We won’t get our first look at this newly crafted Dolphins defense until our first minicamp, which will be June 5-7, but we can catch a small glimpse at the OTA workouts which will be May 22-24, May 29-31 and then June 11-14. I can’t wait to see the new faces, and even some new old faces. We’ve definitely made a lot of changes, and only time will tell if the moves we’ve made help our team. Besides the obvious cap cost cutting of Ndumakong Suh, the Dolphins brought in DE Robert Quinn for an exchange of draft picks, the Dolphins sending the Rams 2018 4th and 6th RD picks, in exchange for the Rams 2018 6th RD pick and of course, Robert Quinn. We recently traded a 2019 7th RD pick to the Detroit Lions for DT Akeem Spence. In the draft we selected the versatile FS/CB/DB Minkah Fitzpatrick who can cover anywhere on the field, against anyone on the field, from RB’s to TE’s, to WR’s. To continue the pass coverage theme, the Dolphins drafted speedy cover LB Jerome Baker in RD 3. In RD 6, the Dolphins added another piece in CB Cornell Armstrong who will add depth to our CB stable. In RD 7, LB Quentin Poling will be a ST’s player, and then we signed a bunch of UDFA’s, most notably Utah State CB Jalen Davis.
It seems as if we’ve made quite a few changes, and in my mind, it was quite necessary. Of course, offensive struggles beget defensive struggles, but I’m just talking about the defense, which was far from good last year. Mid pack in yardage allowed, and 29th in points allowed. Something had to change, and changes were swiftly made. While jettisoning Suh won’t make us a better defense, my hope is we will be less reliant on one player. As great as Suh is/was, he played an insane amount of snaps, and let’s face it, he’s still human, and at 6’4 310, playing close to 900 snaps with the majority of them being double teamed had to be exhausting. I think more frequent rotations of lineman will ultimately benefit our team. You can’t expect one man to do it all, and I think in some ways that’s what happened.
Let’s look at the front 7. New additions to this group are 2017 NFL Draft 2nd RD pick LB Raekwon McMillan. I’m excited to see the young man back on the field manning the MLB position. He earned the job last season, and hopefully now healthy, will retake it. We traded for DE Robert Quinn, and he should be starting, and then getting some help from last year’s 1st RD pick DE Charles Harris. 36 year old Superman Cam Wake returns for his 10th NFL season, and we brought back run stopping DE/DT William Hayes for another season. DT’s Jordan Phillips and last year’s 5th RD pick and surprise success DT Davon Godchaux will likely be the starters, but again, there will be frequent substitutions to keep players fresh. We may see the LB we traded a 2018 5th RD pick for to the Saints Stephone Anthony man the SLB spot, and returning WLB Kiko Alonso. We declined to pick up the 5th YR option on Anthony, which hopefully will have Anthony playing hungry for a new contract.
I think what we’ve really improved upon this season is depth, and that definitely counts big time in a sport where injuries occur daily. This is what I believe at the moment would be our starting lineup, and then depth behind the starters.
RE Robert Quinn/Charles Harris
DT Jordan Phillips/Vincent Taylor
DT Davon Godchaux/Akeem Spence
LE Cam Wake/William Hayes
SLB Stephone Anthony/T.J. McDonald
MLB Raekwon McMillan/Chase Allen
WLB Kiko Alonso/Jerome Baker
RCB Cordrea Tanskersley/Tony Lippett
LCB Xavien Howard/Torry McTyer
NB Bobby McCain
FS Minkah Fitzpatrick
SS Reshad Jones
I think safety T.J. McDonald will be transitioning to LB play on passing downs, and I won’t be surprised in the least if our 2 nickel LB’s at some point of the season are Jerome Baker and T.J. MCDonald. I strongly believe Minkah Fitzpatrick will be our starting safety from day 1, and will easily earn that spot next to Reshad Jones. I truly hope that McDonald will embrace that change and take it as a positive. We have him under contract for 4 years, now he just needs to play where we need him, and earn it! Even if Minkah Fitzpatrick does start, it’s great to have McDonald right behind him on the depth chart.
Charles Harris seems like the forgotten man after trading for Robert Quinn, but I think he will see plenty of snaps on passing downs at both RE and LE, subbing for both Quinn and Wake. I think he’s actually going to have a very nice season for us. At LB, the additions of McMillan and Baker should make both the run defense (Raekwon) and the pass defense (Baker) better. Add in T.J. McDonald, and it just seems so much better than watching Kiko Alonso trailing just about anyone from 5-10 yards behind them. I know it’s unfair, but that’s what it looked like most of the time, and that’s why Baker and McDonald are here. If Robert Quinn is healthy, we can hope for big things from him, and if he starts out hot, Wake will benefit as well, because Quinn will get more attention, which will allow Wake to just beat the RT, and not worry about a RB or TE on his side.
At DT, Jordan Phillips will have his chance to show the NFL he’s a premier player with the absence of Ndumakong Suh. He’s now going to be the man, and up and comer Davon Godchaux, who had a nice rookie season now steps up into the starting lineup. Redundantly, and I apologize, there will be lots of rotation, but the next guys in need to hold their own, and that’s where trading for Akeem Spence comes in. He’s been the next guy in for Detroit, and should thrive in that role here in Miami. Vincent Taylor will be also counted on to be that next guy in, and DE William Hayes can double as a DT on passing downs, much like the NASCAR or speed package many teams employ.
Last year at CB, Xavien Howard really made a late season push, and hopefully he takes over where he left off. Cordrea Tankersley looked good out of the starting gates, but had his ups and downs IMO, but the knock on him that he shies away from tackling didn’t show itself last year, which was encouraging. Slot CB Bobby McCain easily had his best and most consistent season last year. Arguably, he was our best DB last season. To me though, the biggest addition is S Minkah Fitzpatrick. Like I said earlier, he will be starting from day one, and he’s the lynch pin to the back end of the defense. He gives us something we haven’t had our in quite some time, a player who can protect the CB’s in our zone defense. He has the instincts, the speed, and the recovery speed to make plays in the secondary. This allows Reshad Jones to help out closer to the LOS, with Minkah patrolling the deep skies. Honestly, I just can’t wait to see this in play.
I don’t think we’re going to be a top 10 defense this season, but I do think we will be close in some categories, and if the offense holds up it’s end of the bargain, who knows, maybe top 10 is attainable. Why not us? next week, I’m going to look at the offense, but in the meantime, D-fense! D-fense! D-Fense!