Is Miami a fresh start or a last chance for Stephone Anthony?
It’s strange to think that way about a 25-year-old who just two years ago was the 31st pick of the draft.
But the Saints had every incentive to play Anthony last year — and didn’t.
And they dealt the linebacker for a fifth-round pick late Tuesday night — and some in New Orleans thought them lucky to get that much.
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Combined, it tells your their opinion of Anthony — and they know him better than anyone in football.
Anthony, of course, is all-in on the “fresh start” option. He arrived in South Florida early Wednesday, passed a physical (a pesky ankle injury is behind him, Anthony insisted) and jumped onto the Dolphins practice field.
“No clue,” Anthony said, when asked if he had any inkling the Saints were shopping him. “... [But] I'm happy to be here. It's an exciting opportunity. It's a chance to win, and I'm looking forward to it.”
While the move blindsided Anthony, it had been in the works for some time, Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. Discussions predated the Lawrence Timmons saga, but Timmons’ indefinite suspension might have convinced Mike Tannenbaum to pull the trigger.
So what are the Dolphins getting? The tackling machine who was on the all-rookie team in 2015 or the guy inactive for six games in Year 2?
Sean Payton gave a blunt assessment of Anthony before the trade, calling him “explosive” and “disruptive” but “keys, diagnosis and instincts at times are off.”
“You go from New Orleans to Miami in the blink of an eye. I think the challenge for me is going to be to get in the playbook and get going and see where this thing goes.”
Still, he welcomed the change of scenery, and ran into some familiar faces. He’s the fourth Clemson Tiger on the Dolphins’ defense, joining Andre Branch, Byron Maxwell and Cordrea Tankerley.
If Anthony can get down enough of Matt Burke’s system by Sunday, there’s a good chance he will play. The Dolphins will obviously be without Timmons, and Rey Maualuga’s availability does not look promising.
Maualuga missed his fourth straight practice because of a hamstring issue, even though he insisted Wednesday that he is not experiencing soreness and his “health is great.”
“If coaches see that my health is more important than me being out on the field, I'm obviously going to respect his decision and keep strengthening the hamstring and getting it better,” Maualuga said. “But I feel good.”
Maualuga also stated the obvious: The Dolphins signed him because they have a need at linebacker. And that need has only grown with Timmons’ suspension.
Dolphins coaches have been consistently supportive of Mike Hull to the press, but the team’s actions suggest that they would be more comfortable with someone else on the field for 65 snaps a game. They tried to make Maualuga work, but so far, that has been in vain; now Anthony will get his shot.
He is comfortable at all three linebacker spots, Anthony said, and the Dolphins will probably decide on the Mike or the Sam.
“I play in space,” Anthony said. “I like to think I'm a guy who can cover guys. I think my biggest asset is come in, know my role, understand my role. I think that's my job right now.”
If he has all that going for him, why did New Orleans deal him for the draft equivalent of a lottery ticket?
“I'm not real sure,” Anthony said. “Maybe those guys can give you some answers. I'm not real sure what happened or why it went wrong. It is what it is. I'm blessed to be here.”