This is the seventh installment of State of the Miami Dolphins, a position-by-position breakdown of the franchise prior to the start of training camp.
Current corps: Kiko Alonso, Koa Misi, Jelani Jenkins, Neville Hewitt, Zach Vigil, James-Michael Johnson, Spencer Paysinger, Akil Blount, Mike Hull, James Burgess
Key additions: Alonso
Key losses: N/A
Key re-signings: N/A
Projected starters: Misi (SLB), Alonso (MLB), Jenkins (WLB)
Analysis: Surprise! For the fourth time in as many years, the Dolphins boast a new face in the middle of their defense. The “throw-in” of the Byron Maxwell trade, Kiko Alonso brings youthful energy and playmaking ability to a unit that’s generally lacked either characteristic.
The only problem, as most well know, is Alonso can’t seem to stay on the field. A 2013 second-round pick of the Bills, he missed all of his sophomore campaign with a torn ACL, torpedoing his future stock.
Last year, in his one-and done stint with the Eagles, Alonso appeared to regain the form that once made him a frontrunner for Defensive Rookie of the Year. But — you guessed it! — his surgically-repaired knee flared up and kept him out of multiple contests, rendering him ineffective.
No longer a fit in Philadelphia, the Dolphins acquired Alonso with the hopes of getting the 2013 version. So far, so good. He’s shown well at voluntary practices, reportedly wowing the team by exceeding “all expectations.” Miami’s brass is banking on his resurgence, no doubt about it.
Playing devil’s advocate, you could argue Alonso is best suited on the weak-side, where Jelani Jenkins currently resides, but there are no other viable options at ILB. Kelvin Sheppard? Long gone. Koa Misi? Holding down the strong-side.
The Dolphins like second-year men Zach Vigil and Neville Hewitt, and plan to give them snaps behind Alonso. Vigil (6-foot-2, 240 pounds) has some nice tools, but likely needs further fine-tuning.
Speaking of Jenkins and Misi, they’re all but locked into starting OLB roles, with Misi taking a paycut this offseason to ensure his roster spot. Both were thoroughly unimpressive last season but could thrive in new coordinator Vance Joseph’s attacking scheme.
The rest of the troop are bottom-of-the-roster types, many of whom will be unemployed a few short months from now. Of the lot, though, Blount has the best opportunity to shine, thanks to his pedigree and Miami’s lack of legitimate depth.
The son of NFL Hall of Famer Mel Blount, Akil notched 75 tackles and two interceptions (both of which went for touchdowns) for Florida A&M in 2015. He was picked up by the Dolphins in May as a priority undrafted free agent.
(Photo credit: MiamiDolphins.com)