Barry Jackson

Dolphins bring back familiar face and get encouraging results with new defensive backfield

Kendall Langford (bottom left), Cameron Wake and Reshad Jones tackle Ryan Matthews in a Dolphins-Chargers game in 2011. Langford, who spent the 2008-2011 seasons with Miami, agreed to terms with the Dolphins on Tuesday and will compete for a roster spot on the defensive line.
Kendall Langford (bottom left), Cameron Wake and Reshad Jones tackle Ryan Matthews in a Dolphins-Chargers game in 2011. Langford, who spent the 2008-2011 seasons with Miami, agreed to terms with the Dolphins on Tuesday and will compete for a roster spot on the defensive line. Miami Herald Staff

Defensive lineman Kendall Langford, who began his career as a Dolphins’ third-round draft pick a decade ago, on Tuesday agreed to a deal to return to the Dolphins, according to a league source.

Langford, 32, has 290 tackles, 22.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in 10 pro seasons.

He replaces Gabe Wright, who was released by Miami after throwing an elbow at Kenyan Drake during Monday’s practice.

Langford, at 299 pounds, can play end or tackle, though he’s better equipped to play tackle in a 4-3 defense like the one Miami runs.

He appeared in 64 games for the Dolphins over his first four NFL seasons, starting 54 of them, before signing with the Rams and playing three seasons there.

Langford had seven sacks in 16 starts for the Colts in 2015 but was limited to seven games (all starts) for Indianapolis in 2016 before being placed on injured reserve in November of that season.

Miami Dolphins Defensive Line Davon Godchaoux describes his excitement during first day of training.

Last season, he spent two weeks with New Orleans but didn’t appear in a game and then spent a month with Houston, appearing in one game, before being released Nov. 7. He hasn’t been in the league since.

Langford joins a crowded competition on the defensive line.

Miami’s top four defensive tackles are Akeem Spence, Davon Godchaux, Jordan Phillips and Vincent Taylor, with William Hayes and Calvin Malveaux able to play both end and tackle.

Phillips has missed practice time this week with a shoulder injury.

The Dolphins also are deep at end with Cameron Wake, Robert Quinn, Andre Branch, Charles Harris, Hayes and Malveaux. And Langford is better suited to play end in a 3-4 defense, not a 4-3 like Miami’s.

NEW SECONDARY WORKING WELL TOGETHER

First, the necessary caveat: Three practices aren’t enough to form any grand conclusions about the Dolphins’ shuffled secondary.

But the early returns suggest this new lineup - used the past three days in practice - is the most likely not only to succeed, but the most likely to be the one the Dolphins use once the regular season starts.

That lineup has Bobby McCain moving to the boundary cornerback job, opposite Xavien Howard, and Minkah Fitzpatrick playing the slot when the Dolphins use five defensive backs. Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald remain the starting safeties.

We saw that lineup at its best in Tuesday’s final practice of training camp.

Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke says cornerback Xavien Howard's three pics today at practice doesn't mean he will start, there is more work to be done.

First, we saw McCain anticipate a Ryan Tannehill throw and make a terrific breakup on a ball intended for Danny Amendola.

Then we saw McCain make a nifty breakup on a Tannehill throw to Jakeem Grant, who claimed he was held.

McCain followed both plays with a small celebration, injecting energy that can only be a positive for this unit.

“It’s always good to go against Bobby,” receiver Albert Wilson said. “Him moving outside, it’s the toughest fight. He plays really good technique, likes to get his hands on you. I definitely think [he can play outside]. He has the skills.”

Playing outside is nothing new for McCain, but coaches first tried Cordrea Tankersley, Torry McTyer and Tony Lippett at the boundary position through 10 training camp practices and a preseason game before deciding moving McCain outside was their best option.

Quarterbacks had a 77.3 rating in McCain’s coverage area last season, compared with 119.8 for Tankersley.

“Bobby is a competitor,” safety Reshad Jones. “As coach said, you ball, you play.”

Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, has followed a solid preseason opener with good work in the slot in practice this week.

He blanketed Amendola on one play Tuesday, allowing Spence and Quinn to get to Tannehill for what would have been a sack in a real game.

Keep in mind that at Alabama last year, Fitzpatrick played 64 percent of his snaps at slot cornerback, per Pro Football Focus.

So this is nothing new for Miami’s first-round pick.

“That kid is a baller,” Wilson said of Fitzpatrick. “From what I’m seeing, he’s doing everything right. Definitely fitting the run and definitely guarding the slot. It’s tough to do but he’s holding his own and doing well.”

So barring a roster addition, this new defensive backfield looks like Miami’s best approach.

“We want to get all the best players on the field,” Jones said. “I like the group. I like the change that was made.”

NOTE: The Miami Herald is now offering a digital sports-only subscription for $30 per year. This is unlimited access to all Herald sports and sports stories - including my hundreds and hundreds each year - and you can comment in the section below as many times as you wish.

Please click here to sign up.

Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments