2018 NFL Draft: Going against own philosophy puts pressure on Dolphins

Roquan Smith could be a Miami Dolphin by the end of the night. (Getty Images)

The Dolphins try to be as guarded as possible about their intentions in the NFL Draft, which starts with Round 1 tonight. The trio that runs football operations for the organization does all it can to avoid tipping its hand.

The only morsel of insight vice president Mike Tannenbaum has been willing to divulge over the past few years is a core philosophy of not relying on the draft to fill holes in the lineup. Miami’s intention is to already have a game-ready starting 22 and enjoy the flexibility of choosing the best available talent.

That didn’t happen this year.

The Dolphins enter draft weekend with only two clear starters at linebacker and without an established tight end. If they’re serious about competing for a playoff spot this season, they’ll try to find those answers in the draft.

Their best shot at that will be in the first two nights, when they select No. 11 overall, No. 42 in the second around and No. 73 in the third. On Saturday, they have two fourth-rounders, a sixth and two sevenths.

Unless they get lucky and have a top quarterback slide to them in the first round, they’re well-positioned address linebacker at No. 11. They need someone who can be a starter this season and a fixture beyond it.

Georgia’s Roquan Smith and Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds are thought to be the best two at the position. Smith’s a little more pro-ready, but Edmunds is a tremendously talented prospect who’s only 19.

The Dolphins currently have Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan in place, and there’s good cause to be optimistic about both of them.

McMillan was a second-rounder last year who was so impressive that he claimed the starting middle linebacker job before tearing his ACL in the preseason. Alonso had some issues last season, but he was good enough the year before to earn a three-year, $29 million contract extension.

The trouble is the Dolphins don’t have proven depth behind them. While a third linebacker often isn’t necessary for their defense, it is a need and they’d also like to have contingencies set up in case they run into snags like last year. Plus, they need to be prepared for Alonso’s contract running out after the 2020 season.

The other four linebackers currently on the roster are Chase Allen (four starts last year), Terence Garvin (three), Mike Hull (three) and Stephone Anthony (none).

As thin as the Dolphins appear at linebacker, their tight end situation is even more concerning. They’re currently proceeding with A.J. Derby as the logical starter, and he has 37 catches for three teams since being drafted in the sixth round of the 2015 draft.

The other options are MarQueis Gray (one catch last season), Gavin Escobar (none) and Thomas Duarte (none).

In the draft, top prospects Hayden Hurst of South Carolina and Dallas Goedert from South Dakota State are projected to go in the 20s at the earliest. The Dolphins probably wouldn’t be getting ideal value for such a high pick by taking one of them at 11th. If they really want Goedert or Hurst, the route would be trading back and acquiring extra picks or exploring a move up from No. 42 into the late first round.

Trading up in general seems highly unlikely for Miami in the first two rounds because it needs its full stock of picks as it tries to reshape a roster that went 16-16 over the last two regular seasons.

If the Dolphins can’t get Hurst or Goedert, or if they go for a quarterback in the second round, they can target someone in the next tier of tight ends in the third.

Penn State’s Mike Gesicki and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews could go in the second or third round. Indiana’s Ian Thomas, Central Florida’s Jordan Akins, University of Miami’s Chris Herndon and Washington’s Will Dissly are later possibilities.

The roster holes put a ton of pressure on the Dolphins to get it right tonight and Friday. Hitting on the perfect combination of picks in the first three rounds is extremely difficult, and that’s without taking into account what the other 31 teams will do. It’s smart that they typically strategize their offseason in a way that avoids this situation, but this year they’ll have to make it work.

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Philadelphia Eagles LB Mychal Kendricks could be key target for Miami Dolphins

Mychael Kendricks could solve an ongoing problem for the Dolphins. (Getty Images)

It’s a smart idea to take elements from a championship team, and a lot of pieces fit together if the Dolphins want to make a run at Philadelphia linebacker Mychal Kendricks.

Kendricks is coming off a strong season but figures to be a salary cap casualty after the Eagles re-signed Nigel Bradham to a five-year, $40 million deal Tuesday. That makes Kendricks a candidate to be released or traded.

