Steve Mitchell

Can Dolphins Neville Hewitt Start at LB?

One of the big question marks entering the 2016 season for the Miami Dolphins is their LB corps.

The projected starters going into the season for the Miami Dolphins appears to be Kiko Alonzo in the middle and Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins on the outside.

But there is another Linebacker from last season’s squad that intrigues me.  It is Neville Hewitt, from Marshall University.

Hewitt was voted 2014 Conference USA Player of the Year by the league’s coaches, in his senior year.  He was MVP on a Marshall team that finished its season with a 13-1 record, playing both inside and outside linebacker.

But Hewitt wasn’t drafted.  He was signed by the Dolphins shortly after the 2015 draft as a free agent, and was expected to compete with fellow free agent signee Linebackers, Mike Hull and Zach Vigil.

Hewitt impressed enough in the 2015 preseason to make the cut, and played in all 16 of the Dolphins regular season games, starting two games.  He had an interception and 39 tackles on the year, while adapting to the professional game.

However, it wasn’t until the last game of the season against the Patriots that I finally took notice of Hewitt.  It was just his second start of the season, but he seemed to be all over the field.  It was amazing to look at the tackle stats after the game and see he only had 6 total tackles.  Every time I looked up, Neville Hewitt was making a tackle or assisting on another.  I remember thinking “where has this guy been all season” and wondering why he hadn’t played more?

The scouting report on Hewitt coming out of college was that he had good instincts, quickness and could hit with power.  Sounds exactly like what you would want in a linebacker.  He did have neck surgery just before his senior season but didn’t miss any of Marshall’s games.  So we can add toughness to the list of Hewitt’s attributes.  Perhaps it wasn’t only the neck surgery that kept him from being drafted but the fact he was only about 220lbs, which is small for a linebacker.  He is now up to 235 lbs. and I think he is ready to challenge for more playing time.

 I would be surprised if he isn’t the first linebacker in the game, when one of the more experienced starters needs a breather.  But I think there may be more to Hewitt then just being a good backup.  I think he can be much more.  Due to Koa Misi’s recent legal issue and the fact that Jelani Jenkins didn’t play up to the level hoped, there may be an opening for Hewitt.  If so, I expect him to pounce on it the way he pounced on Patriot running backs in last year’s finale.

It will certainly take a great preseason for Hewitt to prove he can be counted on to be a consistent starter.

I will be watching the Dolphins linebacker situation closely, and hoping Hewitt picks up where he left off last year.  If he does or better yet improves, it will be difficult to keep him off the field.

FINS UP!!!     

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