Miami Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker talks about the challenge is coming in and learning the whole playbook
A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Tuesday:
▪ The Dolphins, adjusting to modern-day professional football, put a premium on speed and pass coverage in drafting rookie linebacker Jerome Baker and then injecting him in their starting lineup when the team opens in base defense. (Minkah Fitzpatrick replaces Baker when the Dolphins go to a nickel package.)
But the Baker move comes with a risk. At 225 pounds, the 6-foot-2 Baker will be much lighter than the traditional strong-side linebacker. And the Dolphins must hope that’s not exploited in the running game.
How has Baker held up so far?
According to Pro Football Focus’ analysis of every play, Baker started poorly but has improved. Among Miami’s 10 linebackers, PFF ranked Baker worst against the run in the first preseason game, next-to-last in the second, but fourth in last Saturday’s game.
Conversely, the website ranked Baker first or second in pass coverage among Miami’s linebackers for every game of preseason.
“As far as shedding blocks, it’s part of my job,” he said. “You just have to go out and do your job. Use your technique and go attack it. If you think they can block you, then they’re going to block you. I don’t think anyone can block me.”
At 225, Baker is 23 pounds lighter than the listed weight for starting middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan and 14 pounds lighter than starting weak-side linebacker Kiko Alonso.
How often has he been told he’s too small?
“Every level I’ve played on, since little kid, high school to college to the NFL, I’m used to it now,” he said. “Every level they say you’re too small and I still go out there and do my job.”
He said he has tried to put on weight — he has added 10 pounds since leaving Ohio State — but “I put on weight slowly. I’m not a big, heavy linebacker. That’s not my game. I work around what my strengths are, and my speed and athleticism really help me.”
But Baker has noticed that his speed only goes so far now.
“In the NFL, you have to know what you’re doing,” he said. “It’s no more getting away with speed. In college, you can get away with it sometimes. In the NFL, everybody is fast. So if you’re not there, your speed is not going to do anything.”
Baker has permitted seven catches in preseason, but for only 34 yards, and has shown a knack to be around the ball.
He said being named a starter “is a blessing. But doesn’t really mean anything. You still have to go out and do your job.”
▪ In the final practice fully open to the media this year, Ryan Tannehill on Tuesday connected on two long passes — one to Kenny Stills for a touchdown, beating Bobby McCain, and another to Mike Gesicki, who beat T.J. McDonald.
Tannehill also threw a touchdown to Gesicki in red zone drills.
But McDonald intercepted a Tannehill pass in the end zone.
▪ Brock Osweiler hasn’t had good luck with some of his interceptions in the past month, and that was the case Tuesday when Malcolm Lewis deflected a pass that Chase Allen intercepted.
▪ Other notable developments from practice: Minkah Fitzpatrick showed perfect technique when he reached over Danny Amendola’s shoulder and knocked away a short pass… Charles Harris beat Sam Young for a sack....
Sinorise Perry bowled over Tony Lippett for a short touchdown run… Albert Wilson and McCain had a violent collision but Wilson held on to the pass… Gesicki, who’s highly conscientious, was the last offensive player on the field, catching passes (both while sitting down and standing up) from former offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, who’s now director of football and player development.
▪ Second-year cornerback Torry McTyer continues to impress the Dolphins and likely would be their fourth cornerback if the season opened today.
“Not a big guy [at 5-11 but] he does everything he can to make plays in front of him,” Adam Gase said. “He doesn’t back down from any receivers. In practice, he makes a lot of plays. In games, he’s close. He’s not afraid to challenge guys.”
The question is whether Cordrea Tankersley or Tony Lippett will surpass McTyer at some point this season. Gase said the Dolphins want to give Lippett a ton of work in Thursday’s preseason finale at Atlanta.
▪ Ted Larsen, the Dolphins’ No. 6 offensive lineman, left practice limping with a lower-body injury, but early indications are that the injury is not serious.
The Dolphins say Kalen Ballage and Jakeem Grant are in concussion protocol, but there’s optimism about Grant being back for the regular-season opener and Ballage is making progress… DeVante Parker, William Hayes and Jake Brendel remain sidelined.
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