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How do the Dolphins adjust to Jalen Ramsey injury?

Miami Dolphins cornerback Jalen Ramsey is expected to undergo knee surgery on Friday, a procedure that could have him miss most of the regular season.

Miami Dolphins Training Camp Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins are in familiar and unfortunate territory early in their 2023 training camp period. Throughout 2022, the Dolphins had to deal with injuries throughout their defensive secondary, including starting cornerback Byron Jones, who missed the entire season. Two days into camp in 2023, and the Dolphins are again seeing a starting cornerback, this time All-Pro Jalen Ramsey, potentially out for the majority of the season.

Ramsey sustained a torn meniscus in his left knee during Thursday’s practice. He is scheduled to undergo surgery on Friday, a procedure that will determine whether he is back in six-to-eight weeks, or if this is a major issue that could have him sitting out until late in the year. More clarity will come out after the surgery, but whatever the case, Miami’s cornerback depth chart has been shaken up and someone has to step up to fill in for Ramsey.

Opposite that now-open starting position will be Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard. A Howard and Ramsey duo could have been the best pairing of cornerbacks in the league. Now, Miami will be hoping to find someone to lock down the position until Ramsey is medically cleared.

Green Bay Packers v Miami Dolphins Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Kader Kohou, an undrafted free agent in 2022 out of Texas A&M-Commerce, would appear to be the most likely candidate to replace Ramsey. Expected to be a developmental player last year coming out of a small school, Kohou appeared in 15 games with 13 starts as a rookie, thrust into the lineup due to the numerous secondary injuries the team sustained last season. He recorded 72 tackles, a forced fumble, 10 passes defensed, and an interception. Miami’s coaching staff is likely looking for him to continue to surprise as he heads into his second season, especially as they look for Ramsey’s replacement.

Moving Kohou into Ramsey’s role would create another hole on the defense, however, as it appeared Miami planned to use the second-year cornerback as the team’s nickel corner.

Miami Dolphins Offseason Workout Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Second-round draft pick Cam Smith, joining the Dolphins this year out of South Carolina, will be given an opportunity to prove himself and potentially claim the starting role. Smith has the potential to be a strong starting cornerback in the league, but he has to prove he can adjust to the speed of the game and his ability to stick with receivers translates from the college ranks to the professional field.

Early practice reports, from the team’s minicamps and first couple of days of training camp, are positive for Smith, but it is a small sample size and the offense is not fully up to speed yet. Pads are getting ready to come on and the intensity in camp is going to increase; will Smith respond?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Miami Dolphins Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

Noah Igbinoghene could have the opening he needs to prove his selection in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft was not a mistake. After three years in the league, Igbinoghene has struggled with consistency and being able to get himself onto the field. He is only 23 years old still, so there is still time to develop, but, as he enters the final year of his first contract, Igbinoghene has to take a big step forward this season. Fighting his way into the starting lineup opposite Howard, filling in until Ramsey is healthy, could be his best path to not being seen as a complete bust for the Dolphins.

NFL: JUN 01 Miami Dolphins Minicamp Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Earlier this year, the Dolphins moved cornerback Trill Williams to safety, providing depth on the back end of the defense. Could they look to undo that move and bring Williams back to cornerback, either to compete for the starting role or to provide depth while Ramsey is out? Could Williams be the nickel cornerback if Kohou moves outside?

The answers to those questions may be reliant on Williams’ health. Heading into this second year last season, Williams sustained a torn ACL in training camp and missed the entire season. Miami likely wants to limit his practice time early in camp this year to make sure he is fully recovered from the injury, but they may have to see if he is ready for a role expansion this year.

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The Dolphins have another option who is coming off a major injury but could factor into the competition this summer. Nik Needham is currently on the physically unable to perform list, preventing him from practicing, as he continues to rehabilitate a torn Achilles tendon he sustained during the 2022 season. If he is cleared to return to the field, Needham could factor into the starting position battle, or he could slide into the nickel cornerback role, allowing Kohou to move outside.

NFL: OCT 16 Vikings at Dolphins Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Keion Crossen, a special teams ace, could also make a case for more playing time on defense this year. He played 36 percent of the defensive snaps last year, recording 32 tackles and four passes defensed in 16 games played with two starts.

Justin Bethel, Elijah Campbell, Tino Ellis, Bryce Thompson, and rookie Ethan Bonner will likely all be battling for a depth role in the secondary.

The Dolphins will be looking to find a way to replace Ramsey, for whom they traded this year. Will it be a short-term replacement, or will it be for most of the year? Whatever is discovered during surgery on Friday and however the prognosis plays out, Ramsey is already looking toward his return and how the Dolphins will play down the stretch.