DAVIE – The Dolphins admittedly came into the 2018 NFL draft looking to improve its team speed on defense and they did exactly that with the selection of Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker.
Miami had interest in Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith in Round 1, but he came off of the board when the Chicago Bears took him with the 8th pick in the draft. Miami waited until Round 3 to land their weakside linebacker and they just might have gotten better value at the position by selecting Baker at No. 73 compared to taking Smith at No. 11.
At 6-foot-1, 229 pounds, Baker ran a 4.53 at the combine. While he’s very fast in a straight line, he also has the lateral quickness to cover running backs and tight ends.
Miami had difficulty covering running backs and tight ends last season and Dolphins general manager Chris Grier believes Baker will help improve its pass defense in 2018.
“We talked about with the [Mike] Gesicki pick – it’s a match-up league. …So for us it’s finding players that can do more and add the speed and athleticism for this game. We’ve struggled at times on defense here; we’ve played well at times. We’re just trying to get players that add more speed and get more consistent on defense – so we’re excited to have him.
“Mickey Marotti, one of the top strength coaches in the nation talked about ‘This guy’s as fast as Ryan Shazier.’ They were shocked he ran 4.53 at the combine. They were like, ‘This guy is much faster than that,’ and you see that on film. So I don’t know whether he was tired that day or whatever, but they just constantly raved about how fast this player was and we’re happy to add him.”
What happens to T.J. McDonald?
Reshad Jones will likely return as Miami’s strong safety. With the selection of Minkah Fitzpatrick in Round 1, and he’s projected to play alongside Jones as Miami’s free safety. Baker played weakside linebacker, and some safety during his time at Ohio State and he’ll compete with McDonald for the starting weakside backer spot in training camp.
Chris Grier says Baker’s former teammate Raekwon McMillan is firmly entrenched as Miami’s middle linebacker, and it seems as though Kiko Alonso will serve as the team’s SAM backer. While Alonso is just 6-foot-3, 239 pounds, Grier says gone are the days of the hulking 250 pound linebacker.
“[Big linebackers] have gone the way of the dinosaur those SAM [linebackers] now. Depending on what your scheme is, I’m just being honest. We’re fortunate Raekwon [McMillan] as a middle linebacker who is a bigger linebacker. …So for us, Kiko [Alonso] is 240-plus pounds now. We have two big linebackers who can run and now we’re adding more speed.”