By Christian Chappell and Kayla Morton
As the 53-man roster deadline gets nearer and nearer, the Miami Dolphins still have a large linebacker crew.
Despite recently trading LB Raekwon McMillan away, Miami’s roster still features nine guys at the position.
The Dolphins current linebacking corps consists of Jerome Baker, James Crawford, Sam Eguavoen, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Kylan Johnson, Calvin Munson, Elandon Roberts, Andrew Van Ginkel and Kyle Van Noy. Currently, only Van Ginkel and Van Noy sit alone at their right and left outside LB positions and will be starters in a little over one week in New England. The remaining seven will fill in for those two when needed, but are currently fighting for just two spots.
LBs Range from 23-29 Years Old
Baker and the rookie, Johnson, are the group’s youngest at 23, while Van Noy comes in at 29 years of age. with Johnson also being a rookie and Van Noy is the oldest at 29, with the others falling in between. The two-time Super Bowl Champion Van Noy’s age can be easily overlooked however, as he is now playing on his third NFL team. With the Patriots cleaning house, Van Noy joined one of the newest up and coming defenses in the league.
Front Runner Baker Has Solid Dolphins History
Baker has been with the Dolphins for two years and has accumulated 205 tackles (133 solo), 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and one defensive touchdown. Coming out of the Ohio State University, Baker has also played in every game that he’s been with Miami.
Veteran Van Noy to Lead Unit
Van Noy has been in the NFL for seven years, spending the first three or his career with the Detroit Lions where he played in a total of 30 games. The next four years were spent with New England, where he played in a collective 51 games. Van Noy has made 289 tackles in his career (200 solo). He has also come up with 17.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and two interceptions. This past offseason, Van Noy brought his talents to Miami in free agency. Dolphins’ fans will hope that Van Noy can be a valuable veteran addition to this team’s defense.
Second-Year Van Ginkel Poised to Start
Van Ginkel is coming into his second year in the NFL, and last year as a rookie, he played in six games, made 11 solo tackles and got in on a total of 15 of them. He also hit for one sack and forced one fumble. Nothing extraordinary, but hopefully if Van Ginkel can get in a full season he’ll get in his fair share of statistics.
Roberts, Grugier-Hill Offseason Acquisitions
Roberts and Grugier-Hill are both five-year veterans joining Miami this offseason. Roberts is coming from a four-year stint with the Patriots and is closing in on 200 career tackles.
Grugier-Hill is coming from a tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles of the same four-year length. He has 88 tackles to his repertoire as well as one interception.
Eguavoen Makes Strong Starting Case
Eguavoen was a rookie last year and made 40 tackles (20 solo) along with 3.5 sacks. Playing mostly in the team’s injury time on a start-over secondary, Eguavoen has a strong resume to make head coach Brian Flores consider starting him at an open LB position.
Johnson, Munson, Crawford: On the Chopping Block?
Johnson is a rookie and signed with Miami after going undrafted out of the University of Pittsburgh. He started all 13 games last season, making 54 tackles with 10.5 coming for a loss. He also recorded 6.5 sacks, forced two fumbles and was second on the team in TFLs.
Munson signed undrafted with the New York Giants in 2017 before being sent down to their practice squad in February of 2018. He was waived right before the 2019 season, claimed by the Patriots, but then waived again. Munson has been with the Dolphins since December.
He has played in just 16 games, including two last season. Munson has two sacks in his career and had five tackles in those appearances last season.
Crawford has also jumped around from team to team and is the most likely candidate to get the next ax if Miami chooses to cut more. He appeared in just three games last season and did not get his name in the game day book.
All LBs Have Huge Shoes to Fill
This group of young linebackers will have their work cut out for them during the 2020 season no matter the role.
Miami had one of the worst defenses in the NFL last year and a big part of that was due to the inability of their linebacking corps to stop the run game. If they hope to make improvements on last season, these young players will have to come together to stop the run and learn from veterans such as Van Noy.
Will the Dolphins even carry all nine to the final roster and take up more than one-sixth of it with just one group? That will depend on how serious Flores is about “putting the best 11 players on the field at one time.”
Editor’s Note: Kylan Johnson does not have a player profile on profootballreference.com, the site FPC Dolphins uses to highlight players.