When Minkah Fitzpatrick fell to the Dolphins at 11th-overall, everyone in the organization was in disbelief.
After all, Minkah Fitzpatrick is good. Really good.
And for a player of his caliber to fall out of the top-10 and into the Dolphins’ lap, seemed almost like fate. Miami needed help in the secondary and have loathed for a play-making free safety for many, many years. His skill-set allowed him to play outside corner, single-high safety, and as we witnessed on Sunday, nickle cornerback.
I wrote an article on Minkah Fitzpatrick shortly after the draft, and discussed just how versatile he was at Alabama. During the 2017 season with Nick Saban in Alabama, Fitzpatrick played all over the secondary. This is how his snaps were broken down.
Slot Cornerback: 481 snaps 64%
Linebacker: 149 snaps 20%
Edge: 55 snaps 7%
Safety 54 snaps 7%
Outside Cornerback 13 snaps 2%
It is believed that he will be the team’s long-term answer at free safety, opposite of All-Pro safety Reshad Jones. There he can use his speed and coverage skills to act as the team’s last line of defense. But with no one seizing the #2 cornerback spot opposite of Xavien Howard in camp, the Dolphins were forced to move Bobby McCain to the perimeter. This forced the team’s hand with Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is now the team’s nickle cornerback for the foreseeable future.
Let’s take a look at how he fared in his NFL debut, and what we can expect from the swiss army knife moving forward.
Here is my film breakdown on Minkah Fitzpatrick, from the Dolphins 27-20 victory over the Tennessee Titans.
Minkah Fitzpatrick’s first tackle in the NFL, was against another former Alabama player.
Fitzpatrick starts at the bottom of the screen, as he shadows Corey Davis in motion to the top. As the ball is snapped he engages one -on-one with Davis, as Derrick Henry takes the run off tackle. Fitzpatrick disengages from the block with a spin to the outside, and tackles Henry low, stopping him for a five-yard gain.
minkah fitzpatrick is all over the field, and it is very clear he belongs in the NFL. here is his first tackle as a pro. fitzpatrick shadows davis in motion as he moves from bottom to top. minkah spins off the block, and makes an impressive tackle on henry short of the first. pic.twitter.com/ZbCJThGhDZ— josh houtz (@houtz) September 13, 2018
Here’s one more look at the impressive tackle on Derrick Henry in the open field.
It almost appears that Minkah prefers to shed blocks by spinning off defenders, as he does so again in this play. Initially he is lined up over the slot wide receiver, Rishard Matthews. As the ball is snapped, he bumps Matthews off the line before reading Mariota’s eyes and changing direction towards the flat. Corey Davis makes the reception, but Fitzpatrick is there to stop him for a minimal gain. Another nice open field tackle from the Dolphins first-round draft pick.
initially, minkah is covering the receiver in the slot (matthews) He gets his hands on rishard, before reading mariota’s eyes and changing direction toward the flats. one on one with davis in the open field? advantage minkah pic.twitter.com/Eo9VhZzO1x— josh houtz (@houtz) September 13, 2018
One more look...
even with the spin, minkah looks so natural when changing direction. pic.twitter.com/YTk2BQqlqS— josh houtz (@houtz) September 13, 2018
Pre-snap, you can see Minkah get the defense in position. Dion Lewis takes the handoff, and immediately bounces inside. This is where Fitzpatrick breaks free and helps make the tackle for a minimal game. Sometimes it’s not just about what he does between the whistle, but his football I.Q is impressive.
Although Blaine Gabbert was the quarterback for the Titans, Fitzpatrick’s ability to read the quarterback’s eyes is quite impressive. He reads and reacts so quickly, that the receiver doesn’t even know what happens. An interception by Minkah Fitzpatrick would have broken the internet, and made his stellar debut even better.
this would have been the best way to cap off minkah’s NFL debut. here he reads gabbert’s eyes perfectly and nearly picks off an errant throw. great coverage and anticipation from the rookie. pic.twitter.com/PALgz7T4Ui— josh houtz (@houtz) September 13, 2018
Minkah Fitzpatrick earned rave reviews from the coaching staff, but one former Miami Dolphins player took to social media to discuss his feelings on the shutdown defensive back.
@minkfitz_21 Young boul you looked fucking great yesterday, I’m no scout but i know my shit, you special— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) September 10, 2018
If his first game is any indication of what’s to come, Fitzpatrick is well on his way to being a star in the NFL. He possesses the work ethic and physical attributes that many players in the league simply do not have. He’s a special player and paired alongside Reshad Jones, would make up one of the best safety tandems in the league. For now however, Fitzpatrick will play nickle corner, where he continues to shadow the opposition’s best slot receiver.
The sky’s the limit for Fitzpatrick, and I for one am excited to see how he will develop throughout a full 16-game season. He’s a rare talent and before long, will go down as one of best first-round draft picks in recent memory. And for that, I’m thankful.