Armando Salguero

The Miami Dolphins’ immediate plans for finding a middle linebacker

Miami Dolphins linebacker Mike Hull (45) is congratulated by center Mike Pouncey after intercepting a pass last season against the Arizona Cardinals.
Miami Dolphins linebacker Mike Hull (45) is congratulated by center Mike Pouncey after intercepting a pass last season against the Arizona Cardinals.

On Saturday morning the Miami Dolphins signed free agent linebacker Junior Sylvestre to the roster and obviously that helps because the team just lost rookie Raekwon McMillan for the season to an ACL injury that will require season-ending surgery.

But that doesn’t exactly address the void McMillan left.

The Dolphins lost their starting middle linebacker and when practice resumes today, and for the next few days, the team will be looking for a new starter. And right away the next man up, as the Dolphins like to call out, is Mike Hull.

Hull is the Dolphins new starting middle linebacker.

Now, I’m told the Dolphins will be seeking to replace McMillan from inside and outside the team. Sources tell me all options are going to be explored. The team will look at possible trades. The team will look at the waiver wire when cuts are made.

But for now, Hull is the guy.

There currently is no plan to move Kiko Alonso back to the middle where he played last year. There is no plan to use former Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons as the Miami middle linebacker.

Hull and whoever else can work in there is the immediate path to filling the position.

In case you’re wondering, Hull is in his second season out of Penn State. He has distinguished himself on Dolphins special teams and spent much of the offseason taking practice repetitions with the first-team defense. So the Dolphins are somewhat comfortable with him in there.

But Hull is inexperienced and smallish.

He got swallowed up by a guard and that sprung an Atlanta Falcons running back for a 23-yard gain up the middle during Thursday’s preseason game. He needs to get off blocks more consistently. He needs to shed that block and rally to the football.

The Dolphins are aware of Hull’s abilities and his flaws. They believe with Alonso and Timmons playing on either side of him, and Ndamukong Suh and the other starting defensive tackle playing in front of him, he’ll be more protected and better able to make plays than he showed while playing with backup players Thursday night.

It is not the perfect answer, obviously.

I’m certain team officials will eventually remind the media (and thus, you) that the middle linebacker is going to play only about 30 percent of the snaps. Because of the way offenses love to throw the football, defenses respond with extra defensive backs on the field and one fewer linebacker. The linebacker who takes a seat on the bench in Miami is the guy not named Alonso or Timmons.

So, for now, that would be Hull.

So in losing McMillan, the team lost what was expected to be a part-time player on defense. The loss hurts. But not as much as it could.

The Dolphins added two notable linebackers in McMillan and Timmons this offseason and thought they gave themselves some insurance by restructuring Koa Misi’s contract. Now McMillan and Misi are out for the season.

The Dolphins are searching for a starting linebacker. And Mike Hull gets the first shot at the job.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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