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Miami Dolphins

Top 5 Most Disappointing Miami Dolphins of 2019

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The entire 2019 season can be disappointing for various reasons.

For one, the Miami Dolphins sported their worst record since their forgettable 2007 season in which they went 1-15.

Although they surprised us with 5 more wins than we expected, the team took themselves out of the running for Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow and they potentially need to use all the extra assets they acquired just to move up a couple spots for Tua Tagovailoa.

But season expectations aside, there were plenty of players that became bright spots for 2020, while others have us shaking our head. Below are the top 5 most disappointing Miami Dolphins of 2019:

Click here to see which Miami Dolphins made our top 5 for 2019.

5) Minkah Fitzpatrick

A player has to do something outlandish to warrant a spot on this list after just two games, but that’s exactly where we find Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Sold to us as the ultimate team player and perennial starter that could play more positions than the average fan realized existed, Fitzpatrick was nothing but a dud in 2019.

Frustrated with the way he was utilized, and disappointed that the team was attempting to “tank” (and seemingly waste the early part of his career), Fitzpatrick demanded a trade. Most will say that Fitzpatrick won the battle, as he evolved into a legitimate defensive player of the year candidate, but the Dolphins are in a much-better position to win this war.

If Fitzpatrick is disappointed that the Dolphins are rebuilding, what does he think the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to do with Ben Roethlisberger on the verge of retirement?

In the end, the Dolphins received a solid return for a player that wasn’t going to live up to his potential in South Florida, but everything else surrounding Minkah Fitzpatrick’s 2019 saga was dramatic and disappointing to say the least.

4) Charles Harris

This is an evergreen statement that I should just wash, rinse and repeat on an annual basis.

After two disappointing seasons, it’s not that we had too many expectations for Charles Harris, but there was still hope that Brian Flores could come in and turn the former 1st-round pick (22nd-overall) around. Unfortunately, the four-year role player found himself losing snaps to fellow 2017 draftee Taco Charlton (28th-overall).

Charlton’s final stats might indicate he was more-productive, but most of his sacks were clean-up sacks earned by someone else on the defensive line or dictated by tight coverage in the secondary. This isn’t to discourage Charlton’s production, but to show you just how far Harris has fallen.

In the end, Harris’ draft slot (22nd-overall) is the only reason he isn’t as disappointing as Dion Jordan (3rd-overall). For your reference, Harris has been active for 41 games and has accumulated 3.5 sacks while Jordan was active for 26 games and accumulated 3 sacks.

3) Jakeem Grant

It’s not that Jakeem Grant had a bad year, but we expected him to flourish after teasing us with his potential and subsequent contract extension in 2018.

Statistically, 2019 was Grant’s worst season (aside from his rookie year where he accumulated almost nothing). He’s supposed to be a speed threat; however, his 8.6 yards-per-reception last year was lower than DeVante Parker, Preston Williams and Allen Hurns. Some of us view Hurns as an afterthought, but his 416 yards last season were only 16 yards less than what Grant has accumulated the past two seasons combined.

Currently, the Miami Dolphins are strong at wide receiver, to the point where Grant is possibly the odd-man out in 2020. Parker, Williams and Hurns may all be higher on the depth chart; add in the potential that Albert Wilson restructures his deal, and Grant becomes a luxury more than a commodity.

2) Reshad Jones

Reshad Jones is another veteran that disappointed us for reasons unrelated to his performance.

If this Dolphins team was able to win 5 games without their two-most expensive players, what could they have accomplished with both of them (Jones and Xavien Howard), Minkah Fitzpatrick, Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills and Ryan Tannehill?

Jones’ $17.2m salary cap hit meant the Dolphins used $4.3m in salary cap space for each game Jones was active for last season. He accumulated no turnovers, just 27 total tackles, only 1 pass defended, and allowed multiple touchdowns in coverage. Though I don’t believe Jones is “done”, his performance last year left a lot to be desired.

