When it comes to overhauling a unit none has been as deeply changed in the last two seasons as much as the Miami Dolphins linebacker group.
Entering the 2016 off-season the Dolphins realized that they were not getting the production they needed from their linebackers. As part of a trade with the Eagles, the Dolphins brought in Kiko Alonso and paired him with Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi. It looked good on paper but the results were not that good.
The Dolphins linebackers had a horrible season in 2016 but the one standout was Alonso and that earned him an extension ahead of the 2017 free agency period. Unfortunately the dismal season of 2016 cleared the path for the Dolphins to let Jelani Jenkins leave but the team who had lost Koa Misi to a career threatening injury is banking on his return in 2017.
Koa Misi: When Misi is healthy he is a productive linebacker but I wouldn’t call him a game changer. He is inconsistent at times setting the edge and his coverage skills, while good, are not great. Miisi suffered a neck injury in 2016 and there is no guarantees that he won’t have problems in 2017. The Dolphins need him because frankly while he is a bit inconsistent, the defense plays better with him on the field.
Kiko Alonso: Alonso impressed his coaches and the fans last season as he led the team in tackles. Alonso had spent time with the Bills who drafted him and the Eagles who the Bills traded him to but it seems as though he found a home in Miami. It’s unclear where Alonso will play this year. He has said he wants to remain inside but the Dolphins have indicated a move outside on the weakside.
Lawrence Timmons: Timmons comes to Miami after a solid career in Pittsburgh but Timmonis is getting up there in age and is entering the final years of his playing career. In 2016 Timmons still managed to notch over 100 tackles and Miami expects the same kind of production in 2017. Timmons is solid against the run, an area that the Dolphins have struggled in recently.
Raekwon McMillan: The Ohio State product was projected to be drafted in the mid to late first round or early second but when the Dolphins came on the clock in round two, McMillan was still on the board and Miami made a point to add the talented run stopping linebacker. McMillan has to work on his open field tackling and pursuit angles and isn’t an asset in pass coverage. He will need to work on those areas if he wants to become an all-around outside linebacker.
Neville Hewitt: Hewitt has provided valuable depth at linebacker but the Dolphins don’t believe he is ready to become a full time starter despite him having starts under his belt. Hewitt is still learning the games intricacies but has proven himself on special teams and as an off the bench linebacker.
Mike Hull: Like Hewitt Hull is still growing into the NFL linebacker role and provides depth to the unit but he still isn’t ready for a full time starting job and like previous linebacker Spencer Paysinger, may never make that jump to full time.
Lamin Barrow: Barrow is a four year veteran who last played in 2015 with the Bears and Denver before that. He is known to Adam Gase but has not made major impacts on either of his previous rosters.
Deon Lacey, Chase Allen, Brandon Watts, Trevor Reilly:
Reilly has played the last two seasons with the Jets while Watts has spent his last two with the Vikings. Allen and Lacey are first year players.