Julian Hill was Miami’s sixth tight end on Aug. 8 — three weeks later, the Dolphins didn’t want to risk putting him on waivers. The undrafted rookie was a pleasant surprise throughout the preseason with three receptions of four targets.
“I always had my eye on the Dolphins,” Hill said Wednesday. “I like their system. I like Coach [Mike] McDaniel and how he runs things, and of course just getting a chance to work with Coach [Jon] Embree from who he’s coached in the past, it was a no-brainer.”
The former Campbell University tight end leapfrogged four players on the depth chart, landing behind starting tight end Durham Smythe. Hill’s talent, especially as a run-blocker, captured the coaching staff’s attention. He secured a roster spot over 2023 sixth-round pick Elijah Higgins and 12th-year tight end Tyler Kroft — who was re-signed later in the week.
2023 Dolphins’ first depth chart. pic.twitter.com/EB8zxaTpGi— David Furones (@DavidFurones_) August 8, 2023
“I prioritize earning your position at work, and [General Manager] Chris Grier does, too, so that was an intense competition that you get a lot of moments to evaluate,” McDaniel said of the team’s choices at tight end. “It wasn’t a crazy distinction. Again, it’s not to speak lowly of Elijah. It’s really about Julian’s ability to really come from a small school and develop each and every day to the point that we thought that he earned the trust of his teammates and the coaches of how he competed and how he fit within the team.
‘You can go one or two ways when you’re making those type of decisions and we are steadfast on allowing the players, while they’re here, to make those decisions for us.”
Hill lined up in the slot for 24 plays this preseason but can also make some noise as an inline tight end.
“I take pride in being a half o-lineman,” Hill said. “I love the trench warfare or whatever you want to call it. Whatever name it has, I love getting physical and I think that that’s where it allows me to buy time to develop my route running.
“A lot of guys – you’ve just got to be willing and have a willingness to block and I have that. I love to show effort in the run game. I love to get physical, like I said, and I think that’s the beautiful thing about it.”
Miami doesn’t need to lean on the tight end to do the heavy lifting, but Hill’s flexibility could become another challenge opposing defenses must consider before the snap.