The 2017 off-season has been unlike any other in recent memory for the Miami Dolphins. They aren´t chasing after big name players looking to break the bank. They are taking care of their own, signing veterans like Cameron Wake, Andre Branch and Reshad Jones and keeping in-house talent in Miami. They have added key pieces to fill situational roles on both sides of the ball,including William Hayes to help stop the run and Anthony Fasano to help boost the run.
While the Dolphins have gotten better at virtually every position (except maybe along the offensive line, which will get better with a healthy Mike Pouncey), they have gotten especially better at one position on defense.
Last year, the Dolphins played all year with a mix of Neville Hewitt, Mike Hull, Kiko Alonso, Jelani Jenkins, Spencer Paysinger and Donald Butler. Aside from Hewitt (who in my opinion has steadily improved each season) and Alonso, none of those guys really made a consistent impact on the field. The injury to Koa Misi, one of the team´s better tacklers, was noticeable as the Dolphins failed to stop the run game in and game out.
Let´s take a look at what the team has done this off-season so far to improve the position. To start, Misi will be back and should be healthy, providing good depth for a unit that lacked depth last season. The Dolphins also brought in Lawrence Timmons from Pittsburgh to help in the running game. Timmons is known for being a sure-tackler. He will do little to help in the passing game. They also drafted Raekwon McMillan, a linebacker not coveted for his athletic ability but rather for his football IQ and his nose for the football. He is the most exciting addition with the most upside.
Another name that could make an impact as he gets used to NFL speed is former CFL standout Deon Lacey, who has spent the last 3 years playing for the Edmonton Eskimos. Before we write Lacey off, it is important to remember that Cameron Wake came to the Miami Dolphins in a similar situation as Lacey.
So, in just a few months, the Dolphins LB group for 2017 will include (as of now), Alonso, McMillan and Timmons as the starting 3 with Lacey, Misi and Hewitt as depth. This should bode for a much more stout run defense, as well as better support in defending passes to RBs and TEs.