Is the time now for Miami Dolphins LB Neville Hewitt?

Dolphins linebacker Neville Hewitt hits Jets quarterback Bryce Petty in December. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Dolphins linebacker Neville Hewitt sacks Jets quarterback Bryce Petty in December. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2017.)

LB Neville Hewitt

Height, weight: 6-2, 232

College: Marshall

Age: 24

Experience: Entering third season, all with Dolphins

Acquired: Signed as undrafted free agent in May 2015

Contract: Made $525,333 in 2016; due to earn $615,334 in 2017

Pro Football Focus rank: 75th out of 87 LBs ranked overall; 43rd of 89 ranked in run defense

In 2016

Stats: 16 games, five starts, 57 tackles, one sack, one pass defensed, one fumble recovery; tied for third on team with seven tackles on special teams

Notable moments: Had career-high nine tackles at Buffalo.

Straight talk: Hewitt was signed on the advice of Adam Fuller, Marshall’s linebackers coach, as a longterm project that is paying off.

The question now is, how much?

In late November, near the end of his time as Dolphins defensive coordinator, Vance Joseph gave a positive review of where Hewitt stood, saying he “has played really at a high level the last month.”

Joseph added, “Going forward, he may be a guy that can be a full-time starter.”

Amid injuries to veterans Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi, Hewitt was called upon more and more last season, and the more Joseph saw of him, “the better he gets.”

Prospects for 2017

It’s too early to tell.

Obviously, Kiko Alonso will be on the field plenty. Same goes for Lawrence Timmons. And often the Dolphins will go with five defensive backs, leaving a need for only two linebackers.

Hewitt’s edges among the backups fighting for a roster spot and playing time are his contributions on special teams, continued improvement as just a 24-year-old and low salary cap number.

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