. Holland tested quite well at Oregon’s pro-day; I do not deny that at all. However, with that said, I see a completely average athlete on tape. 

This rep does a lot to put this in perspective. Here Holland is lined across from Brandon Ayiuk, who was selected in the first round by the 49ers in the 2019 draft and was easily one of the fastest and explosive players in that class. 

Holland just gets worked on this play. I don’t really have a better way to describe it. Ayiuk gobbles up the cushion, gives him an inside head fake combined with some inside steps, and then snaps his hips, leaving Holland behind. 

These two players are not moving at the same speed. Holland does a whole spin when Ayiuk makes his break instead of planting his foot and just transitioning. There are many slot receivers like Ayiuk in the NFL now, and I worry how effective Holland will be against them if left on an island. 


Holland in Deep Zones: 


At this point in the article, you’re probably asking yourself why I don’t have any reps of Holland playing a more traditional safety role. Well, that’s because he rarely ever does in the Oregon defense. Holland wasn’t tasked with patrolling deep zones very often at all. 

When he was asked to play in deeper zones, I was not a fan of the results. Here we see a play where Holland rotates late to become the middle of the field safety. The TE is running an over route while Holland is situated on the far hash of the field. 

Holland breaks on the ball but doesn’t get there on time to truly affect the catch. He gets there quickly enough to come close, but just close isn’t going to cut it in the NFL. Additionally, this is not exactly a long way to go to make this play. 

The throw takes him essentially to just the other hash. Hash to hash is about a fraction of the range required to play as a single high safety in the NFL. This isn’t really a bad play, but when factoring in his potentially replacing Bobby McCain, it is concerning to see. 


The range is one part of playing deep safety, but even players with range can struggle because they have bad eyes and forget they are the last line of defense. When you are the single-high safety, you can not let receivers get behind you because it’s likely a touchdown if they do. 

Bobby McCain learned this the hard way in week two against Buffalo last season. Here we see Holland fall back into what appears to be a cover-two look. Still, he’s responsible for half of the field. His number one job is not letting someone get behind him. 

Unfortunately, Holland bites on the double move by Falcons sixth-round pick Frank Darby, and he ends up completely out of position as Darby blows right by him for a touchdown. A player with better speed or more experience might’ve been able to recover or not bite in the first place, but Holland isn’t either of those things. 

Holland biting on double moves was common in his film, even when he was playing in the slot. If I am an offensive coordinator, it is something I would try to target early in the game because Holland got bailed out by some bad throws in college.  


At the beginning of the article, I set out to answer two questions. First, was I too low on Holland before the draft? And, is Holland a potential replacement for the free safety role? My answers to those questions are: maybe a little but not really, and definitely not in his rookie season. 

Holland’s best traits are run defense and man coverage ability. He projects exceptionally well, filling Eric Rowe’s role in the safety as opposed to McCain’s. However, Holland doesn’t have the range, experience, or ball skills to be an impact single high safety. 

I think it would be prudent to sign Malik Hooker to replace McCain and let Holland do what he does best. Holland becoming a good slot corner takes Nik Needham off the field, prevents the team from paying Justin Coleman, and gives Miami another good man coverage player who is essential to their scheme. 

I see a lot of people saying Holland is versatile. While I think he has some versatility, there needs to be a little context added. Holland’s versatility is all in the box. When you watch him play, he lines up in three spots, but his two most primary spots are on the EDGE and as a CB. He’s not good in deep zones knocking out a considerable amount of safety spots. Holland is versatile in the box. There’s nothing wrong with that, but he’s not a swiss army knife player capable of playing anywhere at any time. 

I’ve been hard on Holland, but it centers more around my worry Miami is trying to jam a square peg into a round hole and less around his actual ability as a player. Who knows, maybe Holland will take a big jump with better coaching and be a great free safety. I’m just not confident that will happen.