Johnson likes the bruisers
Dolphins add Collins to Konrad, Johnson and Wheatley
Posted: Sunday April 18, 1999 10:04 PM
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) -- Miami Dolphins head coach Jimmy Johnson, ever the risk-taker on draft weekend, rolled the dice again Sunday by selecting running back Cecil Collins with the first pick in the fifth round.
Despite repeatingly calling his starting running back Karim Abdul-Jabbar the "most underappreciated back in the NFL," Johnson's selection of three running backs in his eight picks, sends a strong message to his incumbent backfield.
"I could care less how many years you played, how much money you make, the best players are the ones that will play, at every position," Johnson said. "I don't care about reputation or how many Pro Bowls. They'll all hear that loud and clear."
Johnson added Collins to an overcrowded backfield that includes 13 running backs, counting Saturday's (traded-down) second-round picks: James Johnson and Rob Konrad.
Coach Johnson also tried to bolster the ground game by drafting two offensive linemen, third-round pick Grey Ruegamer from Arizona State and Brigham Young's Joe Wong, his last pick of the draft at No. 244 overall.
Wong, a 6-foot-6, 313-pound Hawaiian, also celebrated draft day with the birth of his son, Elias.
Johnson paid attention to his special teams Sunday by snaring underweight linebacker Bryan Jones, a skinny 6-foot-3, 217-pounder out of Oregon State with his second fifth-round pick, and Ohio State punter Brent Bartholomew in the sixth round, the first kicker ever drafted by the fourth-year Dolphins' coach.
Bartholomew, whose net average dipped from 45.2 yards to about 40.5 this year, will compete for a starting job with newcomer Nick Gallery.
Johnson looked to the future with his first seventh-round pick, 6-4, 270-pound defensive tackle Jermaine Haley, who was with the CFL's Toronto Argonauts this year. The Dolphins own Haley's NFL rights for three years.
As evidenced from his draft picks and offseason moves, it's clear that Johnson was unhappy with Miami's inside power running game last year, one that repeatedly failed in short-yardage situations.
In the offseason, he signed Pro Bowl lineman Kevin Gogan, added bulky tight end Hunter Goodwin, and re-signed blocking fullback Roosevelt Potts, not to mention Giants castoff running back Tyrone Wheatley.
"We haven't solved [short-yardage problems] on the field," Johnson said. "We solved it by getting the personnel to get it done."
Collins joins a list of questionable personnel moves by Johnson that included last season's bust, Lawrence Phillips, and free agent wide receiver Tony Martin. Martin is an ex-Falcon who faces criminal charges in an alledged money laundering scheme.
And now Collins, who has a rap sheet, is Johnson's latest gamble.
Still, the Miami coach hedged the gamble by waiting until the fifth round, and by earlier drafting James Johnson.
If Collins fails one more drug test or violates the terms of his four-year probation, he could go to jail for up to five years.
"Cecil admitted he made a lot of mistakes, stupid mistakes," Johnson said. "But he wants to put his life back in order. Everyone on the board is a risk with the biggest risk not being able to make our team."
At 5-foot-9, and weighing 209 pounds, Collins' running style reminds Johnson of Dallas Cowboys' superstar Emmitt Smith for his ability to "run through arms and glance off bodies."
But it was Collins' off-field transgressions that turned a potential top-10 pick into No. 134.
Collins, 22, played in just six collegiate games, four at Louisiana State and two at McNeese State. A broken leg and a litany of legal problems ended his college career and landed him in jail for 27 days and another three months in a halfway house in Baton Rouge, La.
However, when he was on the field, they didn't call him "Cecil the Diesel" for nothing.
At LSU, he averaged 8.3 yards a carry and 149 yards a game with three touchdowns in four games. At McNeese State, he averaged 4.1 yards a carry in parts of two games before failing his third drug test, leading to his jail sentence.
"This is my last chance," admitted Collins. "I just want to find myself, get my life straightened out and get ready to move on. The temptations [in Miami] will be there. I've got to be man enough to take it."
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