2015 Was A Year Of Transition For Lippett

Posted Jan 20, 2016

The rookie appeared in nine games for the Dolphins in 2015, but was mostly a special teams player until the final three games.

The 2015 season was a valuable learning experience for Tony Lippett, who not only had to make the transition from college football to the NFL but also from primarily wide receiver to full-time cornerback.

The good news for Lippett is that he made significant progress throughout the season, earning compliments from his coaches and additional playing time in the final weeks.

It adds up to a promising future for Lippett, one that has him eager to continue to learn his new craft.

“I’m just going to work with a bunch of guys at the cornerback position, defensive perspective and things like that,” Lippett said of his offseason plans in an interview with The Finsiders. “I’m really just going to put on weight, work on footwork, work on (vision) and just work on the things that corners do a lot in the game that can translate to the game and help me out.”

Lippett appeared in nine games for the Dolphins in 2015, but was mostly a special teams player until the final three games when he got 38 defensive snaps against both San Diego and Indianapolis, and then 25 snaps in the season finale against the New England Patriots.

He was credited with 10 tackles on defense and one pass defensed, which came in that 20-10 season-ending victory against New England on a deep pass by Tom Brady intended for wide receiver Brandon LaFell.

“Yeah, I should have caught it,” Lippett said about the play. “He had a cut split and from watching film I kind of knew that was the route they wanted to run. We were in man. He just ran a deep post and he got the stride and he (started) looking back while the ball was coming. I just turned around and saw the ball in the air and I just tried my best to make a play on it.

“I know I had to come down with that pick and I know I can and I know I will. That’s basically it, just learning from it, learning from the play and just trying to make the play for my team.”

After he played mostly wide receiver at Michigan State with some starts at cornerback sprinkled in, that Lippett got as much action as a rookie as he did was an accomplishment in itself.

He was inactive for the first five games before making his NFL debut in the 44-26 victory against the Houston Texans at Sun Life Stadium on Oct. 25.

All along, Lippett kept making strides on defense, to the point where former interim head coach Dan Campbell kept mentioning his name when he talked about young players who deserved a longer look.

“It was a difficult process,” Lippett said. “It had its ups and its downs and things like that, but I’m still transitioning as of today. I don’t know everything about corner and things like that, but I’m still learning from great corners that we have and a great coaching staff. Every day I’m trying to still learn, trying to pick people’s brain, former teammates that played defensive back with other NFL teams and things like that. I’m just trying to continue to learn. You can never stop learning in this game. That’s basically what my mind-set is.”

One highlight for Lippett in 2015 came off the field as he lived with fellow rookies Bobby McCain and Jay Ajayi, the three of them ironically being Dolphins fifth-round picks last spring.

In fact, when he was asked by The Finsiders for his favorite memory from his rookie season, this is what Lippett said: “I’d probably say just going back home after practice and stuff and kicking it with Bobby and Jay and sometimes (fellow rookie) Jamil (Douglas) came over there and DeVante (Parker) came over there and things like that. It’s basically just kicking it with them and just talking, messing with each other and understanding this is our rookie season and just being blessed to be here.”

But Lippett is looking for more moving forward.

He and the rest of the Dolphins rookies — and that includes undrafted free agents Neville Hewitt, Zach Vigil and Mike Hull — all got the chance at various points to show what they could do and the goal is to improve enough before the start of the 2016 season to earn bigger roles.

“I feel like we experienced a lot this year and we experienced kind of a down season and things like that,” Lippett said. “It’s going to (make us) bounce back and better us in the future for it, sometimes when you hit trials and tribulations and you have to overcome them. That’s one thing we just tried to do, just trying to continue to overcome obstacles and just meet it squarely face-to-face and make something happen.”

Lippett’s fellow Dolphins rookies didn’t have quite the challenge he had, though, because of the position change.

The learning curve no doubt was steeper for him, but one could argue that because of that he may have made more progress than any other rookie on the team.

Ultimately, Lippett might look back on his rookie season as one where statistics weren’t nearly as important as learning.

So perhaps nobody should be surprised by what Lippett said stood out for him in his rookie season.

“I’d probably say just the little growth I had as far as truly committing to becoming a corner and things like that and experiencing the things I experienced on the field from the games I was active,” he said. “I just tried to my best to roll it over into OTAs and next season as well.”

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