Our annual 90-in-90 series returns this morning to take a look at another member of the Miami Dolphins’ roster. This series of articles takes a look at each player on the team’s 90-man preseason roster, breaking down how they played in 2017, why they could progress and why they could regress in 2018, and finish with a look at the chances the player has to make the 53-man roster.
This year, we have already finished the reviews for wide receiver Leonte Carroo, punter Matt Haack, safety T.J. McDonald, running back Buddy Howell, wide receiver DeVante Parker, defensive end William Hayes, wide receiver Isaiah Ford, safety/cornerback Walt Aikens, defensive end Claudy Mathieu, linebacker Kiko Alonso, cornerback Xavien Howard, long snapper Lucas Gravelle, wide receiver Danny Amendola, tight end A.J. Derby, running back Frank Gore, defensive tackle Gabe Wright, wide receiver Kenny Stills, cornerback Tony Lippett, kicker Jason Sanders, kicker Greg Joseph, left tackle Laremy Tunsil, tight end Mike Gesicki, linebacker Raekwon McMillan, running back Kalen Ballage, wide receiver Jakeem Grant, tight end Durham Smythe, quarterback David Fales, and wide receiver Albert Wilson. Now, we look at defensive tackle Akeem Spence.
Spence signed a three-year, $9 million contract with the Detroit Lions in free agency in 2017. He appeared in all 16 games last year, starting 11 times as a replacement for the injured Haloti Ngata. Spence recorded 39 tackles, with three sacks and one forced fumble. The Lions drafted Da’Shawn Hand this year and will likely look to play more of a 3-4 style under new head coach Matt Patricia, ultimately leading to them trading Spence to the Dolphins for a seventh-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Why he will progress
Spence will continue to work under defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, who moved from the Lions to the Dolphins this offseason. That should give him some familiarity and stability with what is happening in the film room and on the practice field. The Dolphins will be looking to replace the production of Ndamukong Suh, who signed with the Los Angeles Rams in free agency after being released by Miami, and, while Spence will not be the only player expected to pick up their production, he will be looked at as the veteran among several younger defensive tackles, setting the example and, likely, seeing a large portion of the playing time.
Why he might regress
After starting 11 games last year and recording career highs in tackles and sacks (tied), Spence could find himself the depth player in a rotation at the position. The Dolphins are high on Jordan Phillips and Davon Godchaux, so Spence will have to beat them in training camp and the preseason if he wants to claim a starting role. He would likely still see a large portion of the snaps as Miami looks to get away from needing a defensive tackle to play 80 percent of the snaps like Suh would play.
Chances of making the 53-man roster
Spence will be on the roster, and will be in competition for a starting role. How much playing time and where he will fit in the rotation will be decided during the summer, but he should easily be on the roster.