Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel |
Dolphins have good problem: too many linebackers
The Miami Dolphins have a problem at linebacker, but it's considered to be a better problem than it had last year when it lacked talent and depth.
The Dolphins' problem at linebacker nowadays, and they hope things stay this way, is they have too many linebackers for their 4-3 scheme among Lawrence Timmons, Kiko Alonso, Koa Misi and Raekwon McMillan, the second-round pick from Ohio State.
Last season, the Dolphins used Alonso in the middle and while he was up for the challenge (115 tackles), the team wants more of a dominant run stuffer at that position. And they want athletic guys who are sure tacklers on the outside.
Linebackers are thought to be a major reason Miami's run defense was 30th in the league at 140.4 yards per game, so upgrades, mainly in the form of Timmons, the free agent from Pittsburgh, and McMillan, were sought.
Timmons, a standout inside linebacker for years in the Steelers' 3-4 defense, is regarded as a dominant run stuffer and is also thought to be the top candidate to start in the middle.
"I played every position in Pittsburgh so I'm used to being interchangeable," Timmons said. "I'm like a fixer."
Alonso is regarded as the top candidate to start on the weak side. That would theoretically leave Misi, whose season ended early last year due to a neck injury, and McMillan, regarded as a head-banger in college, to battle for the strong-side position, although returnee Neville Hewitt, who made five starts last year, could also be a factor.
First-year defensive coordinator Matt Burke said he could employ the outside linebackers as strong side and weak side, or right and left. He said he has experience with both methods in the NFL.
Head coach Adam Gase doesn't seem to be in a hurry to make such decisions at any positions.
"We'll go through the process and see what happens," he said. "It's hard for me to say who plays where. I know they're all going to play linebacker."
Gase said he hasn't even given a lot of thought to which linebackers might play in base defense and which might play in sub-packages.
"There's just a lot of moving pieces we've got to figure out," he said.
Whatever ends up happening, the Dolphins think they're more talented and deeper at linebacker this year than they were last year.