Dolphins fans absolutely love the hard-hitting, trash-talking safety, but it remains to be seen if he’ll still suit up with the team that originally drafted him for an 11th season. Jones is set to cost $15.6m against the cap in 2020, with a $10.2m dead cap hit attached.

Honorable Mentions:

Cordrea Tankersley:

Hard to fault a guy for tearing his ACL, but Cordrea Tankersley has gone from the most-promising player on the team to a forgotten former 3rd-round pick.

Once projected as a possible 1st-round cornerback, Tankersley fell to the Dolphins in the 3rd-round of the 2017 draft, and Miami capitalized on his availability. His rookie season was promising, and fans felt the team solved their secondary which consisted of Xavien Howard, Tankersley, Bobby McCain and Reshad Jones. Unfortunately, the Dolphins are still searching for an answer opposite Howard.

Since Tankersley has faltered, Minkah Fitzpatrick, McCain, Eric Rowe and others have attempted to man the boundary with minimal success.

Kenyan Drake:

You can pin this one on the offensive coaching staff of 2020, 2019 and everyone else since Kenyan Drake was drafted in 2016.

Given his body build, the speedy running back was never viewed as a full time solution at the position. Misused for his entire career, the Arizona Cardinals identified that they could obtain a good running back at a cheap price and poached Drake from the Dolphins for a 5th-round pick.

The Dolphins stunted Drake’s career enough that the Cardinals probably won’t receive a huge compensatory pick in return if Drake signs with another team (as he probably won’t sign a lucrative enough contract to warrant more than a 6th-round compensatory pick), but you have to wonder if Drake could have been a legitimate solution to the current running back dilemma the Dolphins face.

This is an instance where we aren’t necessarily disappointed at the player themselves, but reminiscing about Drake reminds Dolphins fans that he’s just another player the team couldn’t maximize.

Josh Rosen:

The Miami Dolphins future franchise quarterback may not have received the fairest chance, but he didn’t warrant much of a second chance either.

Outplayed and outsmarted by veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen was given the reins for 3 games before coughing it back up to Fitzpatrick. As we come to learn, all Brian Flores wants to do is win, and he’s going to start the players he deems gives him the best chance to accomplish that. And though it was hard to accept, we came to realize that this team wasn’t going to win with Rosen.

Many will view this as a disappointment due to the 2nd-round pick the Dolphins gave up to acquire him, but you can’t fault Chris Grier for trying to solve the quarterback position. It’s the overall production and the fact that this fanbase has to hope for another solution that make this such a disappointing part of the 2019 season.

Aqib Talib:

Literally 0 production, c’mon man….

1) Xavien Howard

His performance hasn’t declined, but everything else surrounding Xavien Howard has led Dolphins fans to question their elite cornerback.

In his 4-year career, Howard has finished all 16 games just once (2017). Between 2018 and 2019, Howard has started 17 games…which essentially equates to one season. Pair this injury history with a potential 4-game suspension for domestic violence, and Howard’s $75m contract looks skeptical at best.

We are all expecting Howard to bounce back in 2020, but can this really be guaranteed? Or will this just be another unfinished season for Howard?

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Marchcool

    February 12, 2020 at 7:45 am

    This article just shows that the Dolphins’ front office is a total and clueless mess. It has been so under S.Ross no matter who the HC is and no matter who the GM is.
    Somehow they will manage to blow it again the next season, starting with the draft. Well, it is in fact easy for them to blow it. Bad picks here and there, bad free-agency hiring here and there. Firing some coaches here and there. Let go some key players here and there…and here we go, the perennial mediocre team for more than a decade and for the next decade too. It’s no wonder why M. Fitzpatrick didn’t want to stay. Who wants to stay in such an “organization”. If J.Burrows doesn’t want to go with the Bengals, why in the world he would like to come to the Dolphins, just for the city and its surroundings?
    Well, only if he has to have a long, very long vacation ride in South Florida. Othewise, there are like 20 reasons for him not to come to the Dolphins. The main one being to contend for a SB.

