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Dolphins linebacker: Better, worse, or same in 2016?

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NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 Miami Dolphins have seen a lot of change from the version of the team that started the 2015 season. Is the team better, worse, or the same with all of the changes? That is what this series of articles is attempting to determine. We are working our way through the Dolphins’ 2016 roster by position group, taking a look at the names on the roster and deciding if the position is better, worse, or the same as last year.

We continue that series, having already covered the quarterback position,the running backs group, the wide receivers, the tight ends, the offensive line, the defensive ends, and the defensive tackles. Today, we continue with the linebackers.

Linebackers

Jelani Jenkins
Kiko Alonso
Koa Misi
Zach Vigil
Spencer Paysinger
Neville Hewitt
Mike Hull
James Michael-Johnson
Akil Blount
James Burgess
Tyler Gray

Analysis

The linebackers groups is pretty consistent from the 2015 version of the team, with the only major change coming from the addition of Kiko Alonso. Miami traded for Alonso, brining him to South Florida from Philadelphia, and he should be installed as the starting linebacker. Jenkins and Misi will return as the weakside- and strongside-linebackers, respectively.

Behind them, Vigil, Paysinger, Hewitt, and Hull should battle for the primary reserve spots on the roster. Blount and Burgess, both undrafted rookies, will look to make a case for a roster spot of a position on the practice squad.

Better, Worse, Same

Better. This rating could go either same or better, especially with the question marks surrounding Alonso’s ability to stay healthy. That said, Alonso should be an upgrade over Kelvin Sheppard in the middle of the field, and Miami’s linebackers as a whole should come into the year healthy, something that was an issue last year. Jenkins and Misi are the same, though health and some development from Jenkins should make them slightly better. The group of reserve players should be better as well. Given this is supposed to be a look at just the names on the roster, the real measure is Alonso versus Sheppard, and that gets a slightly better rating.