Walt Aikens vs. Michael Thomas – Who wins?
Losing a player like Louis Delmas hurts. No ifs or ands about it. On and off the field, Delmas presence is felt and heard. Players thrive off his enthusiasm and love for the game. It was a sad day for all Dolphin fans when they heard the news that Delmas once again teared his ACL. Not only has a player, but as a person, we hope that he has a full and successful recovery.
Unfortunately for Delmas, he has never played a full season in the NFL. The injury prone label was tagged to him since his second season, which is why no team has offered him more than a one year prove it deal. The Dolphins thought, he was worth the risk, by resigning him to an incentive ridden contract, but the incentive was game based. With Delmas not playing in a single season game, it’s a hard long road for him to suit up under the lights once again.
All fans know what players define the NFL as, the Not For Long association. As Delmas was carted off the field, all eyes turn to the depth chart to determine who is the next man up? Walk Aikens and Michael Thomas are the two key players that will take over the spotlight.
- Aikens was one of the players Joe Philbin talked up all offseason. Especially throughout the Organized Team Activities, Philbin would single out the development of Aikens and his commitment to the offseason program. Aikens dedicated himself to one position this offseason, to key in his game recognition and playbook. By devoting himself to the Free Safety position the playbook becomes less dense and allows him to work on other aspects of his game. Watching the second pre-season game against Panthers, Aikens started in place of Louis Delmas, but didn’t start the game well. He was caught flat footed a few times and would have given up multiple first downs if the Carolina Wide Receivers didn’t drop the ball. However, as the game progressed, Aikens started making positive strides. The only downside in all of this, is opposing coaches are going to notice this and come week 1, if I was the Redskins, my first set of plays would be to attack the first year starter. Aikens has two more games to try and understand the game better. The speed of the NFL can only be felt, when you are in the huddle and recognizing the line of scrimmage. If Aikens wins the starting Free Safety position, coaches must 100% be comfortable with his lack of game knowledge.
- Every Dolphin fan knows who Michael Thomas is. He’s the guy that intercepted Tom Brady in the end zone to seal the victory for the Dolphins two seasons ago. Since then, Dolphins fans haven’t really heard his name. That is mainly due to the fact that Thomas was sidelined the majority of last season with a torn chest muscle. Even though the injury sidelined Thomas, the Dolphins saw enough of him to resign him to another one year deal. Now, with the injury to Delmas, Thomas has a similar opportunity to prove to himself and to the league that he can play. Unlike Aikens, Thomas has in game experience, as he started in place of Reshad Jones last year during his suspension. In his limited experience, Thomas has played well. Well enough not be singled out, but not enough for him to make ESPN headlines. For Thomas to succeed, he first needs to be prove to himself that he is durable to handle the NFL game. Secondly, he must improve his zone coverage, as his reads are a little off between cover 1 and 3. Lastly, his best asset is his shadowing and man coverage – use that to make a name for yourself and, in parallel, work on your zone recognition to take his skill set to the next level.
The Dolphins have two more preseason game left, and these two players must decide what type of player they want to become. Both players have the opportunity to take over a starting position and show the league that they can play, or, do the Dolphins have to start scouting the free agent talent that remains?
Truth be told, the best asset these two players have is Reshad Jones. If Aikens or Thomas wants to improve their skills set, start it by shadowing one of the leaders on the Dolphins D. Both players have an equal chance to take over the spotlight, but first, everyone needs to see if they are up for the challenge.