DAVIE — When the Dolphins took Minkah Fitzpatrick with the No. 10 overall pick this year, they described him as a player who was basically pro-ready because of his maturity level and the experience he got at Alabama.
That has mostly proven true during his first month on the job. Fitzpatrick is in his second week of Organized Team Activities and already is showing signs that he’ll be a big contributor immediately.
“I always start off with saying he’s a rookie, and he’s definitely that, but you can tell he’s played a lot of ballgames,” defensive backs coach Tony Oden said. “He’s a very good communicator. He works hard. He wants extra study. Those things are more mature than most. He’s falling in line to be exactly what we thought he would be.”
Oden added that the typical rookie hurdles at that position are getting a grasp on how quickly plays develop and being able to react instantly when a cornerback gets beat, as well as making sure everyone is in place before the snap and communicating with the other defensive backs on the fly once the play is in motion.
He repeatedly noted how intelligent Fitzpatrick is, but is tempering his expectations by pointing out at every turn that he’s still a rookie and he’s going to encounter some of the issues that typically accompany this transition.
Fitzpatrick, 21, is vying for a role alongside veteran safeties Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald.
Not only does he have to prove he’s physically ready to play in the NFL, there’s extra responsibility at safety to make sure the defense is properly aligned. That’s where his Alabama education should help him.
After Tuesday’s OTA practice, assistant defensive backs coach Renaldo Hill studied Fitzpatrick’s film and was impressed when he noticed something unusual for a rookie. Before the snap, Fitzpatrick noticed a couple players out of position and got them in the right spots. Hill, who played in the league for a decade, didn’t expect that from someone who was in his fourth pro practice.
“He’s already identifying the big picture,” he said. “Those are things some guys search for their entire career, to be able to identify where other people are at, and if you can identify where other people are at, that helps you as a player, that helps the scheme, and he already has a lot of those tools.”
What Hill likes best so far is how natural Fitzpatrick looks on the field.
“You can’t teach the feel for the game, and he has it Day One stepping out there,” he said. “There’s things he’s gonna eventually get to, whether that’s splits or formations and understanding how the NFL operates off of different landmarks, but right now just his feel and technique, you see that.”
Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook.