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Did the Dolphins miss the mark by not adding a proven center linebacker to improve the unit?

With the 2022 NFL season fast approaching, the South Florida Sun Sentinel examines 10 storylines to watch in a 10-part series ahead of the First day of Miami Dolphins training campwhich is scheduled for Wednesday.

With everything the Miami Dolphins added to their roster in the 2022 offseason, perhaps the one key wishlist item that went unchecked was the veteran linebacker.

Sure, you could say a veteran center is there on that list, but the Dolphins are giving Connor Williams, a guard in his first four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, a chance to be the starting center for the team.

The Dolphins finally tackled inside linebacker by selecting Channing Tindall of Georgia with a late third-round pick, No. 102 overall, Miami’s first selection of this year’s draft. Tindall, however, while possessing the natural speed and athleticism Miami could use in that position, may need time to build up to the NFL level and learn the system from defensive coordinator Josh Boyer.

Instead of opting for top independent linebackers Bobby Wagner, Myles Jack or Jordan Hicks, the Dolphins opted for continuity as a unit. Elandon Roberts, Duke Riley and Sam Eguavoen were all brought back to free agency to complement defensive leader Jerome Baker in the linebacking corps.

A veteran upgrade in this group would have been ideal, but it spoke to the Dolphins’ desire to maintain — not just the core — but virtually the entire 2021 defense after its hot second half wore the team down. a 1-7 start to seven game winning streak and winning eight of the last nine to finish 9-8.

Baker led the Dolphins in tackles for three consecutive years, although his 92 tackles in 2021 marked the first time he was below triple digits since his rookie campaign. He runs side-to-side well with his 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame, but could still stand up to play more physically inside against the run and fix a few occasional gaps in coverage.

Baker was also a threat when sent on the blitz, registering 5 1/2 sacks in 2021. Instances where Roberts and Riley were lined up together on the inside allowed Baker to show versatility and slip to play outside linebacker. It was a huge adjustment that allowed the Dolphins defense to confuse the Baltimore Ravens and quarterback Lamar Jackson in an upset victory in November last year.

Roberts, a team captain in each of his two seasons in Miami, is that physical presence in the middle and a tackling machine who has racked up 83 tackles in 2021. A Brian Flores guy who dates back to his New England days , Roberts remained in Miami this offseason despite Flores being fired while Boyer and linebackers coach Anthony Campanile also stayed.

Riley’s ability to contribute to the rotation, discovered in the Oct. 31 loss to Buffalo where Baker was retained, paid off in various matchups during the Dolphins’ second straight half.

Eguavoen and Calvin Munson will be among other linebackers competing for a roster spot in training camp after Eguavoen made the team last year and played in all 17 games, mostly on teams specials. He can play indoors or outdoors.

Outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett was also re-signed this offseason, and he worked defensively during the team’s offseason training program in a potential move that could unlock more positional versatility on the defensive front. from Miami.

Miami added more depth on the edge, as well as a veteran presence that has three Pro Bowls to its name, in Melvin Ingram. With him, Jaelan Phillips, Andrew Van Ginkel, Baker getting reps on the outside and Scarlett or Eguavoen able to take snaps at the position, the Dolphins have plenty there after also adding Californian Cameron Goode as a seventh pick. round in the last repechage.

Inside, the Dolphins decided to stay consistent when an upgrade could have been in the works. Whether that leads to play comparable to the second half or the first half of last season will go a long way in determining whether this was a worthwhile commitment or whether Miami needs some quick progression from the game. Tindall or will seek help at the position again soon.

Previously covered

Can the Dolphins get the same production from Tyreek Hill in Miami?

Can Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer prove he doesn’t need Brian Flores’ help?

How can Mike McDaniel’s coaching style and offensive spirit benefit the Dolphins?

Can the wide-area scheme revive the Dolphins’ running game?

What improvement can we expect from Tua Tagovailoa after everything the Dolphins have put around him?

Will Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki compliment Tyreek Hill for giving the Dolphins a dangerous offensive line?

How good can Emmanuel Ogbah, Jaelan Phillips and the Dolphins pass rush be in 2022?

Who will run as leader of the Dolphins in 2022?

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