DAVIE – Standing 6-foot-1, 229 pounds, linebacker Jerome Baker’s ability to remain stout against the run is routinely questioned and understandably so. There are many talent evaluators that place a great deal of value on a linebacker’s ability to meet offensive linemen in the hole and get off of blocks. Due to Smith’s unique athleticism, he wasn’t asked to meet offensive linemen head-on at Ohio State.
“I was asked to do a lot of different things that weren’t usual just because of my speed, but you have to be in the [meeting room] to know that. … But I can do it all” Baker said. “
Because of his above average athleticism at the linebacker position, he was asked to beat linemen to the hole in the run game, but that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of getting off of blocks. Baker stated that all of his collegiate games are a testament to his ability to succeed on all three downs – and he’s right.
Baker isn’t much smaller than highly touted linebacker Roquan Smith, who is 6-foot-1, 236 pounds, but Smith went No. 8 overall to the Chicago Bears. Baker had to wait an additional 65 picks to hear his name called, but the difference in talent isn’t as vast as their respective draft slots.
Baker has the ability to blitz off the edge or rush the passer on A-gap and B-gap blitzes, he’s able to use his speed to make plays sideline-to-sideline. While both Baker and Smith possess 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash, Baker is more fundamentally sound in coverage compared to Smith.
While draft pundits might argue that Smith is the better player, it is feasible to suggest that Miami got the linebacker that fit exactly what they needed along the weakside.
Baker will continue to be peppered with questions about his size while Smith will get the benefit of the doubt as a first-round pick, but Dolphins fans have every right to get excited about Baker. He’s been doubted before as a result of his size and he’s poised to prove his detractors wrong once again.
He’s been marginalized for his perceived lack of size, but he remains resolute in his ability as a football player, despite the criticism that has followed him throughout his career.
“It’s been like that my whole life,” Baker said. “I just know when the game is on the line – I can make a play.”