  2. Avatar

    Jerry Gragg

    February 15, 2020 at 9:11 pm

    Josh Rosen was given the REINS for 3 games, not the REIGNS for 3 games.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      February 17, 2020 at 9:02 am

      Oy! Solid catch, Jerry. Though I do wish he were king for those 3 games

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Miami Dolphins

Turning the Machine in the Right Direction

Kevin Dern

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Nearly a year ago, 11 months to be precise, I wrote this piece for Locked On Dolphins:  “Small, Important Steps in the Right Direction”.  It was me opining on what I felt like were a series of small steps Miami, specifically Chris Grier and the front office had taken in the right direction just after the Draft.  At the time, Miami had accumulated a Draft Pick haul of a: 1st rounder, two 2nd rounders, a 3rd, two 4ths, a 5th, two 6ths, and two 7ths.  We know war chest has expanded, and Miami’s sure to put that to effective use in just over a month at the 2020 NFL Draft.

So, where are Miami now?

Well, that’s an interesting question, but I’ll attempt to answer it.  With a haul of 11 free agents, counting TE Michael Roberts who was signed before the new League Year, Miami’s managed to fill some of the holes the exited 2019 with.  Perhaps most important, despite shelling out big money deals, all of them are structured in smart, team-friendly ways.  Kudos to Chris Grier and Brandon Shore for that.  It’ll pay dividends down the road.

With the Draft still a month away, at least as things stand with the COVID-19 outbreak right now, Miami’s needs have become clearer.  Quarterback was always and still is the top priority for the Draft.  Running Back is a need still, and there’s a plethora of top notch backs in this year’s class.  Offensive Line, obviously.  Miami can use help across the board there.  With the defensive free agent signings, I’m not sure edge defenders are a need anymore, but I think Miami will still bargain shop there.  Safety, specifically free safety, and a true nose tackle round out the needs list.  At lest in my mind.

With 14 picks, and Miami probably won’t use all of them to make actual picks – I think some get used in trade ups and some get pushed to 2021 – Miami will likely be able to fill that remaining chunk of needs, which is a great place to be in.  Perhaps Miami still shops around a bit in free agency, maybe for O-line depth or a cheap running back, but I think the focus now narrows to the Draft.  Since that’s next month, let’s review the free agent crop.

Free Agent Fits
Our pal Travis Wingfield has done plenty of in-depth reporting on all of Miami’s free agent signings, so I’m going to give you my broad stroke takes on what Miami’s added this past week.

Edge Setters
Miami added defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah to help set the edge against the run.  Kyle Van Noy is an outside linebacker with a sneaky amount of strength and ability to play with heavy hands and good leverage who can help set the edge too.  What this means for Miami’s defense is that we’ll likely see more 4-man defensive fronts.  Remember, when Brian Flores called the Patriots defense in 2018 his most used for formations were:

4-2-5 (307 snaps)

3-3-5 (226 snaps)*

3-2-6 (132 snaps)

4-3 (97 snaps)

* With the 3-3-5 package, there’s really two versions: The Bear front and the slide front.  The Bear front typically included bigger defensive lineman to cover the opponents G-C-G with Hightower and Trey Flowers or Kyle Van Noy on edges, with Van Noy or Elandon Roberts off-ball.  Think of the slide front as really a 4-2 front, but you have an OLB playing as a stand-up DE.

A potential hidden bonus here is that both Lawson and Ogbah have some experience playing in stand-up OLB/DE roles.  Shaq Lawson did it some at Clemson and Ogbah had some limited experience in doing so last year with the Chiefs.  I think Ogbah was used primarily as a rusher as I haven’t seen snaps of him dropping into coverage from that spot.  But he’s been aligned there.

With the additions of Lawson, Ogbah and Van Noy, Miami’s going to try and be able to find analogs similar to Van Noy himself, more on that in a minute; Ogbah compares pretty well in play style to how the Pats used Adrian Clayborn and Deatrich Wise that year; and Lawson’s versatility might lend him to be used in some, and I stress some, of the capacities in which they used Trey Flowers.  With Van Noy, in 2019 he was almost an exclusive on-the-LOS edge LB.  In 2018, his duties between being an edge player and off-ball linebacker were about 50-50.  I don’t know that we’ll see that, but I think Van Noy’s snaps won’t be as an exclusive edge – he’s so versatile in how he can be used.

