Skip to main content

2021 Miami Dolphins Training Camp Preview: Off Ball Linebackers

Today, our training camp preview series gives us a closer look at the off-ball linebackers. Since the Dolphins defense calls for such a great deal of flexibility, we're defining off-ball linebackers as players who align off the line of scrimmage pre-snap on the majority of their reps. To reserve your spot at Miami Dolphins training camp, click the photo below.

Personnel Changes

Table inside Article
Additions Departures
Benardrick McKinney (HOU) Kamu Grugier-Hill (HOU)
Jordan Scarlett (DET)

Coaching Staff

The vast majority of the Dolphins coaching staff has experience on both sides of the ball and the story is the same with Anthony Campanile. Starting his career in the high school ranks, Campanile was both an offensive and defensive coordinator at legendary Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey before making the jump to the collegiate ranks. There, he was a defensive assistant, tight ends coach and wide receivers coach at Rutgers University before taking a job as the defensive backs coach at Boston College – he was later promoted to co-defensive coordinator.

Before taking the linebackers job with the Dolphins, Campanile held the same position at the University of Michigan. He brings an energy and incredibly passionate voice to the staff that resonates with the Miami players.

Group at a Glance

The Dolphins addition of depth and competition at each position group continues with the linebackers. Though primarily aligning in the second level of the defense (off the line of scrimmage, typically within five yards of the ball), it's not a rarity to see the 'backers mugged up on the line to bring pressure or simulate the look of pressure.

Jerome Baker was a menace in that role for opposing quarterbacks in 202. He finished second in the NFL among off-ball linebackers with seven sacks (Devin White, Tampa Bay, nine). Benardrick McKinney – a Pro-Bowl selection in 2018 – is no stranger to accelerating the urgency of the opposing offense. His quick first step, behind a 257-pound frame, helped the Texans' defense collapse the interior of the pocket for years.

Elandon Roberts was performing at a consistently high level when he went down with a season-ending injury in Las Vegas. He's back with a new contract after notching career highs on a per-game basis in tackles, sacks and tackles for loss.

Duke Riley has been a special teams captain in his previous two stops (Atlanta and Philadelphia) and offers a great feel for coverage. Calvin Munson returns after playing all 16 games with Miami in 2020 (primarily on special teams) and Kylan Johnson is in his second year with the club after spending 2020 on the practice squad.

The Cast

After playing two games with Miami in 2019, Munson was active for every contest of the 2020 campaign as a core special teamer. He played 262 total snaps with 214 coming in the game's third phase, where he made three tackles on the Miami coverage units. He also finished with nine total tackles on defense where he serves largely as an off-ball, b-gap-to-b-gap banger with a penchant for laying the wood.

A darling of Dolphins training camp in 2019, Eguavoen carved out a nice role upon making the jump from the Canadian Football League to South Florida and the NFL. On defense, Eguavoen is an agile, active 'backer capable of playing downhill as a blitzer and also dropping into coverage. In 2019, Eguavoen finished fourth in quarterback pressures among all off-ball linebackers (PFF) with 23.

Eguavoen's role shifted more towards special teams in 2020 as he played 275 of his 359 snaps on a unit that finished the season ranked No. 6 overall per Football Outsiders. Eguavoen made three special teams tackles with nine tackles on defense (one for a loss) with a pass breakup.

The traffic cop in the middle of the Texans defense for the last half-decade, McKinney brings his run-defending prowess, penchant for well-timed blitzes and unrivaled on-field communication to Miami. Prior to missing 12 games in 2020, McKinney averaged 995 snaps played over the previous four years.

In those four years, McKinney has finished tied for fifth, eighth, and tied for 17th in QB pressures among off-ball linebackers. He also finished inside the top 25 among his positional contemporaries in total run stops in three of those four years.

Embracing the physicality of the running game, McKinney uses his thick frame and quick first step to put opposing quarterbacks under duress. Both the tape and McKinney's workout numbers back at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine showcase the explosive nature of his game (93rd percentile in both the vertical and broad jumps among linebackers).

From Weeks 4 through 16, Roberts was good for one or two plays per game where the running back was greeted by big No. 44 in aqua before the back could make his first move. Though Roberts has since changed his number, he looks like he's shot out of a cannon against the run, evident by his 25 run stops in 13 games played and a career-best eight tackles for loss last year. His 61 total tackles and 1.5 sacks were on pace for personal bests prorated over 16 games. He also matched his career-high in forced fumbles (1).

Roberts was elected as a team captain last year. Baker detailed Roberts' leadership in a December 21 press conference last year.

"'E. Rob,' he's been around long enough; you can just tell he's all about putting that work in when nobody's looking," Baker said. "He doesn't care who's around. He doesn't care if it's coaches, he doesn't care if it's players – whoever it is. He's just going to put the work in and get better."

Baker arrives at Dolphins camp with a brand-new contract extension fresh off of a career year. Improving each season in his young career, and still just 24-years-old, Baker is a key cog in the middle of a Miami defense that finished tops in takeaways and third-down defense.

The speedy former Buckeye's pass rush and general passing game prowess were an integral ingredient in Miami's swarming third-down defense. Despite playing more snaps than any other Miami Dolphin since 2019, Baker has never missed a game. He's tallied 2,122 snaps on defense and special teams cumulatively the last two years with 33 QB pressures, 8.5 sacks, 238 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, an interception, seven passes defensed and four forced fumbles.

Johnson arrived in Miami as a UDFA out of Pittsburgh. There, as a graduate transfer from Florida, Johnson's pass-rushing numbers took off. He recorded 6.5 sacks with 132 total tackles (11 for a loss). Like a handful of his fellow Dolphins linebackers, Johnson's quick first step and explosiveness are a calling card.

Related Content