Considering the Dolphins need linebacker help and have a great business relationship with Philadelphia, Kendricks is worth a long look. As of now, Miami’s top linebackers are Kiko Alonso coming off an uneven season and Raekwon McMillan coming off a torn ACL. Kendricks would round out that group much better than a bargain free agent signing.

While the Dolphins could wait to see if he hits the open market, they could secure him with a trade, and it’s hard to imagine it taking more than a late-round draft pick to get a deal done.

Kendricks, 27, is scheduled to carry a cap hit of $7.6 million this season and $8.6 million in 2019. He might very well be worth it considering how he played last year and how badly the Dolphins have struggled to find good linebackers.

The Eagles had the No. 1 run defense in the league last season, and Kendricks factored heavily in that. He had 73 tackles, two sacks and six pass break-ups. Pro Football Focus ranked him the ninth-best linebacker in the NFL.

It’s also worth noting that he’s rarely had any health issues. He’s missed 11 games in six seasons, and last year he played 59.6 percent of Philadelphia’s defensive snaps.

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Dolphins coach Adam Gase: 2017 draft class exemplifies what team needs

Davon Godchaux was a bright spot in last year’s rookie class. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

The Dolphins went defense-heavy in last year’s NFL Draft coming off a season in which they struggled to stop anybody. Next month’s draft figures to be the opposite scenario.

Nonetheless, the 2017 draft class showed good cohesion between coach Adam Gase and general manager Chris Grier. Grier’s primary responsibility in Miami’s power structure is to oversee the draft, and he was the director of college scouting for the team from 2007 through ’15 before becoming general manager.

The Dolphins found instant contributors in first-round pick Charles Harris at defensive end and fifth-round defensive tackle Davon Godchaux. Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley took over a starting job about a month into the season, and sixth-round defensive tackle Vincent Taylor got steady playing time off the bench.

Miami also picked up linebacker Chase Allen, who started the season opener and played all 16 games, and punter Matt Haack.

“I thought they did a good job,” Gase said of his 2017 rookies. “It felt like we had a lot of guys play. I thought our college free agents—We had so many guys either make it at the beginning or ended up being on the roster toward the end of the year. And our draft picks, the ones that ended up staying healthy… did a really good job. They were a good example of how we want to do it going forward.”

The Dolphins believe they landed a starter in linebacker Raekwon McMillan as well. They took him in the second round and had him on track to start before he tore his ACL in the first preseason game.

Seventh-round wide receiver Isaiah Ford missed the whole year due to injury, though he is expected back this season. Offensive guard Isaac Asiata was deemed far from ready to play at the NFL level and did not appear until the season finale, but he’s determined to be part of the offensive line rotation this year.

In the upcoming draft, most of the holes Miami needs fill are on offense. The team needs a quarterback to play behind Ryan Tannehill, a tight end, at least one offensive lineman, a slot receiver and possibly another running back. Those needs would change, of course, if the Dolphins are able to address some of them in free agency.

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2018 NFL Draft: Miami Dolphins meet with USC linebacker Uchenna Nwosu

Uchenna Nwosu has big upside. (Getty Images)

The first few seasons of an NFL career require more than just being a great athlete, and Southern California linebacker Uchenna Nwosu has the patience to let a team groom him into a starting-caliber player.

He’s had to work his way up since high school, where he joined the football team as a sophomore and developed into a three-star recruit. After clawing his way into USC, he gradually blossomed into one of the better linebackers in the country.

“My first season there I didn’t really play at all other than special teams, and my first year starting, I could’ve done better,” he said. “But last year I grew immensely and improved in everything. I’ve had a lot of growth at USC.”

Nwosu is much more in demand now than when he was coming out of high school. Most NFL Draft projections have him as a third- or fourth-rounder, and he’s an intriguing option for the Dolphins in that range. They have a third- and two fourth-round selections this year.

NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock ranked Nwosu the No. 5 linebacker in this draft class, and ESPN’s Mel Kiper had him seventh.