As much as I love Khalid Kareem and really like guys like K’Lavon Chaisson, Curtis Weaver, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Marlon Davidson I have a difficult time picturing Miami spending a top-level resource on an edge defender.  I think they’ll take a stab on a guy that falls or try and find value later on like Trevis Gipson, Jason Strowbridge, Chauncey Rivers, James Smith-Williams, etc.

No Fly Zone Southeast
I’ll admit, I in no way shape or form saw Miami going after someone like Byron Jones.  In fact, I wonder if the Patriots franchise tagging Joe Thuney meant that money Miami might’ve offered to him was “freed up” to pursue other options.  And man, did Miami get a nice player in Jones.  Yes, he doesn’t have a ton of interceptions, but he does have 20 PBUs the past two years, and 44 for his career – nearly nine a year.

I’m a little dumbfounded that so many Dolfans think this signing means that Xavien Howard is on the trade block.  Why would he be? Why would you dismantle a CB tandem this good? I get that X had the legal issue, but that was dismissed.  I feel like if Miami wanted him gone, he’d have been gone by now.

What it means having a tandem like Byron and X is that you have a pair of corners that excel at press, can play off man, can both play on either side of the formation, and both can travel to the slot.  That gives them some really nice flexibility and the opportunity to get creative with coverages.  I’ll be really intrigued if they add a FS that allows Bobby McCain to play in the slot more, like he did in 2015-17.  Miami could disguise a lot if that becomes an option.

When you combine Jones with the additions of Lawson and Ogbah up front, and Van Noy as someone who can play on the LOS or off-ball, you have to tip your cap to Miami for adding help at all three levels of the defense.

Depth and Special Teams
Miami apparently isn’t bringing back Walt Aikens, who was their best special teamer the past few seasons.  Instead, Miami opted to bring in a trio of damn good special teamers, two of whom were captains.  The one that wasn’t, Elandon Roberts, figures to get a chance to play in some packages on defense, just as he did with New England, and is a core special teams guy.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he ate some of Chandler Cox’s reps as a fullback either.  He’ll be fun to watch on whichever unit he’s getting snaps at.

Kamu Grugier-Hill, a fellow 6th round pick mate of the 2016 Patriots Class with Ted Karras and Elandon Roberts, is an intriguing player.  While he might have been a better fit for Miami’s previous staff under Gase and Burke, he’s a fantastic special teamer and has shown well as a blitzer and coverage linebacker.  His presence probably means guys like Sam Eguavoen and Calvin Munson are in the danger zone.

Clayton Fejedelem is more a like-for-like replacement for Aikens.  A hard-hitting safety who’s a demon on special teams.  Fejedelem probably won’t get a lot of looks on defense, especially if Miami ends up drafting another safety, but the bonus with Fejedelem, as compared to Aikens, is if you have to call on him to play on defense, he’s going to be better equipped to handle it.

Improving the Ground Game
I’ll admit, with Ereck Flowers being the first reported signing of free agency, I was a little worried the ghosts of Jeff Ireland and Mike Tannenbaum were summoned by the Tequesta.  Flowers reputation carries stains, but he played well the second half of 2019 as LG for the Redskins.  I hope Miami leaves him there.  Ted Karras comes over after playing as center for the Patriots in 2019.  He’s a bigger guy than Daniel Kilgore.  He’s smart.  He’s tough.  He struggles a little in space and with power.  I do wonder if Michael Deiter gets a shot to compete with him at the C spot with Flowers at LG, where Deiter played last year.

Both Flowers and Karras will get the opportunity to block for newly signed running back Jordan Howard (a favorite of my wife’s as he’s a fellow Indiana Hoosier).  Howard’s a bigger back at 225lbs, but he’s more well rounded than he is a power back.  He can catch and be a weapon in the pass game.  He’s also pretty savvy with inside and outside zone runs.  With Chan Gailey and Eric Studesville working on the ground game, Howard’s sure to get plenty of use.

