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AFC East

Dolphins Season Preview – LB’s/DB’s

Dolphins fans. Photo by Qfl247(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)

Just like the 2019 season, Miami is experiencing some turnover at the Linebacker position. Unfortunately, the Dolphins suffered a major blow at the start of training camp, losing Vince Biegel to a torn Achilles. Biegel led all Dolphins defensive players in QB hits with 13 and tied with Sam Eguavoen with 7 TFL’s, also had 1 INT last year, he will be a free agent in 2021. Eguavoen was a player the Dolphins liked coming from the CFL racking up 173 tackles in 3 seasons and then getting 42 tackles in 2019. Dolphins brought in Kamu Grugier-Hill from the Philadelphia Eagles to challenge Raekwon McMillan in camp for that a starting linebacker spot. After a few weeks of practice. Miami decided to trade McMillan to the Las Vegas Raiders along with a 5th round pick for a 2021 4th round pick, an expiring contract traded to move up in the draft(Miami later traded back that 4th round pick to Vegas for Lynn Bowden Jr.).

Miami signed veteran Kyle Van Noy from the New England Patriots, a player Brian Flores work with for many years. There’s also an opportunity for Andrew Van Ginkel, a former 5th round pick out of Wisconsin to take Biegel’s spot on defense. Van Ginkel did not play much in his young career due to injury. We can’t forget the leader of the defense, former 3rd round pick Jerome Baker out of The Ohio State University, who led the whole team in total tackles with 126(next closest was 81, Eric Rowe), 1.5 sacks and 3 TFL’s and an INT. Baker is what keeps this whole running on defense communicating to everybody what the opposition might be doing. Look for the Dolphins to possibly set up a contract extension next offseason.

Calvin Munson was signed off the New England Patriots practice squad last December, although he has not been on an active roster since spending 2 years with the New York Giants after being undrafted. Things have not gone right for Munson, but the Dolphins coaching staff liked what they saw enough for him to make the team. It’s an opportunity to prove people wrong about his play.

Miami signed 2-time Super Bowl Champion, Elandon Roberts from New England to a 1-year contract. If there is anything that Brian Flores is looking for to gel with his young players, it’s familiarity. Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts are examples of that.

This might be the best unit on the Dolphins roster. Last offseason, Miami signed Cornerback Xavien Howard to a 5 year/$75M extension after recording 7 ints in 2018. However, the injuries have continued to rack up for Howard, only playing a total of 5 games in 2019, ending his season with a knee injury. There are also a few on the field and off the field issues too. On the field, he was ejected in the Week 3 loss in 2019 against the Dallas Cowboys. Off the field, there was a domestic violence charge to Howard, which was eventually dropped and the NFL announced that he will not be suspended. Miami, hoping for X to be back to his 2018 self.

Miami brought in some help for Howard, signing former Cowboys Pro Bowl CB Byron Jones to a 5 year/$82.2M contract this offseason. Although the interception numbers are not there for Jones, passes defended are. You will see a lot of balls get batted even if Jones is behind on the play, still giving opposing WR’s a hard time when going up against Jones.

With one of the picks in the Laremy Tunsil trade with Houston, not before trading back with the Green Bay Packers from 26 to 30(with Green Bay drafting Jordan Love), Miami selected DB Noah Igbinoghene out of Auburn. Igbinoghene not only has the ability to play in the nickel but can also be put on special teams as a returner, which we might see with Preston Williams and Jakeem Grant coming off season-ending injuries from 2019.

2019 UDFA Nik Needham from UTEP took the Dolphins by storm last season, to the point where he started 11 of the 12 games that he played, with 54 tackles and 2 INT’s, he filled in that spot when Xavien Howard went down and has a chance to still be an impact player behind Howard and Jones. Safety is still a bit of a question heading into this season with the Dolphins trading Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Luckily with Brian Flores’ adjustments with placing Eric Rowe at safety instead of cornerback, it made a huge difference in the defense, especially in Week 17, intercepting a pass from Tom Brady for a Touchdown to help Miami beat New England in Foxborough for the first time since 2008.

Miami also drafted Brandon Jones from Texas in the 3rd round of the 2020 Draft, a player who is also sneaky when lining up on the line of scrimmage, with 4 TFL’s and his lone sack last season came on a safety blitz on Heisman Trophy Winner Joe Burrow. He is also another player who can return punts and kicks on special teams due to his experience while at Texas.

The Dolphins signed former Cincinnati Bengals 7th round pick Safety Clayton Fejedelem to a 3-year deal earlier this past offseason. Miami also has continuity pieces like Bobby McCain, who is a favorite with the coaching staff, and who has found a home at safety after spending some time at cornerback. They also retained Jamal Perry(formally Jomal Wiltz), from last season, who recorded an INT in Miami’s first win of the season against the New York Jets. Miami signed Kavon Frazier from the Dallas Cowboys this past offseason to create more depth to an already exciting defensive backs group.

The defensive back’s group is right in Brian Flores’ alley. So expect a lot of different combinations out there, just like last season. With high draft picks and high priced free agents in this group, and the NFL becoming more of a passing league, having a strong DB group is what every team needs.

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