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In part 3 of our Training Camp preview, we now turn our attention to the defense.  As with the previous two articles, we have Pro Football Focus grades (in parentheses).  Let’s start with the guys up front.

Defensive Ends:

Charles Harris (61.3)

Tank Carradine (62.2)

Jonathan Woodard (61.3)

Dewayne Hendrix (R)

Jonathan Ledbetter (R)

When you look at this unit, it doesn’t say “wow, they are going to light it up”.  The Dolphins brought in Tank Carradine, who hasn’t lived up to expectations when he was drafted in the 2nd round by the 49ers in 2013.  With 5.5 career sacks, he is trying to restart his career with his 3rd team.  Charles Harris and Jonathan Woodard are the carryovers from a group that sees their top two pass rushers leave (Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn via trade).  Harris, who was taken in the first round back in 2017, really needs to get his career on track.  He was disappointed, only logging 347 snaps last season.  Where he has fallen short with his hand in the dirt, a change in the scheme may help him get going.  He naturally is an OLB in a 3-4 set, and in his five coverage snaps received a grade of 67.2.  Here is a video posted from the Dolphins and what Harris has to say about staying hungry:

Hendrix and Ledbetter will have the opportunity to seize a roster spot.  Ledbetter received a 6th round grade from the Draft Network, was a former 4-star recruit as well.  He is a guy who can attack but doesn’t have elite skill set to be a full-time pass rusher.  Hendrix, another UDFA, needs to vastly improve.

Camp Battle:

I do not believe the Dolphins are done at this position.  There is not a ton of depth, regardless of what scheme they are going to use.  Harris needs to take a huge step forward and Woodard needs to continue developing.  The battle here at camp is if Ledbetter will supplant Carradine.  He has some ability and the Dolphins may ask him to play more inside in this versatile front.  I expect the Dolphins to scour the waiver wire as camps wind down.

Defensive Tackles:

Davon Godchaux (74.3)

Vincent Taylor (76.3)

Akeem Spence (55.8)

Adolphus Washington (71.8)

Jamiyus Pittman (59.1)

Christian Wilkins (R)

Joey Mbu (R)

Durval Queiroz Neto (R)

Cory Thomas (R)

While this is another very young group, the Dolphins do bring back 3rd year players Godchaux and Taylor, both who have made impacts in their first 2 seasons with the Dolphins.  Godchaux is rated out 16th overall in run defense grade per PFF.  Taylor, before his injury, continued making an impact on special teams:

He will most likely take on a bigger role in a rotation that will now feature rookie 1st round pick Christian Wilkins.  I don’t think there has been more excitement about a DT being selected this early in a long time.  Wilkins brings elite skill sets to go with his electric personality.  Just because we all love to see it, here is again being introduced at the draft:

I expect Wilkins to make a huge impact on the field this year, whether he lines up inside or if he kicks out to an edge spot.  Akeem Spence and Adolphus Washington bring veteran leadership to the group, with young and upcomer Jamiyus Pittman looking to continue his growth and find a spot on the team.  The Dolphins bring in other rookies Joey Mbu, Cory Thomas and Brazilian Durval Queiroz Neto.

Camp Battle:

This battle is going to be between Spence, Washington, Mbu, Neto and Thomas.  We know Wilkins, Taylor and Godchaux are locks to be on this roster.  While I believe it is good to carry more than 4 DT, I don’t believe we will see that happen.  Due to the potential hybrid scheme, Flores will look to carry more versatile defenders who can play all areas on the DL.  Spence will have the upper hand due to experience, but Washington, Mbu, Neto and Thomas all will have a chance to supplant him and get that final depth spot.  I also believe one of these young players will be on the practice squad.

Linebackers:

Kiko Alonso (49.7)

Jerome Baker (70.3)

Raekwon McMillan (63.0)

Nate Orchard (54.3)

Andrew Van Ginkel (R)

Chase Allen (62.1)

Mike Hull (58.8)

Jayrone Elliot (N/A)

Terrill Hanks (R)

Tyrone Holmes (N/A)

Quentin Poling (N/A)

Tre Watson (R)

Where the Dolphins lack depth for traditional edge defenders, they make up for it with pass rushers from the OLB spot.  As I mentioned a few times in this article, the Dolphins are making a move to a hybrid style defense.  With the constant switch from 3-4/4-3/5-2 schemes will rely heavily on the linebackers to create a pass rush.

The top 3 guys in the room (Alonso, McMillian and Baker) lead the way for this group.  Alonso struggles in coverage but is a solid run defender.  Baker is the best pass rusher in this group which most likely means he will stay outside and has a solid run defense grade of 76.3, which ranked 15th in the NFL. He also made some plays as a rookie:

McMillan is Miami’s best-run stuffing linebacker in his first full season, ranking 7th overall in the league at 83.0.  After missing his first full season, it took him a bit to get his legs under him.  He made significant strides in the second half of last year, finishing with 105 tackles.