Tight end Michael Roberts has played just 12 games over the past three seasons due to injuries and poor play.  He was traded to the Patriots last year but failed a physical cancelling the trade.  Detroit waived him and he was claimed by Green Bay but failed a physical there.  He battled weight gain, depression and had his left shoulder surgically repaired.  More of a blocking TE, he roasted the Dolphins in 2018, naturally, when Detroit came to Miami.  If Roberts plays up to his potential, I think he’s got the ability to challenge Durham Smythe for that #2 TE role – being an inline TE.

Prepping for April
While the Draft won’t have the party that Vegas would’ve offered, that’s the next major step for Chris Grier.  Miami needs to get the Draft right.  We’re talking 2017 Saints right.  We’re talking 2019 Raiders right.  Miami has the opportunity to inject a lot of talent, in addition to the quarterback, into this team.

Go figure that the year Miami as FINALLY loaded up on picks, the COVID-19 breakout has forced Pro Days and 30 Visits to mostly be cancelled.  And unless something drastically changes in the next few weeks, Miami and the rest of the league aren’t going to have as much operating information as they normally do.  Miami will have to rely more on scouting than in the past.

The outbreak also likely puts a dent into each team’s offseason program.  Teams will have to head into their offseason programs storming to get ready for the season.  Let’s hope Miami doesn’t have a truncated offseason like they did in 2011 under Tony Sparano, which lead to an 0-7 start.

For now, with quarantines in place, there’s likely not going to be a lot happening for the Dolphins between now and the Draft.  Hunker down.  Watch tape (Game Pass is free).  Familiarize yourself with Flores’s scheme.  Watch “Humble and Hungry” – I highly recommend it! But above all, stay safe.  We can get through this together.

The Machine
You may recall Travis and I made a trip to Miami last year for the Bengals-Dolphins game.  We were credentialed for it, meaning we were members of the media for that day.  I think one of the most lasting impressions I have from that trip is just how many pieces work to create the “machine” that is each NFL team.  Miami have a lot of great people in place.

I’d only ever been to one other Dolphins game in Miami.  That was back in 2010.  I don’t remember what Hard Rock Stadium was called at the time; it’s had many different iterations since it was Joe Robbie Stadium.  But I remember walking around that stadium thinking it was dumpy.  And I’d been to some dumpy stadiums – Old RFK Stadium for a Washington Nationals Game, whatever they call the Coliseum where the Raiders played, and the A’s still call home.  Riverfront Stadium – the stadium of my youth.  These were the stadiums that Hard Rock rivaled in 2010.

What Mr. Ross and Tom Garfinkel have done to the place is INCREDIBLE! I’ve been to Lucas Oil Stadium and the renovated version of Lambeau Field (2010 and 2016).  Those two places are crown jewels.  Hard Rock Stadium as it stands right now is nicer than both!

Miami’s building a fantastic new team headquarters and training complex.  Travis and I stopped by Team HQ in Davie on our trip to pick up a parking pass for the game.  The current HQ is nice (I live in Cincinnati and drive by Paul Brown Stadium daily on my way to work – that’s my comparison, but Miami’s is nicer), but it’s small.  This new place is going to be world-class.

Brian Flores the Head Coach.  While it’s only been a year with him at the helm, just by being in his presence, hearing him speak and listening to what the players said about him – there’s not a man in that building that wouldn’t run to the TNT Wall for him.  Miami’s finally got the Head Coach they’ve longed for since Don Shula strode the sidelines.

The Dolphins have added 11 pieces so far, and the have the opportunity to select a new franchise quarterback in a month.  If Chris Grier, Marvin Allen, Reggie McKenzie, Brian Flores, the staff, and the scouts get this right Miami’s going to have built one hell of a machine.  Just in time for the post-Tom Brady Era in the AFC East.

