It’s the word Adam Gase used twice Wednesday to describe not a 10-year vet, but a guy who was getting ready to face Deondre Francois this time last year.
But Minkah Fitzpatrick has always been an old soul and a talent older than his years.
So we really should not be surprised that Fitzpatrick, in just four weeks of training camp practice, has all but won the Dolphins’ starting nickelback job, and would be the first safety Matt Burke would turn to if Reshad Jones or T.J. McDonald got hurt.
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The Dolphins believe Fitzpatrick can play all three downs on Sundays, which would usually be a mismatch for teams looking to run the ball.
But at 6-1, 202, he’s no typical nickelback.
“Historically, the guys you see as nickel are smaller players,” Dolphins coach Gase said Wednesday. “Just by size, they’re not as physical. That’s a lot of those guys’ deficiencies, they’re small in stature. He has rare ability to stay on the field on third down. The quickness and the physicality at the line of scrimmage, allow him to play that spot on all three downs.”
But size alone never won anyone a job. Fitzpatrick has to be able to play, too.
And again, he has since his first days at Alabama, were he was a Week 1 starter and eventual freshman All-American.
By all accounts, his transition to the pro game has been just as quick.
“I think it’s rare,” Gase repeated. “I go back to when we drafted him. [Kenyan] Drake [who also played at Alabama] texted me and he goes, ‘We got a guy who was a pro before he was a pro. He came in as a freshman and we all thought he was different with the way he carried himself, the way acted, the way he studied, the way he learned things. We always thought he was older than he was.’ From the second being here, he’s been here late, gets here early, he’s always doing something.”
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