Sat, 19 Sep 2020

2020 Training Camp Preview: Off-Ball Linebackers

Miami Dolphins
11 Aug 2020, 08:05 GMT+10

Travis Wingfield

The return of football is always a welcome sight, perhaps now more than ever before. An arduous offseason is in the books and everyone's favorite time of year is on the precipice. August in Miami means heat, humidity, hitting and hard decisions made in order to trim the roster down to 53 in time for Week 1.

In this training camp preview, we're going position-by-position giving you a glimpse into every member of the Miami Dolphins roster. We'll cover all the angles including who the players are on the field and off of it.

On today's docket, the off-ball linebackers, in order of jersey number.

July 27 - Tight Ends

July 29 - Quarterbacks

July 30 - Wide Receivers

August 3 - Running Backs

August 4 - Offensive Line (Part 1)

August 5 - Offensive Line (Part 2)

August 6 - Interior Defensive Line

August 8 - Edge

August 10 - Off-Ball Linebackers

August 11 - Cornerbacks

August 12 - Safeties

Elandon Roberts - 4 accrued seasons (1st in MIA)

Jersey: 44

College: Houston

Opening Day Age: 26

Elandon Roberts Breakdown

Another new Miami Dolphin reuniting with Brian Flores, Elandon Roberts embodies much of the mental and physical make-up Coach wants in his players. Roberts is a throwback; a physical, downhill pursuit player that seeks and initiates contact, and beats blocks by taking them head on.

According to Pro Football Focus, Roberts has 1,702 defensive snaps on his resume (854 in run defense, 152 as a pass rusher and 696 in coverage). He's played 324 special teams snaps and rounded out his game with 70 snaps at fullback last year.

Evident from his workload, his prowess in the run game is where Miami's new linebacker shines. Roberts has 92 career run stops on those 854 running plays - a 10.8 run-stop percentage. He missed just two tackles last season.

Physical and versatile, Roberts also checks the preferred boxes on character, leadership and football I.Q. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein wrote about the traits, in his 2016 draft evaluation, that he believes makes Roberts a "coach's dream."

"A coach's dream. Tremendous leader on the field and off. Worked all off­season to loosen his hips and improve his flexibility. Loves to hit and has a nose for the ball. Instinctive with an uncanny ability to consistently sniff out the best path to the ball. Lives on a downhill track and makes high percentage of tackles near line of scrimmage. Chest-up, wrap-up tackler. Has heart for days. Square in his scrapes and mirrors running backs effectively. His college coach called Roberts one of the best leaders he's ever been around and raves about his work ethic and passion for the game."

Calvin Munson - 1 accrued season (2nd in MIA)

Jersey: 48

College: San Diego State

Opening Day Age: 25

Signed from the Patriots practice squad in December, Munson played a significant workload in the final two games of 2019. Called upon for 98 snaps in the two victories (76 on defense, 22 on special teams), Munson had a strong debut with four tackles, two run stops and positive grades in run defense, tackling and overall defense. Flores spoke about the traits Munson exhibited that attracted the Dolphins to the linebacker last December.

"From a toughness standpoint, from an intelligence standpoint, I knew he had a lot of the things that we covet, which is why he was (up) there," Flores said. "We learned those things about him up there. I thought he played well last week. I think he's been a really good addition."

Sam Eguavoen - 1 accrued season (2nd in MIA)

Jersey: 49

College: Texas Tech

Opening Day Age: 27

After scheduling a slew of NFL workouts, former CFL standout Sam Eguavoen chose to sign with the Dolphins ahead of the 2019 season. The linebacker made an immediate impact as he opened camp with the first team, showing off the explosive nature of his game - both in coverage and as a blitzing linebacker.

Eguavoen was second among all NFL linebackers in pass-rush reps with 232 (Dont'a Hightower first with 277 and Jamie Collins third with 189, per PFF). The result of those rush opportunities was 23 pressures, 3.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits. Eguavoen also contributed in the run game with seven tackles for loss and 18 run stops.

"They saw Sam and saw speed, saw athleticism, saw a tough kid," Flores said of General Manager Chris Grier and his personnel staff's offseason pursuit of Eguavoen. (He's a) talented guy who has some developmental characteristics. He's done a good job. We give him something, he does a good job with it and we'll give him more. That's kind of what I told the team. 'Look, if you do a good job, then we'll try to give you a couple more things to do,' and I think that's what training camp's about."

Kamu Grugier-Hill - 4 accrued seasons (1st in MIA)

Jersey: 51

College: Eastern Illinois

Opening Day Age: 26

Kamu Grugier-Hill Breakdown

Miami's new linebacker has 98 career tackles - 11 for loss - an interception, a sack, two passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one recovery. He has six pressures on 41 career pass-rush reps and has never allowed a touchdown on 357 coverage snaps. His passer rating against checks in at an impressive 83.6.

