DAVIE — There’s no question that of the dozen players the Dolphins have on injured reserve, the one who should have the most impact next season is quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
But right behind him: linebacker Raekwon McMillan.
McMillan was taken in the second round last year out of Ohio State to fill a need at linebacker, but he blew out his knee on the first play of the preseason and missed the season.
The question now is whether the need at linebacker — as great as it was last year to warrant a No. 2 pick — will be even greater next year.
The good news: “He looks good,” coach Adam Gase said.
The thing about players on injured reserve is that they quickly disappear from public view, as if they’re no longer part of the organization.
“Those guys are here all the time,” Gase said. “They’re at practice and they’re in meetings.”
Gase likes it that way, even though that approach isn’t universal in the NFL.
“You kind of make that decision as an organization,” Gase said. “I’ve been in places where they’re like when you go on IR, you’re not involved in that stuff. My experience going through some of the things that I’ve went through is I had a situation where I told myself after that I’m always going to make sure that the IR guys are still involved. It’s been good for our players.”
The Dolphins’ linebacking situation was a liability last year and has slipped as this season has progressed.
Rey Maualuga was waived after being arrested in November and was last seen visiting Bengals camp a week ago, although Cincinnati did not re-sign him.
Lawrence Timmons will be 32 next season and has not said if he plans to retire.
Kiko Alonso was criticized by defensive coordinator Matt Burke on Thursday and is due $9.6 million next year, although the team would save only $3.5 million by releasing him.
And recently, the team has been working in Chase Allen, an undrafted rookie.
So it’s a no-brainer that lots of eyes will be on McMillan once offseason workouts begin, because there’s every reason to expect him to start in 2018.
Having him active in meetings is merely Step 1.
“It’s been good for Raekwon because he’s around it all the time,” Gase said. “He’s trying to get better mentally, which we need him to, because we’re going to count on him next year.”