The Dolphins secondary has received a makeover so where does that leave Nik Needham?
Nik Needham was one of the “Cinderella stories” of 2019 for the Miami Dolphins. The one-time Miner posted 212 tackles, 33 passes defended and 3 interceptions in his four years at UTEP. Despite those impressive college numbers, Needham went undrafted in the 2019 NFL Draft.
He was signed by the Dolphins in April and made it till the final roster cuts before being waived by Miami. He showed enough in the preseason though to be signed to the practice squad the next day.
After a month on the practice squad, and with the Dolphins secondary struggling, Needham was promoted to the 53-man roster in week 6. He initially started as Miami’s “dime cornerback”; where Needham definitely had some ‘growing pains’ but he improved enough that the coaches moved him to boundary corner when Xavien Howard was final put on injured reserve. Needham finished with 11 starts, 54 total tackles, and 2 interceptions.
Where does Nik Needham fit in the revamped Dolphins secondary?
So what are the expectations for Needham for the 2020 season?
With the Dolphins signing Byron Jones to a lucrative free-agent contract and Howard returning from injury it’s unrealistic to expect that Needham will supplant either of them in the starting lineup. After those two, Needham finds himself in an enviable position compared to the other cornerbacks on the roster.
With a potentially shortened training camp, Needham has the early edge against this year’s first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene because he has worked in Flores’ system for a year. Meanwhile, it’s too early to tell whether Miami’s plans have veterans Eric Rowe and Bobby McCain competing at cornerback or safety.
For this year to be a success for Needham, he obviously needs to make the 53 man roster and be active for 16 games; barring injury. Beyond that, if he can hand on to one of the top four cornerback spots, and fill in when injuries inevitably strike, 2020 could be a very productive year for the 2019 Dolphins “Cinderella Man”.