If you look at our defense from 2015, one thing is very clear, our LB’s were sub par, and that’s a pretty across the board statement. I think Jenkins is still young and worth developing, but a high ankle sprain hampered him all season, until either he, or the coaches decided to rest him for the last 3 games. Jelani Jenkins appeared and started in 13 games last season, and finished with 71 total tackles (50 solo), which is down big time from last season (120 total/83 solo). Last season, Jenkins had 1 FF, and 1 FR, while 2 seasons ago, Jenkins forced 2 fumbles, had 1 fumble recovery, but also had 3.5 sacks. Definitely a step backwards for our young LB.
As far as the other 2 LB spots, who were previously filled by Koa Misi (MLB, SLB), Kelvin Sheppard (MLB), and then at the end of the season when almost the entire roster was on IR, Zach Vigil (MLB) and Neville Hewitt (SLB). It was hard to really evaluate either Hewit or Vigil with the limited amount of playing time they received, but both showed they have some promise, but weren’t necessarily ready for prime time. In case you’ve been kidnapped, in a deep freeze, or just saving yourself from frustration, and haven’t been following the Dolphins the last couple of months, we traded with the Philadelphia Eagles, acquiring ILB Kiko Alonso and CB Byron Maxwell and the #13 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, in exchange for our #8 pick in this year’s draft.
So where does that leave us? It appears as if Kiko Alonso in line to be our starting MLB, and Koa Misi is set to start at SOLB, leaving the WOLB to Jelani Jenkins. If y’all remember last season, and you’re a cynical SOB like me, yeah, that just doesn’t cut it for me. Too much of the same MO of relying on oft injured players (Alonso, Misi) and also expecting the same guys to do better. How often does that actually happen? Is it possible Alonso reverts back to the player he was in his rookie season in BUF., in 2013, Alonso was a beast, totaling 154 tackles (87 solo), 2 sacks, 5 passes defensed, 4 INT’s, and 2 FR’s. In 2014, Alonso tore his ACL and missed the entire ’14 season. He was then traded before the ’15 season to the Eagles, mostly because he was too small to play in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 defense, and fit much better in PHI.
I know everyone wants to draft a CB, DE, OLB or even a RB at #13, but I want to go in a different direction. When we were picking at #8, I resigned myself to the fact that it was an unrealistic pick for that spot, but now that we’re selecting 5 spots later, i feel this pick is right in line, and although most mocks don’t have this player quite this early, NFL.com does have him rated as the 11th best player in the draft, so again, not unrealistic. Who is it?
Yes, Reggie Ragland. All the guy does is tackle, and not 5 yards downfield, and not on the second try, he hits the right gap and BOOM – Down goes the ball carrier! I know a lot of people fear that Ragland is a 2-down MLB, and will have to be subbed for in nickel and dime packages, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. UNless you’re 100% convinced that Kiko Alonso still the same guy he was before the 2 knee injuries (1 major, 1 minor), although the 2nd injury wasa non-contact injury, and that scares me. In game 2 of the ’15 season, Alonso was running to make a play, and felt his knee give out. He played in a reserve role much of the ’15 season.
OK, back to Reggie! Of course, college stats aren’t pro stats, that much is a given, but I think Reggie Ragland is as pro-ready an NFL prospect can be. He has the size, the instincts, the physicality to play MLB in the NFL, and play it well. He’s a day 1 starter for sure, and I believe he will be a 3 down LB that can and will drop into coverage in the NFL and do it well. I know our secondary was likely our biggest weakness last year, we were torched through the air, but I believe that Reggie Ragland makes more of an impact this year and probably next season too than say Vernon Hargreaves, Mackensie Alexander, Shaq Lawson, Kevin Dodd. Oddly enough, I think the one player that could make as much as of an impact the next 2 years is not on the defensive side, but it’s Ohio St. RB Ezekiel Elliott. It’s obvious we wanted a RB, and we missed out on CJ Anderson when super genius Wile. Coyote, er John Elway matched our offer. I think “Zeke” would likely share carries with incumbent RB Jay Ajayi, but would really solidify the position, which is now real thin with the heavily used and potentially “bone on bone” knee of Ajay, and then Damien Williams as depth. It’s definitely a position of need, and one where a top RB like Zeke would make a huge impact immediately.
SO , if we do draft Regggie Ragland, what do we do with newly acquired Kiko Alonso? I say give him a shot at WOLB, where Jelani Jenkins resides, and we can actually have some competition at LB, with some quality players for a change. At SOLB, let Koa Misi and 2nd year LB Neville Hewitt fight it out, or as I suggested on the blog often, throw Jenkins in the mix at SLB too if Alonso wins that battle. I don’t want to hear that we’d have too many LB’s, that’s silly talk. We’d have some depth for a change, and make that quality depth. If Vigil, Hewitt and Alonso and/or Jenkins are the backups, doesn’t that mean we have some real good players ahead of them? That’s how i feel, and as many have mentioned on our blog, we’re kind of in a 1-2 year window with Suh and Tannehill, and that means a win now mentality. If our LB’s aren’t tackling, we aren’t winning. Much like if our O-line is protecting Tannehill, we aren’t winning, but I’ll save that for another day and another article.
C’mon, think of the upside of drafting Ragland . . . We can have an aqua and orange Reggie bar! The stands can chant “Reggie!, Reggie!, Reggie!” every time he stops a 3rd and short conversion attempt, or blows up a TE over the middle trying to convert a 3rd and 7.
DRAFT REGGIE! Just do it!