It’s a wonderful time to be a Dolfan!  All is certainly not right in the world.  Not by a longshot.  But in these trying times where we all need to cling to some form of solace, the Dolphins are providing one.  It’s a small part of my everyday life, but it’s one of my favorite parts.  Always has been.  Always will be.  FinsUp!

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Miami Dolphins

Free agency opens; Reshad Jones, Mike Hull lead Miami Dolphins cuts

Shawn Digity

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Miami Dolphins
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – While the two-day legal tampering period has already been underway, free agency officially opened on Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Since many of the heavy-hitting signs and trades have already been announced, the start of the new league year will be more about ratifying all those moves.

The Miami Dolphins, at the time of writing, have announced 10 free agency moves.

And with that, there has been the consequential announcement of cutdowns to counterbalance the roster spots of incoming players.

Reshad Jones leads the list and is also the only technical release, but the Dolphins had already announced that.

Jones was going into his 11th season and spent the first 10 with the Dolphins.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Jones sign with a new team in the coming days of free agency.

Nearly half a dozen players were also waived: wide receiver T.J. Rahming, cornerback Rashard Causey, tackle Chidi Okeke, interior offensive lineman Evan Brown, defensive lineman Kendrick Norton, and linebacker Mike Hull.

Rahming, Causey, and Okeke spent the 2019 season as practice squad members.

Brown saw playing time late in the 2019 season but had been plucked off the Giants practice squad.

Hull might be the most interesting name on the list. He had been a scrappy ‘backer presence for the Dolphins after signing with the team as a UDFA in 2015.

Hull re-signed with the Dolphins last spring.

But he spent the 2019 season on the Physically Unable to Perform list with a knee injury and didn’t play.

Norton was also kept on the team during the 2019 season by way of the Non-Football Injury list after a car accident last summer.

 

 

 

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Bring On Another Ex-Patriot, Sign LB Elandon Roberts

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins are loading up on leadership. If there’s one thing the Dolphins have made a priority this offseason, it’s adding smart, determined football players to their team. Under Brian Flores‘ stewardship, I doubt we ever see a broken locker room again.

According to Cameron Wolfe of ESPN, the Miami Dolphins are signing linebacker Elandon Roberts to a contract. Financial details are currently unknown.

Roberts is yet another ex-New England Patriot to leave Boston this offseason for warmer pastures down south, following fellow-linebacker Kyle Van Noy, and the recent addition of (center) Ted Karras earlier today.

Originally drafted as a 6th-round pick by the New England Patriots in 2016, Roberts has primarily served as a special teams ace, while also serving as depth at linebacker.

If you were impressed by Biegel’s production last season, you will be pleased with the type of versatility Roberts brings. Over the past four seasons, Roberts has been active for 60 games (starting 33 of them), and has accumulated 4 sacks, 6 passes defended, 206 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and 14 QB Hits.

Roberts is stout against the run, something the Dolphins have lacked over the past couple of seasons.

If you were curious what all the additions at linebacker meant for Vince Biegel, this doesn’t make things any clearer. Biegel is tendered at a “cheap” rate next season, so there’s no need to trade him or let him walk, but with the additions of Roberts and Kamu Grugier-Hill so far this offseason, it seems snap counts are becoming sparser.

Right now, the Dolphins currently have the following linebackers on their roster for 2020:

  • Chase Allen
  • Jerome Baker
  • Vince Biegel
  • Jake Carlock
  • James Crawford
  • Jamal Davis II
  • Sam Eguavoen
  • Terrill Hanks
  • Trent Harris
  • Mike Hull
  • Deon Lacy
  • Raekwon McMillan
  • Calvin Munson
  • Andrew Van Ginkel

They recently added:

  • Kyle Van Noy
  • Elandon Roberts
  • Kamu Grugier-Hill

Sam Eguavoen was a budding linebacker and special teams player for the Dolphins last season, but it looks like he’ll need to have an excellent training camp to remain on the team. It’ll also be interesting to see what this means for last year’s 5th-round pick, Andrew Van Ginkel.

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