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Pre-Season Group Position Battles: Off-ball Linebackers

Feverdream

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Inside Linebackers... Off-ball Linebackers... whatever you choose to call them, they have lost importance in the modern game. The days where a blood smeared run-stopping Linebacker was invaluable to a team's success are over. In today's game, most teams only run two of these guys at a time, and at least one of them acts more like a box safety, spending his time in pass coverage and blitzing. The old Strongside Linebacker position has become, at best, a two down player. So, I will make Edge into it's own category and will cover that one in a later entry.

So... That said, we'll move on to the Linebackers. Last year, we cut to just 4 (plus Van Ginkle who we were using both inside and out). This year, we might keep 5... maybe. Camp will tell us more.

First, the starters. David Long came in on a cheap contract last year and solidified the Mike position. Hard-nosed and healthy all year, he quietly made all of us forget Elandon Roberts. He's primarily a run down player, but he's decent in coverage. He'll start again and is likely to be an above average player.

Jordyn Brooks is the new Weak-side LB. He should be a marginal upgrade from Jerome Baker. Like Long, he grades out at just above average, but he hasn't missed a start in three years and is only 27. Get used to Brooks, he'll be here for a few years.

After these two, it gets murkier. Channing Tindall was a third round pick in 2022 and was expected to push for a job in his second year. Instead, we signed David Long and Channing never sniffed the field. Does he suck? Who knows? Fangio never used him, not even in garbage time. On the bright side, he has played a lot on special teams and we may see him this year. He'd better shine in camp, because this is his last chance in Miami.

Anthony Walker is a modern LB. He's best in coverage and has started 75 games in the NFL. He came to us on a vet minimum contract and could push for a starting position. He may have been the most underrated signing of the free agency period. At worst, he'll platoon in on passing downs when Long or Brooks (or both) leaves the field.

Then there's Duke Riley. Like Walker, he's best used as a coverage LB. He's a solid reserve LB who should not be asked to start. He may be on the bubble however. Walker is cheaper, and better.

If we keep 5, those are probably the ones; let's take a look at the players who are looking to replace them.

Cam Brown is in his 5th year and has never started a single game. Purely a special teams player; his one avenue to stick on the roster lies there. If we are forced to use him in a game, we're in trouble.

...and well... that's it. Every other 'linebacker' that we have on the roster is an Edge, even the longshots. My best guess is that 1) we will see a LOT of Tindall in preseason and 2) we will be scanning the waiver wire for more inside linebackers to get us through preseason.

Best guess on the final roster? I think we may keep 5 with everyone sticking but Brown, although Riley and Tindall are at some risk if they aren't sharp during preseason.
 
With so few in camp, you've got to think that the team will not risk Brooks or Long in preseason games or scrimmages. This should mean that Tindall will get a long, long look. I wont be surprised to see him get 75% of the snaps available there...

...and that, finally, should show us what we have there.

If he stinks, he's probably cut. It's up to him now.
 
Inside Linebackers... Off-ball Linebackers... whatever you choose to call them, they have lost importance in the modern game. The days where a blood smeared run-stopping Linebacker was invaluable to a team's success are over. In today's game, most teams only run two of these guys at a time, and at least one of them acts more like a box safety, spending his time in pass coverage and blitzing. The old Strongside Linebacker position has become, at best, a two down player. So, I will make Edge into it's own category and will cover that one in a later entry.

So... That said, we'll move on to the Linebackers. Last year, we cut to just 4 (plus Van Ginkle who we were using both inside and out). This year, we might keep 5... maybe. Camp will tell us more.

First, the starters. David Long came in on a cheap contract last year and solidified the Mike position. Hard-nosed and healthy all year, he quietly made all of us forget Elandon Roberts. He's primarily a run down player, but he's decent in coverage. He'll start again and is likely to be an above average player.

Jordyn Brooks is the new Weak-side LB. He should be a marginal upgrade from Jerome Baker. Like Long, he grades out at just above average, but he hasn't missed a start in three years and is only 27. Get used to Brooks, he'll be here for a few years.

After these two, it gets murkier. Channing Tindall was a third round pick in 2022 and was expected to push for a job in his second year. Instead, we signed David Long and Channing never sniffed the field. Does he suck? Who knows? Fangio never used him, not even in garbage time. On the bright side, he has played a lot on special teams and we may see him this year. He'd better shine in camp, because this is his last chance in Miami.

