Barry Jackson

Here’s the good news and bad news about the Dolphins’ key young players

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Monday night:

▪ The biggest priority this season, aside from securing the best quarterback in the draft, should be seeing some growth from young players who hope to be part of the nucleus when the Dolphins are ready to win again.

And there’s mixed news on that front.

The good: Raekwon McMillan has been the best linebacker in the NFL this season, according to Pro Football Focus. He had another strong game Sunday, with five defensive stops. He topped 40 snaps for the first time this season (43) but still played less than Jerome Baker (67) and Sam Eguavoen (69)...

Rookie first-round pick Christian Wilkins is coming off his best game as a Dolphin, despite the personal foul penalty that drew his coach’s ire. Wilkins was the Dolphins’ highest-rated player on defense Sunday, per PFF. McMillan was first…

Taco Charlton could be a longterm rotation piece at defensive end. He has two sacks in two games, and PFF rated him third among all Dolphins defenders Sunday.

“I like him,” coach Brian Flores said. “I think he brings energy. He’s got length. He’s got toughness. He’s got a long way to go from a pass-rush standpoint as far as using his length, using his speed, using his ability and putting it all together; but I think there’s a lot of potential here and we’ll just keep working him.”

Several other young Dolphins are rated in the top half or top third of the league at their position by PFF: Defensive tackle Davon Godchaux (30th), tight end Durham Smythe (29th), receiver Preston Williams (29th) and safety Steven Parker (30th).

▪ The bad news on the young-player front:

Kalen Ballage has been an enormous disappointment and was benched after dropping a pass Sunday, finishing the game with only eight snaps. PFF ranks him 58th of 59 running backs…

Rookie guard Michael Dieter struggled Sunday and is rated 70th of 71 qualifying guards by PFF…

Charles Harris’ Dolphins career might not be salvageable, barring a dramatic turn of events. He now has three sacks in 31 games (none this season), saw his role diminished Sunday and is rated 80th among 102 edge defenders by PFF.

And Jerome Baker’s puzzling sophomore struggles continue. PFF rates him 76th of 79 qualifying linebackers. On Sunday, Baker allowed all four passes to be thrown against him to be caught, for 61 yards.

As for quarterback Josh Rosen, there has been good - including several pinpoint throws - and not so good, including not recognizing open receivers on a few plays and hanging onto the ball too long at times. PFF rates him 32nd of 37 qualifying quarterbacks.

His passer rating is just 17.8 when under pressure --- 9 for 27 for 122 yards and two interceptions. Only Eli Manning, Matt Barkley, Mason Rudolph (entering Monday night’s game) and Dwayne Haskins are worse.

▪ McMillan said one key in his improvement is he’s “diagnosing plays faster. I just know what I’m looking at and I’m able to trigger and go make the play. At the beginning of the season, they didn’t know what I could do because I was out with the injury. I just had to work my way back from the injury and get my body right and I’m out there playing now.”

McMillan offered “big props to my guy Kiko [Alonso, the former Dolphin and current Saints linebacker]. He’s gone now, but he really taught me how to watch film, how to diagnose plays and really taught me a lot about playing linebacker in this league.”

▪ Running back Mark Walton logged 13 snaps Sunday - more than Ballage’s eight - and could get more opportunities behind Kenyan Drake, who had 28 snaps.

“I thought he went in there and ran well yesterday,” Flores said of Walton. “He’s caught the ball well and done some good things.”

▪ For the second week in a row, Smythe played the most of the tight ends, logging 37 snaps. Mike Gesicki played 26 (and was PFF’s lowest-graded Dolphin on offense) and O’Leary played 24 and was PFF’s highest-graded player on offense, with wide receiver DeVante Parker second.

▪ At safety, Parker and Reshad Jones each played 66 of Miami’s 67 defensive snaps, with newcomer Doug Middleton playing 16 snaps and Walt Aikens’ defensive snaps dropping to two... Harris’ snaps dropped to 26; Charlton (48) and Avery Moss (47) each played more...

Chris Lammons, who hoped to take over the slot corner role in Jomal Wiltz’ absence, didn’t play at all on defense. Ken Webster (29 snaps) was the third corner behind Xavien Howard and Eric Rowe, who played all 67 defensive snaps, and PFF said Webster graded out fourth-best of all Dolphins defensive players Sunday.

Please click here for my three stories from Heat media day, including everything Erik Spoelstra said, what teammates think of Jimmy Butler so far, and two analysts assessing the Heat’s chances.

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