Barry Jackson

Minkah Fitzpatrick would like an answer from the Dolphins on this key question

Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick played three positions as a rookie.
Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick played three positions as a rookie. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Minkah Fitzpatrick was the consummate team player as a rookie, switching between three positions and doing it with an exemplary attitude.

But Fitzpatrick hopes the Dolphins settle on one position for him next season. And he would like them to tell him that position sooner rather than later.

“I would like to know by January or February,” Fitzpatrick told me in the final days of the season.

Why? Because Fitzpatrick says his offseason training program and approach with his weight will be dictated by what position he plays.

“I lost 10 pounds playing cornerback because I moved faster, chasing guys around,” he said. “If I’m playing safety, maybe 8 to 10 pounds more [is better] so I have a little extra thud.”

Though he had some good moments at boundary cornerback, former coach Adam Gase has suggested Fitzpatrick is most valuable at safety. There’s a decent chance he will end up there next season, though Miami still must figure out what to do with its incumbent starting safeties – Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald.

They would save nothing against the cap by cutting Jones and very little by moving on from McDonald.

Here’s how Fitzpatrick played in coverage at all three positions:

Slot cornerback: 49.7 passer rating in his coverage area, which was best in the league.

Safety: 74.3 passer rating in his coverage area, but only a couple of targets.

Boundary cornerback: 80.5 passer rating in his coverage area, second best on the team behind Xavien Howard.

Overall, Fitzpatrick only allowed a catch rate of 56.5% and a passer rating of 69.0, which were excellent. But he needs to cut down on penalties – his 10 penalties led the Dolphins and were tied for ninth-most in the league.

Because of his three interceptions, Jones had a great 72.2 passer rating in his coverage area, compared with 101 for McDonald, 118.8 for Walt Aikens and 102.1 for Mo Smith.

But because Jones had to play more in a free safety role for the first time – further away from the line of scrimmage – he slipped to 41st of 90 safeties against the run, one of many reasons why Miami’s run defense was second worst in the league.

But the Dolphins determined Jones would be better able to handle that role than McDonald, who was 24th against the run. That’s why moving Jones back to strong safety – and inserting Fitzpatrick at free safety – makes sense.

Here’s my Friday piece on changes Hassan Whiteside has made.

Here’s my Friday piece with comments from Tate Martell’s attorney to me about his appeal to be eligible to play at UM in 2019.

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