“Teams may fall in love with his burst and eyeball a future role as a designated pass rusher,” NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein wrote.

Nwosu had a brilliant senior season for the Trojans with 75 tackles, 9.5 sacks and 13 pass-breakups, presenting himself as a prospect who can do a little bit of everything at the position. He’s 6-foot-2, 245 pounds and has great agility. If Miami likes him at outside linebacker or defensive end, he’d fit well with the existing personnel.

The Dolphins go into the upcoming season not completely sure about what they have at linebacker. Kiko Alonso is on a big-money, long-term contract and likely needs to be solidified at inside or outside instead of moving back and forth. Raekwon McMillan, the team’s 2017 second-round choice, would have been a starter had he not torn his ACL in the preseason.

After those two, the rest of the group is uncertain. Veteran Lawrence Timmons is likely to be released, and the other options are all unproven. Mike Hull and Neville Hewitt are free agents who could be retained at a low cost, and second-year player Chase Allen is under contract through 2019. None of those three has more than seven career starts.

The Dolphins also have Stephone Anthony, a 2015 first-round pick who struggled in New Orleans and was traded to Miami early last season. He played just 133 defensive snaps.

While linebacker is a need, it’s not pressing enough to consider with one of the early picks. Those, at least the first two, will likely go toward shoring up the offense.

That said, part of Miami’s delegation at last month’s Senior Bowl sat down with Nwosu to talk about how he might fit and what the organization envisioned for him as a pro.

“They said they see as an outside linebacker and edge rusher,” Nwosu said. “What I learned about them was that they play hard and their defensive scheme fits me. They’re all-around great people, and I’m ready to roll with them if that’s the team that drafts me.”

An eventual shift to defensive end could work, too, with Cameron Wake turning 36 and Andre Branch’s contract up either next year or the year after. Either way, Nwosu would love the chance to learn under Miami’s veterans.

“Experienced guys helped me get this far at USC,” he said. “I was always talking to the upperclassmen to find out what they do. Having that vibe in the locker room really helps the rookies.”

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2018 NFL Draft: Does South Carolina State LB Darius Leonard fit Dolphins?

Darius Leonard did it in the MEAC, but can he compete with NFL-caliber talent?(Getty Images)

Darius Leonard feels like he’s starting all over.

As a relatively unheralded high school player, he was exasperated by the lack of attention he got from nearby South Carolina and Clemson. That snub drove him as he built a standout career at South Carolina State, an FCS school, and it seems like déjà vu as he tries to convince NFL teams he’s worth picking in this year’s draft.

“I used that as a little chip on my shoulder to show teams what they could’ve had,” he said. “I’m still that guy because I came from a small program, so I’ve got a point to prove.”

Leonard, a linebacker who wrecked everything he saw when he played for the Bulldogs, is emerging as a second-day prospect after a dominant senior season. He picked up momentum with a good showing at last month’s Senior Bowl, and said the Dolphins were among the teams he met with that week.

Linebacker remains a concern for Miami, as it has been for several years. The team goes into the upcoming season counting on Kiko Alonso after a down year and Raekwon McMillan after a torn ACL. Beyond those two, there are no certainties.

Veteran linebacker Lawrence Timmons is a candidate to be cut, possibly this month, and the collection of Mike Hull, Stephone Anthony and Chase Allen have a lot to prove. The Dolphins see potential in the latter three, but none have established themselves as good enough to be full-time starters yet.

That’s where a 6-foot-2, 229-pound tackling machine like Leonard can help. In his final season for the Bulldogs, he piled up 114 tackles, 8.5 sacks and two interceptions. He followed up with a game-high 14 tackles in the Senior Bowl, the first step in showing he can handle higher competition.

He faced big schools occasionally at South Carolina State and got some validation with 19 tackles in a loss to Clemson his junior year. He also had 16 in a game against Central Florida that season.

“They say the MEAC isn’t all that great, but I think the level of competition was pretty good and I can play with all these big-time names,” he said.

