The first time Andrew Van Ginkel played at Hard Rock Stadium was particularly memorable.
The Wisconsin Badgers were down by two scores early in the second quarter of the 2017 Orange Bowl when Malik Rosier, then the quarterback for the Miami Hurricanes, tried to sneak a throw into the flat on the left side of the field while Van Ginkel pushed around the left tackle.
Van Ginkel stretched his arms up as Rosier rifled a pass in his direction, and the linebacker hauled in his second interception of the season. Wisconsin scored a few plays later to begin a rally that led to a Badgers victory.
“It’s going to be exciting to go back in there, and just feel the atmosphere and feel everything out again,” Van Ginkel said this month ahead of the Miami Dolphins’ first preseason action in Miami Gardens. “I’m definitely looking forward to that.”
Almost two years later, Van Ginkel suited up again at the home of the Dolphins and Hurricanes on Thursday for the Dolphins’ preseason-opener against the Atlanta Falcons.
Although he only recorded one tackle in the Dolphins’ 34-27 win, Van Ginkel is a major part of the Dolphins’ defensive plans as one of the linebackers trying to fill the void left by former All-Pro Cameron Wake.
For Van Ginkel, success in the NFL can mean more than gaudy sack totals like the ones Wake piled up in his decade in South Florida.
In his two seasons at Wisconsin, Van Ginkel also grabbed a pair of interceptions and forced four fumbles, to go along with his 12 sacks and 19 1/2 tackles for loss. As the Dolphins prepare for their first season without Wake since 2008, Van Ginkel might be the potential replacement with the most upside because of his versatility.
His only tackle Thursday came when he quickly recognized a screen pass developing, hopped off his block, and dragged down the running back at the line of scrimmage.
Right now, his play recognition is his most obvious NFL-level skill and helps compensate for some of his deficiencies physically and as a pass rusher.
“Just being able to set the edge because I’m mainly an edge guy,” Van Ginkel said, “so being able to do that and just continue to work on my pass rush and do whatever I can to improve.”
On the depth chart on Monday, Van Ginkel was still listed with the second-team defense as the backup to Jerome Baker at one outside-linebacker spot. Van Ginkel has worked occasionally with the first-team defense throughout training camp, but he’s still adjusting to the higher level of play.
“I would say just probably the speed of the game. Everybody’s fast here,” Van Ginkel said. “In college, you have those certain players, but here, it’s everybody. Even the o-linemen, their first steps are just a lot quicker than what you see in college.”
Even if he can’t become more than just a rotational linebacker in his first season, Van Ginkel has a chance to be a significant contributor on special teams. The outside linebacker was tied for the team lead with 14 special-teams snaps Thursday.
As a defense without many accomplished pass-rush threats, the Dolphins will have to replace Wake by committee in 2019. Van Ginkel’s flexibility makes him a useful cog for coach Brian Flores to work with.
Dolphins update depth chart
The Dolphins released their updated depth chart ahead of their second preseason game with only one change.
The lone change ahead of a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday comes at defensive end, where the Dolphins have moved Jonathan Ledbetter up to the second-team defense.
Ledbetter replaces Jonathan Woodard as the backup defensive end behind Tank Carrdadine after the Dolphins released Woodard with an injury designation Sunday.
Ledbetter is an undrafted rookie fighting for a roster spot after recording 6 1/2 tackles for loss with the Georgia Bulldogs in 2018.
Quarterback Josh Rosen is still the backup behind Ryan Fitzpatrick despite his impressive preseason debut. Running backs Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage are still listed as co-starters despite Drake getting the start Thursday.
The Dolphins also still have tight ends Mike Gesicki, Nick O’Leary, and Durham Smythe listed as co-starters. O’Leary and Smythe both started against the Falcons.