With training camp quickly approaching, let's preview one of the positions that I  believe the success of the..."/> With training camp quickly approaching, let's preview one of the positions that I  believe the success of the..."/>

Dolphins training camp preview: Linebackers

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 11: Davon Godchaux /

With training camp quickly approaching, let’s preview one of the positions that I  believe the success of the 2018 Dolphins will hinge on: the linebackers.

Going into camp, the Dolphins have 10 linebackers on the roster: Kiko Alonso, Raekwon McMillan, Chase Allen, Mike Hull, Stephone Anthony, Jerome Baker, Quentin Poling, Mike McCray, Terence Garvin and Cayson Collins.

Alonso, Allen, Hull and Anthony are the only four returners from last season with Lawrence Timmons and Alterraun Verner departing.

McMillan and Alonso are fully expected to be starters. Training camp will give Anthony, Baker, Allen and Hall a chance to battle for a starting linebacker spot.  I expect Poling to make the squad as a special teams player as well.

The biggest addition to this linebacking corps is Raekwon McMillan. Of course, McMillan tore his ACL on his first play of the preseason last year, and it felt like a devastating loss to Miami because of the potential he has.

McMillan was one of the best linebackers in the Big Ten coming out of Ohio State in 2016.  He recorded over 100 tackles in each of his last two seasons with the Buckeyes, and ranked the 19th best LB in the nation in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus.

It’s not just the numbers that make McMillan impressive either. He stands out because of the way he carries himself and takes control of the defense.

“I’m the MIKE, I’m the middle linebacker, I’m the guy in the middle,” McMillan said. “The quarterback of the defense. I’m trying to become a leader out there. It’s nothing given to me, so I’m trying to work my way to that leadership spot.” (USA Today)

McMillan said that back in May. His leadership was on display throughout minicamp in June. It’s almost weird that he feels like a veteran presence without even taking a regular season NFL snap yet.

And that is the one downside to all of this. We do not know how McMillan is going to perform because we haven’t seen him play in the NFL. The Dolphins are praying he pans out.

Jerome Baker joins his Ohio State teammate in Miami this season. Baker is a quicker weak side linebacker who covered running backs and tight ends well with the Buckeyes.

I look forward to seeing what Baker can do in training camp, and finding out if he can make an impact this season.

Drew Brees had an interesting quote about Ohio State players last week.

.@drewbrees on @BullandFox re: @Cantguardmike “I’ll take Ohio State guys every day of the wk b/c Urban Meyer has built quite a program. There’s a mindset w/ all those guys. They love to compete & they’re fun to play w/ so I’ll take ‘em all. Tell Urban to keep sending ‘em our way”

— Keith Britton (@KeithBritton86) July 10, 2018

Of course, Brees was talking about WR Michael Thomas, but Miami having two Ohio State linebackers definitely isn’t a bad thing.

Anthony, Hull and Allen all hope to expand on limited rolls in 2017. Anthony had 12 tackles in eight games played last season. Hull had 19 tackles and a fumble recovery in three starts last year, and Allen had 24 tackles and a forced fumble in four starts.

I expect Anthony to emerge as a third starter this season for Miami. It’ll depend on how the rookies fair in training camp and preseason to see if anyone can earn a starting spot early in 2018.

As for Alonso, he is going to start for Miami this season, but Miami needs a drastic improvement from him going into his sixth year in the league. Alonso received a 38.9 overall grade from Pro Football Focus last season, which ranks him the 75th best LB in the NFL.

That is horrendous. Unfortunately, the Dolphins have no one to take Alonso’s spot heading into 2018.

This is where training camp is vital for the young corps of linebackers. I’m looking for someone to not only step up as a third starter, but a second guy to slowly take Alonso’s spot.

The one positive note is Alonso shouldn’t have to play as the MIKE this year, that will be McMillan. Hopefully, Alonso can just be mediocre next to him.

The Dolphins defense ranked 29th in points allowed and turnovers forced last season. You can obviously blame the entire defense, but in order for arguably the two most important defensive statistics to improve, the linebackers need to improve drastically.

The dream scenario is McMillan is the middle linebacker Miami has been waiting for, Baker steps up and covers RB’s and TE’s well, and the rest of the young guys step up to give Alonso a rest.

It all starts in training camp. Thursday, July 26 the Dolphins take the practice field in Davie, FL for the first time. Thursday, August 9 Miami takes on the Buccaneers in game one of the preseason.

We’ll just have to wait and see who steps up for the Dolphins in 2018.