The Miami Dolphins should have a strong defensive secondary this year, with Xavien Howard, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Reshad Jones, Bobbby McCain, and T.J. McDonald headlining the group. The defensive line needs to find depth and a pass rush, but the addition of fir-round draft-pick Christian Wilkins and moves like pushing Charles Harris into a hybrid defensive end/linebacker role could be the start of fixing those issues.
There are still questions about the linebackers, however, questions that training camp will need to answer. Will Jerome Baker continue to grow? Can Kiko Alonso give Miami a solid season as a run-stopper? Will Raekwon McMillan’s ACL tear two years ago be behind him physically and mentally, allowing him to become the player Miami drafted in 2017?
Presuming those three are again the three starters in a 4-3 scheme, then joined by Harris in a 3-4 defensive front, there are still questions that need to be answered. Does McMillan coming off the field in nickel formations, giving way for an additional defensive back, make the most sense? Where does Andrew Van Ginkel fit into the lineup? How does the depth shake out behind the presumed starters?
The Dolphins have struggled with coverage of tight ends and running backs in the passing game over the past few years, as well as have allowed way too many yards on the ground. The linebackers are going to have to step up to improve in both of those areas. Baker should be able to assist with coverage while allowing Alonso to be move focused on run stuffing will improve the defense there - as well as moving safeties down into the box in support.
McMillan will be the primary middle linebacker in the 4-3, with Baker on the weak-side and Alonso on the strong-side.
Chase Allen, Mike Hull, Quentin Poling, Nate Orchard, Sam Eguevoen, Tyrone Holmes, Jayrone Elliott, Terrill Hanks, and Tre’ Watson will all be asked to prove they have a role on the defense, whether it is in pass rush, pass coverage, or against the run.
Miami’s coaching staff values versatility and mismatches, and the linebackers are going to be a huge part of creating that. Now they have to prove they can do it.