Houston football OT Patrick Paul finds perfect home with Miami Dolphins

Sep 30, 2023; Lubbock, Texas, USA;  Houston Cougars offensive tackle Patrick Paul (76) blocks Texas
Sep 30, 2023; Lubbock, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars offensive tackle Patrick Paul (76) blocks Texas / Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Paul is a big deal… literally. A Houston football alum and former All-American, Paul was drafted in the second round by the Miami Dolphins at pick No. 55.

Paul’s brother, Chris Paul, plays guard for the Washington Commanders. His grandfather, Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, was the Head of State in Nigeria before his assassination in 1966. All of that is important to the story that is Patrick Paul, but he is also 6-foot-7.5, 331 pounds.

Again, he is literally a big deal. 

Paul, a native Houstonian who spent some of his childhood in his ancestral homeland of Nigeria, was a three-star recruit in the class of 2019 before he blossomed into the NFL-caliber tackle he is today. Pro Football Focus graded him as the highest pass-blocking tackle in college football twice. But in an offensive linemen-rich NFL draft, Paul fell into the second round. What does he do well? What will he bring to Miami? And why is Mike McDaniel’s offense a perfect fit for the former Cougar?

Size matters

You can’t teach size, period. At 6-foot-7.5 and with 36.25-inch-long arms, Paul enters the league as one of the rangiest tackles in the sport. And he isn’t just big: only three other tackles ran better shuttle times than the former Cougar at the NFL Combine, and only one had more bench reps at 225 pounds.

Athletically, Paul is a plug-and-play NFL player. He won’t face any challenge that puts him out of place with any of his peers.

One knock on Paul, like many tackles his size, is his ability to get low enough to drive a down block on a three-technique defensive tackle lineup on his inside. To this point in his life, even against Big 12 competition a year ago, Patrick has gotten away with being the giant. The NFL level of competition will test that, and there is going to be a learning curve. 

But in terms of staying in front of a dangerous pass rusher? The Houston Cougar alum does that extremely well. In his last three seasons at Houston, he played over 2,600 snaps and, as the left tackle, allowed just five total sacks -- three of which were in his first year as a full-time starter. He only allowed the quarterback to get hit by his assignment seven times in that span. 

Paul continues to perfect his craft and is working with world-renowned offensive line specialist Duke Manyweather. “Big Duke” has helped build some of the most talented tackles in the sport, many of whom started much worse spots than the ex-Coog. 

Criticism of Paul’s pass-blocking in college stemmed from the artistry, not the impact. Paul faced top-end edge rushers like Brendon Mott, Barryn Sorrell, and Khalid Duke throughout Big 12 play. He even saw Nelson Ceaser, first-team All-Big 12 pass rusher, daily at practice. Analytically, in 2023, Paul was playing the best ball of his career against the best regular-season competition he saw in college. While purists will pick apart form, and Paul has invested in tightening his technique, it’s hard to argue with his results.

At some point, the goal is just to keep the defender off of the quarterback however it looks. Patrick Paul does that as well as anyone. 

To Miami

Miami needs that as much as any team in pro football. Star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa can run an offense effectively, and one of the fastest receiving groups in college football to help him do it. But Tagovailoa’s successful career isn’t a foregone conclusion. Injuries are a part of football, but Miami’s quarterback has had more than his fair share. He suffered a season-ending hip injury as a junior in college, a rib injury early in his second NFL season (first as a starter), and injuries to his head and back in his third NFL season that were both frightening to watch and made him contemplate an early retirement. 

In 2024, Tua will be in the final year of his rookie contract and if Miami wants him to be their future, all parties involved will rely heavily on Patrick Paul. 

Paul’s expertise lines up perfectly with what Miami is looking for because they need to be sure Tua, to the extent possible, doesn’t take big hits. Even when braced for contact, repetitive blows will wear down any quarterback, let alone one with Tagovailoa’s injury history. Last season, Miami led all of the NFL in passing yards. What will they do this year with more time to pass?

Miami’s season ended in the playoffs against the eventual Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs. In that game, Tagovailoa was hit five times in 38 pass attempts on his 61 snaps. 

Miami wants to pass the ball, and to be effective they have to keep Tagovailoa upright. Hence, bringing in the best pass-blocker in college football. 

With Mike McDaniel

Where the football gets fun is when picturing what Miami’s head coach Mike McDaniel will do with Paul. McDaniel is a sharp guy. He played wide receiver at Yale before working his way up the coaching ranks with stops in Denver, Washington, and San Francisco before getting the head coaching job in Miami. Since getting to the Dolphins, the calling card of their offense has been creativity. It’s not uncommon to see tackles lined up in space, the ball change hands several times in a play, or a slow-developing concept burst into a misdirection. 

Paul’s athletic ability in combination with his size opens the floodgates here. He blocks well in space, moves very well for a tackle, and is a giant whenever he gets to the point of contact. 

There will be a time in the future when Paul, with his balance, coordination, and athleticism, is using all 6-foot-7.5 and 331 pounds of himself out in open space in a way that bends physics. 

But further, all of that misdirection type of action only helps guys in their run blocking. It helps create angles for linemen because it shifts defensive players to the initial action, or they track themselves to it and set up a young lineman like Paul for success once they realize what’s happening. For a tackle who is developing as a blocker, especially who is working on dropping to an NFL level in his down blocks, that split-second is time to adjust, and strike only helps spring the running back. 

There were 25 offensive tackles taken in the 2024 NFL Draft, and Patrick Paul was just eighth off the board. But the former Houston Cougar could not have drawn up a better landing spot to showcase his talents and develop his craft. 

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