The Dolphins brought in Nate Orchard, who can play both edge and OLB and drafted Andrew Van Ginkel in round 5 who is also a versatile LB.  Holdovers Chase Allen and Mike Hull are good special team players, but Allen has seen the most work on defense.  The Dolphins welcome in Terrill Hanks, Tyrone Holmes, 7th round pick in 2018 Quentin Poling and rookie UDFA Tre Watson.  This is an athletic bunch, one that will be fun to watch.  Also intrigued on how many LB’s will be active on the 53 roster.

Camp Battle:

The battle is going to go for the 6th LB spot, which I believe is what Miami will look to have on the active roster.  Alonso, Baker, McMillan are locks to make the team.  Orchard, Van Ginkel, Allen, Hull, Elliott, Holmes, Poling and Watson will all battle it out for the final 2 spots.  Personally, this is going to be the most intriguing camp battle.  It’s all about the fit and ability to play multiple spots.  We are going to find out over the next 5 weeks who fits the best.

Cornerbacks:

Xavien Howard (77.3)

Minkah Fitzpatrick (61.9)

Torry Mctyer (52.0)

Cornell Armstrong (44.4)

Cordrea Tankersley (53.6)

Eric Rowe (62.9)

Jalen Davis (78.8)

Jamar Summers (R)

Jomal Wiltz (N/A)

Nik Needham (R)

Chris Lammons (R)

While I like PFF, I do not agree with Xavien Howard’s grade.  He is a bordering All-Pro corner who was tied for the league last season in INT’s.  After Howard, there is a ton of uncertainty.  It looks like Minkah Fitzpatrick will be resuming his role as slot corner, where he started last season and posted very good grades.  His grade is lower due to his inefficient play at times when at safety:

That leaves an open spot opposite of Xavien Howard.  The Dolphins have holdovers Cornell Armstrong, Torry McTyer and Cordrea Tankersley, who was injured last season and didn’t play much at all.  I personally, have always been high on Jalen Davis and even projected him to make the 53 man roster last season.  That didn’t happen, but when he did play 48 snaps in 2018, he produced a coverage grade of 76.9 and, also is an effective pass rushing corner.  They also brought in Eric Rowe from the Patriots, who has knowledge of Flores’ style of defense at that position.  The Dolphins have Jomal Wiltz who was on practice squad last year along with UDFA Jamar Summers, Nik Needham and Chris Lammons.

Camp Battle:

Oh, this is going to be for the #2 corner spot opposite Howard.  While the inside edge likely is going to Eric Rowe at this time, it will be a battle between him, Tankersley and Davis in our opinion.  This is a vital spot in Flores’ scheme and the Dolphins need one of these guys to run away with a grasp on that spot in camp.  Uncertainty last season hindered Minkah’s development and moved him out of the spot that suited him best.

Safeties:

Reshad Jones (72.1)

T.J McDonald (70.6)

Bobby McCain (57.9)

Walt Aikens (54.0)

Maurice Smith (53.6)

Montre Hartage (R)

Reshad Jones, who held out most of the offseason, arrived at OTA’s healthy and ready to go.  The fact that the Dolphins held on to him, even after last season’s game against the Jets where he quit, says more about Brian Flores than Reshad Jones.  Jones, when healthy, is still a very good player in this league.  Here is a video breakdown from our own Anthony Saba on a huge stop against the Bears:

T.J McDonald is entering his second full season with the Dolphins.  He is fantastic in the box against the run, but he can be a liability at times in coverage.  Newly minted safety Bobby McCain, who is moving form his slot position to safety is a big-time wild card.  He struggled last year on the boundary and, also, was hurt at times last season.  The not so secret move to safety was well documented in camp.

Walt Aikens is the Dolphins best special teams player and should continue to make an impact there.  Maurice Smith has been teetering on making the 53-man roster for a few years.  He will have another opportunity this year, especially battling with Bobby McCain.

Camp Battle:

T.J McDonald will battle it out with Bobby McCain for the FS spot.  While I believe Maurice Smith will have a chance to move up the depth chart, he will need to compete with Walt Aikens for that special team’s spot.  But McDonald vs McCain should be one to watch.

Please check out part 4, dropping tomorrow.  Our 53 man roster prediction.  Be sure to check out DolphinsTalk.comevery day for all the latest Miami Dolphins news and opinions from our great staff.  Be sure to follow us on twitter @DolphinsTalk and follow me @DolphinsTalkTom.