Training camp officially begins in a few hours, and there’s a ton to be excited about if you’re a Miami Dolphins fan. Yesterday, I wrote about the five offensive players I’m excited to watch. So naturally, here are five defensive players I’m excited to watch progress throughout training camp and the 2022 NFL preseason.
Safety, Jevon Holland
I’ll be the first one to admit I wrote an article before the Dolphins were on the clock on day two of the 2021 NFL Draft, pleading with the team to draft running back Javonte Williams. I don’t think we will ever know if that’s the player Miami had on their radar, but I can confidently say that I’m happy with who the Dolphins selected. Jevon Holland proved in 2021 that he is one of the league’s top free safeties. Throughout the year, Holland showed he could be a factor in the passing game and against the run. His speed allowed Miami to play single-high, with Holland able to shoot down into the box and stop running backs at the line of scrimmage. But he also showcased his ability to change direction and cover half the field on his way to a pass breakup 20-yards downfield. There was nothing Holland couldn’t do as a rookie, which is why I’m excited to see what he does in year two when the game is slower, and he has a better understanding of what is coming.
Defensive Tackle, Christian Wilkins
For years, Dolphins fans undervalued defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, but more recently, it seems like he’s finally getting the respect he deserves. Wilkins continues to improve in all areas of his game, year after year. But what has me most excited about 2022 is how he looked in a video that surfaced of him training this offseason. To be honest, he looked like a superhero — and much faster than years past. Miami activated his fifth-year option this past offseason, locking him up through the 2023 season. At some point, however, the two sides will need to reach a new deal before the start of the 2024 offseason, if the hope is to keep Wilkins in Miami long-term. Of course, everyone wants to lock up Mike Gesicki, but maybe it’s Christian Wilkins we should expect to reach a new deal sooner rather than later.
Cornerback, Noah Igbinoghene
after xavien howard was ejected on sunday, the @miamidolphins called upon their 21-year-old rookie CB to step up and fill the void opposite of byron jones on the outside.— josh houtz (@houtz) December 12, 2020
here's a look at @noah_igbo9 vs @bengals. #finsup pic.twitter.com/at7W7Jiuet
With Byron Jones sidelined, the Dolphins will get an up-close look at what Noah Igbinoghene can do against Miami’s speedy receivers. And in an offseason where the team brought in former legends Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison to coach the secondary, it may be now or never for the former 2020 first-round draft pick. Igbinoghene has shown in the past his ability to mirror wide receivers, using his speed to keep up with some of the league’s shifty slot corners. But for me, his lack of physicality and ball skills have been least impressive early on. One example of this came last season vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars. Igbinoghene was in perfect position but got out-muscled by Marvin Jones. It’s now or never for Igbinoghene to prove he can be a vital piece to Miami’s secondary for years to come.
EDGE, Jaelan Phillips
Jaelan Phillips talked a lot this offseason about wanting to be a three-down player, which he admits he could not do as a rookie. Phillips is now leaner and meaner than he was a season ago, and after an impressive 8.5 sacks his rookie season, fans are excited to watch him elevate his game to the next level. Can Phillips become better vs. the run? Will he be able to use those long arms to set the EDGE and force backs to cut inside? There’s a lot to love about Phillips heading into year two, but for me, watching him become a Pro Bowl pass-rusher is something I’m excited to see. I expect Phillips to improve on his rookie season and show the world he’s an every-down player.
Linebacker, Channing Tindall
One of Miami’s most significant needs heading into the offseason was at linebacker. And while the team decided to run it back with Elandon Roberts, Sam Eguaoven, and some of Miami’s other linebackers from a year ago, they also invested their first pick of the 2022 NFL Draft (third-round) on a sideline-to-sideline defender who should make an impact in 2022. How big of an impact is anyone’s guess. Tindall will likely earn reps early on through special teams and in situations where Miami could use the extra speed on the field. I hope Tindall leaves coaches no choice but to put him out on the field, early and often. Because like Jerome Baker and some of Miami’s other defenders, Tindall can do it all
What defensive players are you most excited to watch over the next few weeks? Do you think Miami’s defense will take a step back in 2022? How will Jaelan Phillips look in year two? Is Channing Tindall Miami’s starting linebacker by the season’s end? What is your biggest concern with Miami’s defensive line? Let us know in the comments section below!