Just 23-years-old, linebacker Jerome Baker is quickly become one of the most experienced Dolphins veterans. He played over 1,000 snaps a year ago and is on track to eclipse that number again in 2020.
The third-year pro is only 20 tackles shy of 250 for his career and when he reaches that landmark he'll be the first Dolphins linebacker since Channing Crowder (2005-07) to make 250 tackles in his first three NFL seasons.
One of the leaders of the team and second-highest snap-taker on defense, Baker's opinion carries a lot of weight around the Dolphins' building. He was asked to evaluate Miami's three rookies across the offensive line, but instead took the opportunity to praise the type of workers this rookie class was all about.
"They go hard and are willing to get better," Baker said. "They're not afraid to ask questions. All of our rookies come in and pick everybody's brain and do things the right way. They have that hunger to them."
Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin only carried the ball 36 times in his rookie season. Now, in Year 2, Gaskin leads all Dolphins backs in rushes (38), yards (152), average yards after contact (3.03), receiving yards (91), yards from scrimmage (243) and snaps (134). Baker says his emergence is a surprise to nobody here in Davie.
"If you've been around here, you're not surprised by what Myles is doing," Baker said. "He goes hard, he's smart, he truly works hard, not just during practice but outside of practice. Even this week, we had a few days off. He's on the field doing ladder drills and running. He's a guy that does way more than what they ask him. He does it all."
Gaskin, a Lynnwood, Washington native, will face his hometown when the Seahawks come to town Sunday. Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones discussed the challenges the Seahawks present but how this type of measuring stick is why you play the game.
"The entire offense over there is really creating big and explosive plays on a consistent basis. That's a challenge for us, but that's an exciting challenge," Jones said. "You're really going against one of the best in the league at this point. It's really a good measuring stick as to where our secondary and where our defense is going to be going forward."
Since he entered the league in 2015, Jones is one of the NFL's most accomplished defensive backs. On top of elite physical traits that led to broken records – and not just Scouting Combine records, but rather world records – Jones has built an impressive resume matching up with the league's top receivers through work ethic and study habits.
Toughness, football intelligence and durability – Jones checks many of the boxes for the prototypical Brian Flores player. The first time Jones missed a game in his pro career was Week 17 of last season – then a member of the Dallas Cowboys. Jones was not available for Thursday's win in Jacksonville, but he's working hard to get back.
A limited practice participant on Thursday, Jones answered questions about his health and where he is in the rehab process.
"I feel really good," Jones said. "Rehab has been on schedule which is great. You have to keep running through the paces. Today was a really good challenge and tomorrow is going to be a bigger challenge. As you go along you continue to push yourself and gain that confidence. It's about the workload and the speed and how the recovery is and how it feels the next day. It's day-by-day."
This experience is unique for Jones. Going through a week of practice and preparing for a game he wasn't going to play in was different, he says. He took advantage of the new experience and took the opportunity to bulk up on the mental aspect of the game.
"I played in every single game since I've been in the league until the last game of last season," Jones said. "It's really going through the mental reps, seeing how a play will develop from different spots. You get a chance to not just focus on your matchup but you get a chance to focus on what it looks like (from different positions). It gives you that mental exercise that keeps you sharp."
Jones is one of several defensive backs with accomplished resumes and positive character references from past coaches. Even with the talent on the roster, Jones acknowledges that building something special takes time.
"It's going to be special but it's going to take work," Jones said. "You have to bond together as a unit. It's not just about having really good players on the roster. You have to develop a bond and that level of communication that can lead us to a different level. It's mental. It's trusting each other. We're still developing that and that's a fun challenge."
The play-making ability of fellow veteran cornerback Xavien Howard stood out to Jones from the word go.
"For me, just to see 'X' (Xavien Howard), when he came back towards the end of camp, I think his first couple of days, he got like two or three picks," Jones said with a chuckle. "You can see his play-making ability right away."
Howard and Jones have been around the NFL block a few times, so they're taking on a leadership role in showing the ropes to the NFL's youngest player in Noah Igbinoghene. Jones has high praise for the Dolphins' 2020 first-round draft choice.
"He's one of the most impressive young guys I've seen in a very long time," Jones said. "This kid is here early looking at film with the coaches. He's here late. The way he approaches practices is really impressive."
On the other side of the ball, Dolphins wide receiver Preston Williams is used to matching up with the rookie. He too offered high praise for Igbinoghene.
"He's got all the tangibles to be a great corner in this league," Williams said. "He's young, but he's patient. He's going to get hands on you. He's very physical."
The latest injury update can be found here.
Did not practice: quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (illness).
Limited participation: cornerback Byron Jones (Achilles/groin) and safety Kavon Frazier (shoulder).
Full participation: safeties Clayton Fejedelem (pectoral) and Brandon Jones (back) and cornerback Xavien Howard (knee).
Seattle's Thursday report will be available later this evening.