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An under-the-radar Redskin: LB Dadi Nicolas

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Drafted by the Chiefs; almost a Brown; signed and cut by the Seahawks — Dadi Nicolas doesn’t sound like the player the Redskins need, but maybe he is

NFL: Preseason-Seattle Seahawks at Kansas City Chiefs John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

I saw the press release when it was sent out; I even copied it and pasted it into a comment somewhere on Hogs Haven at the time:

August 1, 2018

REDSKINS MAKE ROSTER MOVES

RICHMOND, Va. – The Washington Redskins announced today that they have made the following roster moves:

The Redskins signed the following free agent:

LB Dadi Nicolas

The Redskins waived the following player:

OL Alex Balducci

I didn’t pay much attention to it. The bottom-of-the-roster churn during training camp usually doesn’t mean much to me — the 90th guy on the roster being changed out seems hardly noteworthy once camp is underway.

(Heck, we’ve had two other roster moves since this one was announced — the team added LB Cassanova McKinzy & DL Dante Sawyer and cut LB Alex McAlister & DL Tavaris Barnes.)

But during the game against the Patriots, the radio crew of Larry Michaels, Chris Cooley and Doc Walker highlighted that Dadi Nicolas was in the game in the first half, and mentioned that he was another Va Tech alumnus. He made a couple of notable plays during the game, which got me intrigued.

Who is this guy?

Well, it turns out that this isn’t his first NFL rodeo, so to speak.

Background

Nicolas is yet another NFL player who was born in Haiti, but grew up in the U.S., in Florida. He only started playing football as a high school senior, and then enrolled at Virginia Tech. Following a redshirt freshman year, he played in 10 games as a sophomore, but started every game in his junior year. He lost a lot of his senior year to a broken left hand, but was projected as a late round pick for the draft.

He was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 6th round of the 2016 draft.

Measurables

What happened at Kansas City?

Nicolas, who might’ve been seen as a practice squad candidate, was actually active for 11 games that season, though his only entry into the stat sheet was a pass defended. Arrowhead Pride described his role on the team in 2016 this way:

Mostly special teams and the occasional mop-up duty at outside linebacker. However, the Chiefs want to keep their roster stocked with young pass rushers for the future. Nicolas showed some promise there.

At the end of the season, he was seriously injured, and was placed on injured reserve on January 4, 2017 after suffering a ruptured patellar tendon.

The article and comments on the Arrowhead Pride website generally reflect that fans had high hopes for his development, and — while his 2016 contributions wouldn’t necessarily be hard to replace — they saw him as a player with the ability to grow into a consistent contributor from the linebacker position.

Going into the 2017 season, Nicolas was placed on the physically unable to perform list, and didn’t see the field during the season.

In May this year, just over three months ago, Nicolas’ former GM, John Dorsey tried to acquire him for the Browns, according to NFL.com.

John Dorsey hasn’t been afraid to wheel and deal with his new Cleveland Browns roster this offseason, and that certainly didn’t change with the end of the NFL draft over the weekend.

If there’s anyone in Cleveland that should be familiar with Nicolas, it’s Dorsey, who as Chiefs general manager in 2016, drafted the former Virginia Tech pass rusher in the sixth round. Nicolas played in 11 games that year, but suffered a knee injury late in the season that ultimately cost him the 2017 season as well.

However two days later, the trade was called off and voided without an explanation given from either team. Nicolas was waived by the Chiefs days later.

From there, as a new free agent, Nicolas signed with the Seattle Seahawks in May only to later be released that same month.

The last month or so has been a bit hectic or at least confusing for Nicolas and even the rest of Chiefs Kingdom. It appeared that Dorsey was keen on re-acquiring Nicolas in his new role as GM for the Cleveland Browns, so he traded blocking tight end Randall Telfer to the Chiefs in exchange for Nicolas just one month ago. Yet the minor trade fell apart when it was “reverted per trade terms.” At that point, both teams ended up waiving their respective players, and yet the opposing team also never signed the player they were attempting to trade for in the first place. (If that sounds odd, it is.)

Nicolas was brought in [to Kansas City] as an athletic defensive end/linebacker who was a bit of a tweener, needing some strength and overall work in order to find his position at the NFL level after playing at Virginia Tech. He played in 11 games on special teams duty his rookie seasons, but unfortunately he ruptured his patella tendon early in 2017 and failed to play last year.

Dadi becomes a Redskin

As we’ve already seen, the Redskins announced on the 1st of August that Nicolas had been signed. Early reports gave a concise summary of Big Dadi’s career to date:

An outside linebacker by trade, the 25-year-old had shown early promise during his time with the Chiefs, however injuries derailed is development before the team agreed to trade him to the Cleveland Browns, a move that was eventually nullified ultimately leading to his release.

A former sixth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft out of Virginia Tech, Nicolas becomes the latest in an increasingly long line of former Hokies to make their way to the Redskins this offseason, joining Greg Stroman, Tim Settle and Adonis Alexander. Nicolas enjoyed a standout collegiate career in Blacksburg, being named as an Honorable Mention All-American by College Football News after his sophomore season, a year in which is posted 32 tackles, four sacks and 13 quarterback hurries. He went from strength to strength during his junior year, again receiving postseason honors as he was named as a second-team All-ACC performer from his defensive end position. Nicolas was named as a third-team All-ACC player during his final year with Virginia Tech.

At 6’3” and 235 pounds, Nicolas has the athletic ability to effectively rush the passer from his outside linebacker position, as well as the ability to pursue ball carriers on the backend of plays. Of his strengths heading into the draft, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote:

”Has lightning quick inside moves,­ including spin,­ that can catch slow­-footed tackles sleeping. Long-strider with the acceleration and lateral quickness to create problems when twisting inside. Plays with desired upfield burst. As pass rusher, can brush aside lazy outside hand placement to open door around the edge. Forced two fumbles and recovered two more in 2015. Miscast with hand in the ground and over-matched physically, but was always willing to compete and battle the man across from him. Has experience as outside linebacker. Bouncy athleticism in space and looks natural dropping into space. Good burst to make up ground quickly while chasing the ball. Runs through tackles with as much force as he can muster with his size.”

How does he fit on the team?

Nicolas appears to be a good, if low-key signing by the Redskins. He’s a versatile linebacker who is still developing his game, and who appears to have decent pass rush skills. He is an experienced special-teamer, and, with just 13 NFL games on his resume, can be stashed on the practice squad to continue his development and provide protection against late-season injuries.

I looked through the play-by-play for the first pre-season game againt New England (which just ended) and counted Nicolas as being credited with 3 tackles. He seemed to me to play pretty well, though I’m no kind of analyst.

With the number of players in front of him (he’s probably behind Pete Robertson on the depth chart), Nicolas probably isn’t going to be on the 53 in Week 1 against the Cardinals, but he looks like a very strong candidate for a practice squad spot, and it would only take an injury or two to see him on the field in burgundy and gold in December.

Poll

After watching the New England game, what’s your opinion of LB Dadi Nicolas?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Camp body - don’t know why you wasted time on this article
    (47 votes)
  • 25%
    Looks like a marginal player who will hang around practice squads for a couple of years without making an NFL roster
    (130 votes)
  • 49%
    Backup/role player/special teams
    (257 votes)
  • 16%
    Potential future starter
    (86 votes)
520 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Quick reaction — how do you feel following the first pre-season game?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    I’m worried about the team performance and the injuries
    (166 votes)
  • 57%
    I’m encouraged by what I saw
    (280 votes)
  • 8%
    I’m stoked — the Redskins looked great!
    (42 votes)
488 votes total Vote Now