Developing into a rotational defender -- at 230 pounds -- on top of his special teams exploits, Grugier-Hill logged 651 defensive snaps the last two years combined - a considerable jump from the 86 snaps he played his first two years.

Special teams are where Grugier-Hill made a huge impact. Voted a 2019 captain for his contributions, he has 1,092 career special teams snaps - an average of 273 reps a year since entering the league. He's made 26 career special teams tackles. Grugier-Hill exhibits a lot of the traits Flores desires in a player, as he detailed in a December conference call when discussing the then-Philadelphia linebacker.

"First, he's a great kid," Flores said. "He's smart. He's very coachable. As a player, he's athletic, he's got good speed, he can play multiple positions, good in the kicking game. I really liked him. I'm not surprised he's done a good job over there in Philly."

Raekwon McMillan - 3 accrued seasons (4th in MIA)

Jersey: 52

College: Ohio State

Opening Day Age: 24

Like Roberts, McMillan is an aggressive, block-defeating physical presence in the second level of the Dolphins defense. He seeks and destroys contact - whether it's from a fullback on a lead block, a pulling guard and a running back trying to square him up.

As a result, McMillan has some of the best run-defending metrics by PFF since 2018. From October onward in 2018 - his first NFL season after missing his rookie year due to injury - McMillan led all linebackers in run stops with 43 over a 12-game stretch. During that span, the second place run stuffer (Panthers Luke Kuechly) registered 30 run stops. McMillan continued his downhill prowess last season with 31 more run stops in 13 games. The 31 run stops on 279 reps against the run gave him an 11.1 run-stop percentage, which ranked fifth in the NFL among linebackers with at least 150 run-down reps.

Flores never passes up an opportunity to praise the work McMillan puts in both in the preparation aspect of the game and the leadership qualities he exudes.

"Raekwon McMillan, Davon Godchaux, those guys took ownership of this team and they continue to practice hard," Flores said. They continue to stay with the process. We preach consistency and competitiveness. These guys compete, so we compete every day in practice and meetings. It's showing up a little bit on the field. We could always be a lot better, but as far as continuing to stay invested, I think that's how - it's been the leadership on the team and leadership from the coaches on this team."

Jerome Baker - 2 accrued seasons (3rd in MIA)

Jersey: 55

College: Ohio State

Opening Day Age: 23

In his first year playing in Brian Flores' defense, Jerome Baker quickly earned the distinguished green dot on his helmet, which identifies the player who has radio communication with the sideline. His snap count total, versatility, and overall capability in all three phases of defense demonstrated Baker's value in the Dolphins defense. Flores discussed the many skills, as well as the amount of work the staff put on his plate, at the start of last summer's camp.

"He's done a really good job," Flores said. "He's learned the concepts and the defenses to a solid level, and he's learned multiple positions. Obviously, he's fast, he can tackle, he's smart, he's tough. He's got some leadership qualities, which I talked about a little bit in the spring, and that's starting to develop a little bit."

Coach Flores continued discussing Baker's game in that same press conference. This time, with a greater focus on the physical traits and Baker's ability to do multiple things on defense.

"This is a talented guy," Flores said. "He can win a one-on-one pass rush. At the linebacker position, we're going to ask him to do a few things. We're going to ask him to rush, we're going to ask him to cover, we're going to ask him to tackle, play in the run game, so depending on what we have called, he may have to win a one-on-one, he may be involved in a scheme or he may have the freedom to do either-or."

Baker finished 13th among linebackers with 16 quarterback pressures and 11th with 46 run stops in 2019.

James Crawford - 2 accrued seasons (2nd in MIA)

Jersey: 57

College: Illinois

Opening Day Age: 25

Crawford has 23 career reps on defense, 17 of those coming last year with Miami. His career began with the Packers in 2018 after he signed as an undrafted free agent and made the opening day roster. He would go on to play in all 16 games, primarily on special teams. He made six special teams tackles and tallied 327 reps on that unit as a rookie. He played 45 snaps last year on Danny Crossman's kick and punt teams before suffering a season-ending injury.

For Crawford, the return to Miami was a homecoming. He was born in Deerfield Beach and played his prep ball at the legendary St. Thomas Aquinas High School.

Kylan Johnson -- Rookie

Jersey: 59

College: Pittsburgh

Opening Day Age: 23

The lone rookie of the linebacker group, Kylan Johnson is coming back to the state of Florida where his collegiate career began. Johnson played in 25 games at the University of Florida before transferring to Pittsburgh as a graduate, where he played in all 13 games in 2019. He totaled 132 combined tackles (11 for a loss) and seven sacks in his collegiate career.

Johnson is listed at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds. According to Johnson, transferring to Pitt for his final year in college created more opportunities for him to rush the quarterback. He picked up 6.5 of his seven career sacks as a Panther, and couldn't hide his excitement in an October press conference about the regularity with which he blitzed last season.

"I love blitzing," Johnson said, a grin plastered across his face. "It's a fun part of the game."

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