Miami Dolphins

Dolphins rookie linebacker still has work to do when it comes to improving run defense

Miami Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker  during training camp at the Miami Dolphins facility in Davie, Florida, July 27, 2018.
Miami Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker during training camp at the Miami Dolphins facility in Davie, Florida, July 27, 2018. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Jerome Baker would very much like to forget the sight of Christian McCaffrey blowing right past him on his way to the end zone.

While Baker showed some of the impact he could bring to the Dolphins’ defense in their exhibition opener two weeks ago, he has continued to struggle with run fits in what’s been a weak run defense so far this preseason for the Dolphins.

McCaffrey’s 71-yard touchdown in Friday’s loss at Carolina was a glaring mistake in that department.

“We’re professional athletes,” Baker said. “It happened. You just have to go out there and do the next play. The moment you start thinking about what happened, something else is going to happen. That’s the way we looked at it. It happened, [move on to the] next play. You can’t do anything about it.”

During Wednesday’s practice, Baker was again unable to back up the play on a run by Senorise Perry that allowed him to break loose for another explosive play.

Baker, the Dolphins’ third-round pick, said he’s gradually trying to work on recognizing what the offenses are running better. The Dolphins need to see improvement quickly from their young linebackers if they’re to avoid carrying over the poor performances that have yielded 5.1 yards per rush into the regular season.

“It’s a learning process,” Baker said. “They move around quite a bit so it’s just a matter of knowing your overall run defense so as far as that, it’s a challenge. But I love challenges and it’s just a matter of getting better every day.”

IMG_FINS0814_LINEB_CTJ.j_3_1_E1E94DEJ_L411105588.JPG
Miami Dolphins linebackers Quentin Poling (51) and Jerome Baker (55) at training camp at the Miami Dolphins training facility in Davie, Florida, August 13, 2018. CHARLES TRAINOR JR ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Baker, undersized at 6-2, 215 pounds, continues to be listed on the second team on the depth chart although he appears to have a strong chance of landing one of the outside linebacker spots alongside alongside his former Ohio State teammate, Raekwon McMillan.

Baker said learning from the more experienced linebackers in training camp has proven very valuable in his growth as a player.

The Miami Dolphins picked Jerome Baker to play as a linebacker in Round 3 of the 2018 NFL Draft. GM Chris Grier talks to the media.

“I pretty much lean on the older guys — Raekwon [McMillan], ‘Steph’ (Stephone Anthony), ‘T.G’ (Terrance Garvin) and all of those guys, Kiko [Alonso],” Baker said. “I lean on them as much as I can, and they all give me the same answer: just focus on this play, on this play, on this play and after practice, you know everything. That’s pretty much my approach every day. I look at it as one rep, get better, get better, get better and at the end of the day, I look over it. I try not to think ahead; I try not to think of the past too much.”

SHORTER GROUP

With 6-foot, 3-inch DeVante Parker’s status for Week 1 uncertain due to a broken finger, the Dolphins may have to start the season with a receiving corps likely to be shorter than most of its opposition.

Kenny Stills (6-1), who figures to start along with 5-9 Albert Wilson and 5-7 Jakeem Grant should Parker still be out, said Wednesday he thinks the receiver group can exploit weaknesses despite their height disadvantage.

Miami Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi sees running back Jakeem Grant more confident with kick returns.

“I wouldn’t say it’s an advantage, but we’ve got speed,” Stills said. “We’ve got the talent. We’ve got guys that come out and make plays. It’s not something we’re really worried about. We’ll get DeVante back when we get him back. While he’s not here, we’ve got to go out and make plays.”

THIS AND THAT

Receiver DeVante Parker (broken finger), running back Kalen Ballage (concussion protocol), center Jake Brendel (calf), defensive end William Hayes (hamstring), linebacker Mike Hull (knee), safety Trae Elston (shoulder) and tight end MarQueis Gray (concussion protocol) did not practice.

Former St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz attended practice again Wednesday along with former Rams’ receiver Isaac Bruce, a graduate of Dillard High in Fort Lauderdale.

Jakeem Grant dropped a red zone touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill in the end zone.

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