Anthony Walker is a modern LB. He's best in coverage and has started 75 games in the NFL. He came to us on a vet minimum contract and could push for a starting position. He may have been the most underrated signing of the free agency period. At worst, he'll platoon in on passing downs when Long or Brooks (or both) leaves the field.

Then there's Duke Riley. Like Walker, he's best used as a coverage LB. He's a solid reserve LB who should not be asked to start. He may be on the bubble however. Walker is cheaper, and better.

If we keep 5, those are probably the ones; let's take a look at the players who are looking to replace them.

Cam Brown is in his 5th year and has never started a single game. Purely a special teams player; his one avenue to stick on the roster lies there. If we are forced to use him in a game, we're in trouble.

...and well... that's it. Every other 'linebacker' that we have on the roster is an Edge, even the longshots. My best guess is that 1) we will see a LOT of Tindall in preseason and 2) we will be scanning the waiver wire for more inside linebackers to get us through preseason.

Best guess on the final roster? I think we may keep 5 with everyone sticking but Brown, although Riley and Tindall are at some risk if they aren't sharp during preseason.
Good breakdown.

I particularly liked the first paragraph.

There are many who will vehemently disagree but you are spot on as to how the position and philosophy has changed.
 
Baker made a lot of big plays for Miami, but my take on Brooks is that he's more instinctive and doesn't miss as many tackles.

I also agree that Walker is a bit of an under-the-radar add.

I still think with the salary Barnett received, Miami would have been better served keeping Van Ginkel.
 
Considering the amount of edge LBs we have and will probably keep I wouldn’t be surprised if we originally kept only 4 ILBs and had the backup edges take more ST snaps. Walker should make Riley expendable and there’s a good chance that if we needed him later in the year he’d be available.
 
Really, really like that group in rotation with Brooks, Long, and PLEASE a healthy Anthony Walker Jr. which I absolutely agree…. If he can stay healthy, he’s going to be the most underrated addition from an impact perspective. Tindall should get lots of preseason action and we’ll all be tuned in to see how he does in Weaver’s system. Last shot. Riley is a solid backup coverage backer.
 
Really, really like that group in rotation with Brooks, Long, and PLEASE a healthy Anthony Walker Jr. which I absolutely agree…. If he can stay healthy, he’s going to be the most underrated addition from an impact perspective. Tindall should get lots of preseason action and we’ll all be tuned in to see how he does in Weaver’s system. Last shot. Riley is a solid backup coverage backer.
I feel like this unit is better designed to compete with Josh Allen and those mobile quarterbacks. Maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part?

I liked Baker, but he didn't seem too keen on tackling Allen. To be fair, he wasn't the only one.

Quarterbacks need to feel uncomfortable when taking off and running against Miami. Will we now see that?
 
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I feel like this unit is better designed to compete with Josh Allen and those mobile quarterbacks. Maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part?

I liked Baker, but he didn't seem to keen on tackling Allen. To be fair, he wasn't the only one.

Quarterbacks need to feel uncomfortable when taking off and running against Miami. Will we now see that?
100% spot on @SF Dolphin Fan . This whole thing starts with winning the division, I would bet that was the first question asked in DC interviews - "So, what's your plan to stop Josh Allen?" And just imagine.... that was BEFORE the Dills traded away Diggs. Can't wait to see what this defense can do!!!!
 
100% spot on @SF Dolphin Fan . This whole thing starts with winning the division, I would bet that was the first question asked in DC interviews - "So, what's your plan to stop Josh Allen?" And just imagine.... that was BEFORE the Dills traded away Diggs. Can't wait to see what this defense can do!!!!
It's interesting the way the Patriots defensed Josh Allen with Bill Bellichick there.

Essentially, they attempted to limit his success on the ground and they had a lot of success against Buffalo with that approach.

Of course, we know BB wants to take away what a team does best and he obviously determined that was Allen's ability to run.

Miami, with better talent than New England, hasn't had the same success against Buffalo.

Hopefully, we see that change, as I agree beating Buffalo means likely winning the AFC East.
 
If we end up only keeping 4, Tindall seems like the obvious cut.
one thing i could not stand about the tindall pick. i hate these combine warriors that didnt produce in college. the guy could not even start at georgia. if a player cannot start in college, it is beyond me how they will ever be good in the NFL. i have the same concern about chop, but at least he was a college starter. having said that, someone i know who played for penn state shares my concern re chop. says too small and weak, and the speed thing alone will not cut it in the nfl, because NFL tackles are much quicker and more adept than what you face in college, so what made chop effective in college will not translate to the nfl. obviously, the dolphins think differently. we will see i guess
 
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