There hasn’t been a lot of talk coming out of the Dolphins training camp this off-season regarding the teams’ linebackers. Could that be a good thing or a bad thing?
It’s no secret that the Dolphins linebacker corps is extremely thin and considered one of the weaker positions for Miami. Since training camp started back on July 29th, not a lot of talk has arisen about the group’s performance thus far. Based on what’s going on in other areas, it can probably be taken as a good sign that we’re not hearing much out of the Dolphins’ linebackers just yet.
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The truth is, if there were talks coming out of camp about Miami’s LBs, it would likely be in a negative form and how they haven’t performed yet at a level that the coaches would like. Sort of like how the cornerbacks have been bashed all camp because of injuries and a lack of experience. Despite the weaknesses in the secondary, the Dolphins defense has been deemed dominant to start training camp. The primary reason has been the excellent play of Miami’s defensive line.
The defensive line has been extraordinary in camp under new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and the wide-nine scheme he’s instilled into the defense. It’s safe to say that the linebackers have benefited in practice from the D-Line’s dominance by simply filling in the gaps and attacking. Those are exactly the results you want to see from the wide-nine.
The primary concern with Miami’s linebackers has to be the lack of depth. For a second straight year, the Dolphins elected not to draft a linebacker, in hopes to find a gem through free agency. The Dolphins did trade for Kiko Alonso to be their starting middle linebacker back in early March that also netted the team Byron Maxwell. Alonso appears ready again to be the star that he was as a rookie in Buffalo when he recorded 159 tackles and was voted Defensive Rookie of the Year by the PFWA.
The Dolphins gave Alonso the day off last Friday to rest so it’s clear that the coaches are happy with Alonso’s execution in practice so far. Longtime Dolphin Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins are expected to round out Miami’s starters according to the Dolphins new depth chart. All three are well-disciplined and athletic players that should do just fine in the middle of Miami’s defense. Miami will need to hope though that all three can stay healthy throughout the season because the Dolphins don’t have much experience with their backups.
In fact, the most news to come out last week on the Dolphins’ linebackers is their new acquisition of Danny Lansanah. The Dolphins had worked out Brandon Spikes and Jerry Franklin before settling on Lansanah. Last heard, his signing was still pending on the results of a physical. Lansanah is currently ranked as the 3rd string outside linebacker behind Jenkins and Neville Hewitt, but could move up the charts once he gets situated.
Lansanah will turn 31 by the end of the month, but is only entering his 4th season into the league. He was initially signed by the Green Bay Packers in 2008 but he appeared in just five games as a rookie. Lansanah did not appear in another game until 2014 as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There he has spent the last two seasons, appearing in all regular season games, and recording 136 tackles during that time.
The Dolphins could use the added help at linebacker, but the Dolphins coaching staff don’t see it as a major concern at the moment, citing their more prestigious need to get better on the corners. The addition of Lansanah or an impressive performance from someone else already on the roster could be just enough to provide the necessary depth at the position.
The bottom line is that the Dolphins defense already looks to be much better than they were this time last year. Yes, much of that is because the Dolphins defensive line has shined in the first ten days of training camp. They’ve caused the Dolphins offense to struggle for much of camp and even had head coach Adam Gase irate after a scrimmage on Saturday night.
If they can continue that dominance against other offenses in preseason and into the regular season, the Dolphins linebackers will have a much easier task than they have in the past. The main priority for the linebackers will be to wrap-up at the point of contact. Missed tackles cannot be a continuing issue again this season or it will be another long and disappointing season.