As one of the NFL’s lightest starting strong side linebackers, rookie Jerome Baker knows what’s coming at him in his NFL regular season debut.
He fully expects the Tennessee Titans and other teams will run at him. And then run at him some more.
“I’m ready for it,” he said Thursday. “It’s not a secret I’m not one of the big linebackers.”
Baker, who will be the starter when the team opens in base defense, stands 6-1 and 225 pounds. Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry, who will be steamrolling in Baker’s direction on Sunday, stands 6-3, 247.
“All I focus on is the hips down,” Baker said. “No matter how big you are, you can’t go anywhere without your legs.”
Baker has added 10 pounds since leaving Ohio State and joining the Dolphins as their third-round pick. But keeping that weight on isn’t easy.
He said in college, his life was consumed by classes and practice.
“Here,” he said, “I can eat and eat. Here, on off days, I watch film and eat. Lot of red meat, potatoes, lot of starch.”
Is he eating to keep on the weight? Yes. But “also, I’m just hungry,” he said.
The strength staff, Baker and coaches determined that 225 pounds is the ideal weight for him to be strong enough to hold up against the run but fast enough to keep up with speedy players in pass coverage.
“I’m definitely stronger [than in college],” he said. “The weight is not a big deal as long as I am performing.”
Baker regularly peppers Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso with questions as he learns NFL defensive intricacies for the first time.
“So many things I learned from Kiko, it’s crazy,” he said.
He even asked Alonso to teach him Spanish but changed his mind because Alonso was teaching him slang.
Baker is naturally close with former Ohio State teammate and Dolphins starting middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan.
“Raekwon is a little more serious than Baker,” defensive coordinator Matt Burke said. “Raekwon is like his big brother. Baker is always trying to loosen Raekwon up and Raekwon is trying to yank him back down to reality.”
THIS AND THAT
Among the reasons running back Brandon Bolden decided to sign with the Dolphins instead of returning to New England, which wanted him back after cutting him:
His wife Arianna preferred Miami. “She was ready to get out of there,” Bolden said of the Boston area.
And here’s another: Former Patriots teammate Danny Amendola, now with the Dolphins, told him that Adam Gase is “a real personable person, a players coach. And you talk to everyone and [you see] he’s telling the truth. He told me it’s a different environment here.”
Amendola told Bolden that Amendola “was so excited I got released” because he saw the opportunity of Bolden joining the Dolphins.
Gase said Bolden is ready to help immediately on special teams.
“I joked with Bolden that I was sick of coaching against him,” special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said.
▪ After spending the past five seasons with the Patriots, what’s it like for Amendola to play for a team that’s not an AFC front-runner?
“Good, good,” Amendola said. “We’re going to come out fighting, for sure … Just as excited as I’ve ever been. We have a lot to prove.”
▪ Receiver Kenny Stills, who has continued to kneel during the National Anthem to protest social issues while doing considerable community work in South Florida and elsewhere, was heartened that Nike built an advertising campaign around Colin Kaepernick.
“I’m like the last one standing from that group,” Stills said, no pun intended.
“It’s incredible to see what they’re doing. Really taken aback by that commercial. It means a bunch to see how all this has changed. I can remember the type of things people were saying to me and sending me initially when the protest started and now you see Nike, a global company, really starting to understand what the protest was about. I don’t have a contract with them, I don’t work with them.... [But] this campaign with Serena [Williams] and with Kap has made me a fan of them ... It brought a smile to my face.”
Stills added: “If the NFL had done something like Nike did, … supporting us, this thing would be going in a whole different direction. Obviously, we’ve made progress.”
▪ Gase said defensive lineman William Hayes, who missed a month with a hamstring injury, has “looked good” in practice. “He’s ready to go,” Gase said. “He’s a difference maker. I don’t know if there are many guys who set the edge as violently as he does.”
▪ Gase said sharing regular-season practice snaps among four quarterbacks — as opposed to the more typical two or three — hasn’t been a problem. “We rotate them in,” he said.
▪ Guard Ted Larsen (knee) was limited. Receiver DeVante Parker (knee) remains out and isn’t expected to play Sunday.
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