Miami Dolphins linebacker Duke Riley has appeared in 102 games since entering the league in 2017 when he was drafted in the third round by the Atlanta Falcons. Of those 102 games, Riley has been the starter 29 times — five of those starts have been with the Dolphins. However, it appears that #45 will be called upon over the next few weeks, and if last Sunday was any indication, he may be more ready than we think.
In Week 13 vs. the Washington Commanders, Riley was thrust into action with Jerome Baker going down late in the second quarter with a leg injury. Baker is
week-to-week headed to injured reserve and could return in Week 18, but the team may decide to bring back Isaiah Wynn instead. Either way, the team will be without Baker for the foreseeable future.
This means it’s Riley’s job to lose unless second-year linebacker Channing Tindall does a complete 180 in the coming weeks (lettuce pray). But based on what we saw vs. the Commanders, the veteran looked more than ready to step up and should get valuable playing time in the coming weeks. This may cause anxiety for some players, but Riley himself says it will be just another day.
“It’s just going to be another day for me. I’m not really worried about the game right now. Just worried about today, Thursday. I’m just focused on that. We’ve got a couple more meetings left and then I’ll worry about tomorrow when that comes and then the next day. Game time is like a relief. It’s like the best time of my life. Those moments, everything’s already been put in. Now you’ve just got to go have fun.”
Before signing with the Dolphins as a free agent in 2021, Riley played a season and a half with the Philadelphia Eagles (2019-2020) and a little over two seasons with the Falcons. All of that has prepared him for this moment. A moment where he looks to show the world that he belongs at the heart of one of the best defenses in football.
“At the end of the day, in this league and every phase of life, you’ve just got to control what you can control. If you’re not up even though you want to be, whatever it may be, you’ve just got to control what you can control and make the most out of the opportunity that you do have. In that case, I was getting a lot of special teams reps, so I had to make sure I was being the best leader I can be in that phase, knowingly that I’m preparing as a starter on defense regardless. Even if I was a fourth-string guy, I would prepare like I’m a starter. It’s just like who I am. Every single day I come to work, my main focus is to be better than I was yesterday and bring somebody along with me every single day. So that’s my goal.”
Here’s a cut-up of some of The Good from Duke Riley’s Game vs. the Commanders.
i thought duke riley played well in jerome baker's absence vs. the commanders. #45 was active in the run game & quick to his spots in the passing game -- taking away crossers & underneath routes. he totaled 8 tackles & a FF on 35 defensive snaps. wore the green dot too.#goodshit pic.twitter.com/vaV11vLX0Q— josh houtz (@houtz) December 8, 2023
The Dolphins inked Duke Riley to a two-year deal in March worth $5 Million. He is signed through the 2024 season.
What are your thoughts on Duke Riley? Do you think the Dolphins' defense will miss a beat without Jerome Baker? Will Channing Tindall continue to get reps moving forward? Let us know in the comments section below!