Armando Salguero

These candidates might fill leadership roles on a young Miami Dolphins team | Opinion

Over and over when owner Stephen Ross and general manager Chris Grier spoke of the reasons they hired Brian Flores as the Miami Dolphins new coach, they mentioned the new man’s leadership.

It was a theme after awhile and, I must say, that Flores trait is starting to show even in the middle of April.

Flores has his way of doing things. He believes in his way. And that means he’s going to have his team believing in the same things — like playing smart and showing attention to detail.

Another of those Flores leadership points is about being prompt.

“I was taught early, early’s on time,” Flores said. “On time is late. Late is forgotten.”

And, yes, Flores was eight minutes early to his news conference Thursday after being a few minutes early to the one Tuesday. And, yes, Miami players were repeating the credo after practice Thursday.

So this Flores leadership thing is starting to catch on — even if it has not yet come under any significant duress.

But the truth is team leadership has to go beyond the head coach and even his assistants. There has to be leadership in the locker room. Among players.

Peer to peer.

And that raises the question who is going to take leadership roles on this young, incomplete team?

A couple of those are already spoken for, thankfully.

Obviously, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to affect much of the offense. He’s 36 years old and about to start his 15th NFL season — more than anyone else on offense.

Fitzpatrick is grounded, irreverent and already well-liked. Fitzpatrick gets it.

But who else?

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Veteran Dwayne Allen, who has taken charge of the tight end room, is already on board.

“The entire tight end room. That’s my job here. I’m the veteran guy in the tight end room,” Allen said Thursday. “I want to make sure that we as a corps are able to go out and execute our jobs, no matter who’s in the game.”

Allen is new to the Dolphins this year. But his leadership status in the tight end room came with no grand pronouncements. It happened quickly and organically.

“Yeah, just by me learning and them seeing me learn the same way they are,” Allen said of the process. “Like, am I familiar with the offensive system? Yeah. But again, the offensive system can be totally different depending on who’s calling the plays. So them seeing that I’m taking notes, that I’m asking questions, that I’m listening.

“So that those guys can see a guy going into Year 8 and them being in Year 2 is doing the same things they are. Then establishing their trust, right? Letting them know I’m here to make them better. While I’m getting better, I’m here to make you better. I’m trying to make the offensive system better, the tight end corps gets better.”

Fitzpatrick and Allen are obvious leaders. But there are multiple players who also could be part of that important group.

Receiver Kenny Stills is a thoughtful leader. He talks to players, mostly receivers, to teach them and try to help them. Albert Wilson is a playmaker with no fear. He can lead by example.

Left tackle Laremy Tunsil needs to progress into a leadership role. He has the credibility to do it because he’s one of the best players on the roster who, by the way, is going to be around — the Dolphins exercised their fifth-year option on him Thursday so he’s signed through 2020.

Last season the team signed Josh Sitton to play left guard and help Tunsil mature. Now, Tunsil needs to be a help to others.

Center Daniel Kilgore, a smart ninth-year veteran, is also a leadership candidate on the offensive line.

On defense, middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan is a natural leader. He simply needs to play better to earn greater credibility.

Defensive back Walt Aikens has been a leader in the past and should continue to be that on this team. Safety T.J. McDonald also has shown himself to be a leader, and the Dolphins believe 2018 first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick will grow into a leadership role.

So how can these players take up that mantle? Allen is a good man to ask.

“No intimidation at all,” Allen said. “Those guys in the room hopefully know I love the game of football and I’m here to make them better.

“If they’re not asking me questions then I’m definitely trying to give them little hints. That’s the thing that I’m sure they’re getting tired of — Dwayne, shut up, please.”

No, Dwayne don’t. Please don’t.

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Armando Salguero has covered the Miami Dolphins and the NFL since 1990, so longer than many players on the current roster have been alive and since many coaches on the team were in middle school. He was a 2016 APSE Top 3 columnist nationwide. He is one of 48 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters. He is an Associated Press All-Pro and awards voter. He’s covered Dolphins games in London, Berlin, Mexico City and Tokyo. He has covered 25 Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, and the Olympics.