The Miami Dolphins have done a lot the last few seasons to upgrade both the defensive end and wide receiver units. Those moves could mean, based on potential, either defensive end, including Cameron Wake, Charles Harris, Andre Branch, Terrence Fede, and William Hayes, or the young wide receiver core of Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, Devante Parker, Leonte Carroo, Isaiah Ford, and Jakeem Grant, can claim the title of deepest unit on the team. An unheralded unit remains unspoken, however.
That group of players is none other than middle Linebacker. I know, I know supposedly they are moving both Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan to outside linebacker, but that does not necessarily mean they do not consider them to be middle linebackers at heart. Listen to the coaches, and they bring together a tale of utilizing their guys much like the way they worked the safety position throughout last season. This means, that no longer does the team look at the arbitrary guidelines as to position listings, but game by game, the starting linebackers could be any one of three or four guys on the roster. It all boils down to which player best fits what they need from the position.
Again the similarities stretch far beyond the realm of the safety position. Versatility has become a factor in this case just as much as it has with many positions on the roster, not excluding both wide receiver, and defensive end.
Need proof? Ask yourself, who marks the X,Y, Z spots in the starting lineup at receiver. On paper, it shows Parker and Stills on the outside, with Landry maintaining the slot, but one look at any given game would show that cross training is paramount, and that there are times that dictate the guys in the group change from their “defined” locations.
The same thing happens at defensive end, as well as defensive tackle. Several times last season, we saw Ndamukong Suh, a primary interior pass rusher move to the outside, catering to mismatches, while Jason Jones often played defensive tackle, and we saw an increase of confusion on the opposite side of the ball.
The truth is, Miami has created a unique position system that does away with the concepts of "this player lines up here" or "that player stays in one spot".
So when making the case for who holds the deepest unit on the team, do not forget that not even a season ago, middle linebacker was one of those spots we just knew we had to address, and in one season, with the addition of free agent Lawrence Timmons and the drafting of McMillan, it can now also be considered in the conversation of one of the deepest.