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Rookie Jerome Baker wins starting linebacker job

The Dolphins starting linebacker unit is set, and it includes a third-round rookie.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Adam Gase has finalized his starting linebacking unit, and that unit includes a rookie third-round draft pick.

According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Jerome Baker will be the third starter alongside Raekwon McMillan and Kiko Alonso come week 1 of the regular season. Baker essentially earned Gase’s blessing in a Monday morning press conference when Gase said that Baker is “our starter until we say otherwise.”

The starting lineup for Miami’s linebacker position was a focus amongst fans and the media entering training camp, as veteran Stephone Anthony, second-year and former undrafted free agent Chase Allen, and Baker were all vying for the starting position next to McMillan and Alonso. While Anthony has the most experience and highest draft pedigree (he was drafted in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Saints), it appears Baker’s solid preseason performance has won him the job.

Early reports out of training camp indicated that Baker had a ways to go in terms of picking up proper assignments, yet he’s improved tremendously over the course of the past few weeks. He’s accumulated 15 tackles through the first three preseason games in limited playing time and has shown a knack for finding the ball carrier with speed and aggression. His quickness should be a huge boost for a linebacking corps that struggled immensely to cover pass catchers last season.

In his final two years starting at Ohio State, Baker totalled 159 tackles (17 for loss), nine sacks, three passes defended, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), and one forced fumble. He also spent two seasons playing alongside McMillan, meaning the two already have some built-in chemistry together.

Other important notes from Gase’s press conference:

  • Gase says the team’s backup quarterback for the upcoming season is on the roster now, despite the struggles of David Fales and Brock Osweiler.
  • Gase mentioned that he’d like to get Tony Lippett more reps in the team’s fourth and final preseason game.
  • Gase said that the team feels very good about Bobby McCain playing at outside cornerback. Salguero believes McCain has won the job ahead of Cordrea Tankersley, Torry McTyer, and Lippett. This means that rookie first-round draft pick Minkah Fitzpatrick is likely to start at nickel cornerback.