Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator talks about competition for jobs
A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Thursday:
▪ Here’s one reason why Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan might be in line to receive clearly less playing time than a year ago, potentially:
The Dolphins have patterned some of their defense off what the Patriots do and have had their players study Patriots tape. So how New England deployed linebackers last season is relevant here.
And these are some numbers to keep in mind, courtesy of Ryan Smith and the other good folks at Pro Football Focus:
Last season, the Patriots used a lineup with two natural linebackers, plus four defensive linemen and five defensive backs on 30 percent of their plays — highest of any personnel grouping. They ran a grouping with three linemen, two linebackers and six defensive backs on 20 percent of their snaps, which was second most.
They ran a grouping with two defensive ends, two linebackers and seven defensive backs 4 percent of the time. And they ran a grouping with five defensive linemen, two linebackers and four defensive backs 1 percent of their defensive snaps.
So that’s 55 percent of the plays with only two linebackers on the field. They used only one linebacker seven percent of their plays, and they had four defensive snaps with no linebackers.
With Jerome Baker expected to play every or most every down — and Sam Eguavoen trying to hold onto a nickel linebacker job — it will be interesting to see to what extent playing time diminishes for McMillan and Alonso, who were both sidelined this week with injuries.
Last season, Alonso logged 1,004 defensive snaps, McMillan 831 and Baker 679.
Baker, barring injury, figures to get the most snaps of that group this season.
▪ Besides fielding a defense that everyone internally believes will be vastly more unpredictable and multiple, here’s another big change for the players in the move from Adam Gase to Brian Flores:
“I would say just not accepting little mistakes,” Minkah Fitzpatrick said. “Like I think in past seasons, people would just let things slide that [Flores] won’t let slide — whether it be just, instead of [saying], ‘the pass goes over my head. Throw it to another receiver.’ Instead of just taking a little burst one step out, he wants me to run and get to the ball.
“That’s what he wants you to do. It’s going to help you in the game. If somebody tips the ball up, you’re running [toward it]. It’s little stuff like that. Making sure we’re doing the little things right and making sure our habits that you relay over from practice to the game are right.”
Last season, the Dolphins sometimes looked the other way when a player was tardy. Not now.
And player policing of other players has been encouraged.
“The thing is, we have to police ourselves in that group,” Akeem Spence said of a defensive tackle group filled with first-, second- and third-year players excluding him. “That group, we have to push one another. If Davon Godchaux doesn’t do something all the way right, I have to be able to police him. And me too. [If someone says], ‘Hey Spence, your hands weren’t right. Get your hands right.’ ”
▪ Eguavoen remains the neatest story of Dolphins camp, considering how far he has come to be the starting middle linebacker in nickel packages.
Undrafted out of Texas Tech, Eguavoen earned no NFL camp invitation and worked as a sales associate at Footaction, a sneaker store in Mosquite, Texas, and then decided to pursue a career as a narcotics officer.
He told me a few weeks ago that he started riding along with the Dallas police force, as part of his policy academy training but determined after a week it wasn’t for him.
“I wanted to be a narcotics officer, but I couldn’t see myself doing it,” he said. “Riding along was not interesting. I didn’t like it.”
So he tried out for CFL teams and signed with Saskatchewan, only to lose a year with a serious knee injury.
“I thought I would never have a football career,” he said.
▪ According to ESPN Buccaneers reporter Jenna Lane, the Dolphins are among teams that have inquired about a trade for Washington offensive tackle Trent Williams, a seven-time Pro Bowler who is holding out.
But we’re told there’s no active Dolphins pursuit at this time. ESPN has reported that Washington doesn’t want to trade him, and the Dolphins aren’t inclined to trade a high draft pick for any veteran at this point.
▪ Quarterback Josh Rosen got his first full day playing with the starters on Wednesday in Tampa and by all accounts was decent, aside from two potential interceptions that were dropped.
“I wanted to see him against that group and some of the exotic looks that [Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’] first team is giving us,” Flores said. “ We wanted Josh to see it today and that’s really what that was. ... I thought he had a good day and he’s headed in the right direction.”...
▪ Quick stuff: Flores will use the media as needed. He three times told reporters on Wednesday that first-rounder Christian Wilkins has “got to play with better pad level, that’s for sure.. I hope he reads this. Somebody make sure that he reads that. The early-down stuff is good. The pass rush, his technique has got to get a little bit better.”....
Friday’s game will be significant for many, including Allen Hurns and Brice Butler, who are potentially competing for one receiver job, if the Dolphins keep six. Butler hopes to stick but said: “There are  other teams. If you don’t stick here, someone else will see you. We’ve got a lot of good guys here.”