The Dolphins have a problem on their hands and it’s a good one. One of the biggest questions on defense is how the Dolphins are going to use their safeties Reshad Jones, TJ McDonald, and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Last year McDonald and Jones play so well together and that was because both are strong safeties essentially at the end of the day. Neither one can play the free safety position well and play center field on defense. But the Dolphins may have found someone to fill that void when they drafted Fitzpatrick in the 1st round this year.
Fitzpatrick can play the nickel corner in the slot, cover the tight ends, and can play free safety. As general manager Chris Grier said, “Fitzpatrick is the swiss army knife.” Fitzpatrick at Alabama started as a freshman and was a leader on defense calling out the signals and getting players to line up in the right positions when need be. That might be a stretch for him to do as a rookie in the NFL, but he could develop into that.
When is the last time the Dolphins had a true free safety? Must go back to probably Brock Marion and that’s a good 15 years. Jones and McDonald are more free-lance guys and be around the ball instead of playing center field. Both guys can play on the line of scrimmage and can blitz. They can also hit and help in the run defense.
The problem for the Dolphins is how are you going to use all three of these guys. One idea that’s been floated around is have Fitzpatrick and Jones play the safety positions while have McDonald play in one of the outside linebacker spots in certain situations and packages. That’s not a bad idea considering McDonald is built like a linebacker and he did play that position when he was with the Rams before coming over to the Dolphins. Think about it 4 defensive linemen, 2 linebackers, and 5 defensive backs essentially 1 is playing linebacker.
Most offenses nowadays pass the ball more and having an extra defensive back would be a good idea. Yes, it could take away a roster spot or playing time from another linebacker, but the Dolphins need to try something new on defense and they can always move all 3 safeties around to try to confuse the offense not knowing who is going to blitz and who is going to cover.
I’m a big fan of playing the 11 best players on both sides of the ball. Plus, the linebackers that the Dolphins have don’t exactly make me feel too comfortable. Kiko Alonso is a tackling machine, but let’s face it he’s a liability in pass coverage. Raekwon McMillan is coming back from an ACL, Stephone Anthony is a wild card and we don’t know what you have with him, same thing with rookie Jerome Baker, and the rest of the guys.
The linebackers make me nervous heading into the season. I know Gase has said that they haven’t thought about using McDonald at linebacker, but maybe he should think about it to get the best 11 players on the field.