Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins' Akeem Spence is no Ndamukong Suh. And why that might be a good thing.

Miami Dolphins Akeem Spence on wearing No. 93 and previous player that wore it here

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Akeem Spence speaks to the media after practice at Dolphins training facility in Davie.
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Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Akeem Spence speaks to the media after practice at Dolphins training facility in Davie.

Akeem Spence has two jobs in Miami:

Shove the opposing guard into the backfield as hard as he can, as often as he can.

And translate Kris Kocurek, the Dolphins' football-loving, foul-mouthed defensive line coach, for his teammates that need it.

"In Detroit last year, one of my teammates counted how many F-bombs he said in a 45-minute meeting, and I think it was over 100," Spence said of Kocurek. "That’s his favorite word."

Spence might have uttered a few four-lettered ones of his own last month when he got word that the Lions, who had just restructured his contract, traded him to Miami for a late-round pick.

But then he quickly saw the upside: He is reunited with Kocurek, who was his position coach in Detroit in 2017, and gets to play alongside Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake.

Spence set or tied career highs last year in tackles (39) and sacks (3), and with the Dolphins, his production might even go up, even if his playing time goes down.

He had split time with Haloti Ngata basically down the middle before Ngata was lost for the season with an elbow injury. Expect a similar plan with Spence and Davon Godchaux this fall.

"All the defensive tackles are rotating, so me and Jordan [Phillips] go out there first and then [Davon] Godchaux comes in with the second group," Spence said. "Or Godchaux goes out there first. It’s just what we’re doing, we’re always rotating. We never know who’s going to be on the field.”

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase speaks to the media after practice.

That's why the Dolphins' post-draft trade for Spence was important, even if it went largely under the radar. Without him, the Dolphins would not have had enough quality bodies to implement their hockey line-change approach.

The Dolphins needed a replacement for Ndamukong Suh, who was on the field for a staggering 84 percent of his team's defensive plays last year — a workload that Spence called "ridiculous."

"To play 84 percent of snaps and be productive at every one, that’s pretty hard to do," he said. "I kind of like it in the 50 percent range. You can be more effective. You can be more productive like that. That’s a lot of snaps, and then try to run to the ball and go make plays too. That’s tough in the interior, try to go whoop a guy and then run downfield, run to the sidelines, that’s a lot to do."

Spence would be just fine getting 30 to 35 downs a game, but still has lofty goals. He wants eight sacks in a season, a number that would have been more than all NFL defensive tackles last year not named Aaron Donald and Geno Atkins.

It's also more than Suh had in any of his three Dolphins seasons. As an aside, don't read too much into Spence inheriting Suh's jersey number (93) along with his spot in the starting lineup.

"We’re two different guys," Spence said. "I’m not a big, flashy guy. I’m a do-my-job type of guy, control my gap, make plays while I can. Help guys around me get better."

Miami Dolphins Defensive Tackle Davon Godchaux (56) talks about the new defensive line coach, Kris Kocurek, and improving and setting personal goals for this upcoming season.

Spence could not avoid the spotlight last year, however, when he elected to kneel during the national anthem to protest inequality and police misconduct.

The decision literally took money out of father Floyd's pocket. Floyd Spence owns a concrete business in Florida's Panhandle, and his son says his dad lost a contract over Akeem's demonstration.

"No more ramifications [since]," Akeem Spence said. "His business is still doing well, building houses out there in Panama City and Destin. That helped business pick up more than anything, which I was glad to see. That was pretty cool. It is what it is. It helped him get more jobs and people reached out. I think I turned out to be a good thing.”

Spence has decided not to kneel in 2018, but will continue to fight for equality off the field.

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