The Miami Dolphins have done a complete overhaul of the team in the past two seasons. The offensive side of the ball grabs the headlines, and deservedly so. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa heads into his second season as the presumed franchise QB. The weapons are now there, in the form of explosive receivers like Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller. Now is an exciting time to be a fan of the team.
Fans, however, shouldn’t overlook the job head coach Brian Flores and GM Chris Grier have done to overhaul the defense. Between some key free agent signings and an influx of young talent in the draft, Miami’s defense should be markedly improved. An off-season trade with the Houston Texans for linebacker Benardrick McKinney could be the piece that ties everything together and puts Miami’s already stacked defense over the top.
How the Miami Dolphins landed Benardrick McKinney
Former Houston Texans linebacker Benardrick McKinney is a guy who had been on the Miami Dolphins radar for quite some time. For good reason, too, as the former Pro Bowl linebacker had been a lynchpin in the Texans’ defense. Though he was hurt for the majority of the 2020 season, his performance the prior two seasons had thrust him into the discussion as one of the premier young inside linebackers in the league.
This March, Grier and the gang finally pulled the trigger and went to get their man. Miami sent the previous year’s free-agent signee Shaq Lawson and a sixth-round pick to the Houston Texans in exchange for McKinney and a seventh-round selection. Houston then traded the sixth-rounder to the Bengals, who selected Michigan running back Chris Evans. With the seventh-rounder, Miami selected UMass offensive lineman Larnel Coleman.
What Benardrick McKinney brings to the Miami Dolphins
The addition of Benardrick McKinney to the Miami Dolphins linebacker corps should be the piece that brings everything together. McKinney’s skill set should be what frees up everyone around him to play to their strengths, rather than adjusting their game to fill a hole in the defense. With McKinney manning the inside and being a great downhill, run-stuffing linebacker, he frees up everyone else to lean on their athleticism.
With McKinney beside him, current inside linebacker Jerome Baker is free to use his athleticism and be the sideline-to-sideline linebacker Flores needs him to be in the system. The addition of McKinney inside allows the Dolphins to give outside linebackers Andrew Van Ginkel and first-round pick Jaelan Phillips the green light to go get the quarterback. McKinney brings to the team a steady, sure-tackling force at inside linebacker that makes everyone around him better.
All of this hinges on McKinney’s health. McKinney missed all but four games in the 2020 season due to a shoulder injury. If he has fully recovered from off-season surgery and can regain his 2018 Pro Bowl form, the Dolphins should possess a fearsome group of linebackers. Pair all of that with arguably the best defensive back in the league, and Miami should once again notch a top 5 defense — with McKinney as the key that brings everything together.
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