Leonard can be a factor at inside or outside linebacker, which appeals to the Dolphins, and falls in the range where they could reasonably consider a linebacker.

The position isn’t enough of a priority for them to go high, but they could be looking for one in the third round. The Dolphins are currently slotted to pick 73rd overall and once they address some more pressing needs early, linebacker could be on the table at that point.

Leonard aspires to be a versatile linebacker like Jacksonville’s Myles Jack and has the tools to get there. NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein sees him as an every-down player.

“Leonard has packed on the pounds since hitting campus, but it hasn’t compromised his play speed as he has posted dominant production throughout,” he wrote. “He lacks play strength, and there are times you want to see more nasty in his field demeanor, but he has the traits and talent.”

Now he’s on the big stage as he heads toward the draft and he gets another opportunity to impress teams at the NFL Combine in a few weeks. The spotlight and the way teams grill potential prospects haven’t bothered Leonard at all, and he’s embracing the chance to hold up under their scrutiny.

“It feels pretty good,” he said. “We didn’t have any of that at South Carolina State, so I’m kinda feeling the big-time love. It actually feels pretty good having all the interviews.”

 

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Ohio State players: How Miami Dolphins LB Raekwon McMillan is doing

Sam Darnold of USC runs from Tyquan Lewis of Ohio State. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

MOBILE, Ala. — When Raekwon McMillan went down for the season with a knee injury on the first play of his NFL career, it didn’t take long for his former Ohio State teammates to learn about it.

At this week’s Senior Bowl media day, Buckeyes defensive line prospects Jalyn Holmes and Tyquan Lewis initiated a South Florida reporter in a lengthy conversation about McMillan, the Dolphins’ second-round pick in 2017.

It is clear McMillan was very popular with his teammates. It’s also clear they’ve all stayed in touch.

“We’re all on the same group chat,” said Holmes, who is 6-foot-5, 279 pounds. “It’s disappointing. But I feel Raekwon is the type of guy that has embraced what he went through. And make it into a positive. And next year man he’s going to be 10 times ready for it.”

Holmes and Lewis, who is 6-foot-3, 276 pounds, have kept up with McMillan all season.

“He’s doing well,” Holmes said. “He’s doing real well. He’s been positive. He didn’t go down. He didn’t beat himself up. He’s been working hard to get back on that field. He’s going to come back better than ever.”

Before the injury, the Dolphins intended to play McMillan at middle linebacker, where he would call the plays.

McMillan was to be handed the responsibility at the age of 21, which did not surprise his former teammates.

“No, that doesn’t surprise me at all,” Holmes said.

“He’s that type of dude,” Lewis added.

Holmes explained: “He’s a football geek. I mean, we all are. A lot of us at Ohio State are forced to do that. He called out the defense at Ohio State. Him doing that at the Miami Dolphins that doesn’t surprise me at all.”

Both Holmes and Lewis should be on Miami’s radar due to their size, quickness and versatility. Both players can play defensive end and defensive tackle and rush the passer and play the run.

“I feel like I would bring to the Miami Dolphins versatility, being a great teammate, being a great person,” Holmes said. “Being very coachable. I feel like when you can do those things, it opens the door for a lot of other things. So the coaches have no restrictions on what they want to do. Now they can be as creative as possible as they can to affect the game.”

Lewis is among the top five sackers in Ohio State history. He said that he is sometimes compared to Justin Houston, the former Georgia linebacker who has become of the NFL’s top pass-rushers with the Chiefs.

“Always go for the ball,” Lewis said. “I don’t go for the sack. I go for the ball. I’m always trying to knock the ball out of the quarterback’s hands. I usually just every day I work on something to try to get better.”

Lewis and Holmes were part of such an incredibly deep Ohio State defensive front, their coaches sometimes used five-man fronts.

“We called it ‘Rush Man,'” Lewis said.

Lewis said his teammate Holmes is often compared to former Florida Gator Carlos Dunlap. Both players know that what they show in 1-on-1 drills this week is critically important to their draft statuses.

Lewis could be drafted as high as the second round, while Holmes is likely to be available in the mid-rounds.

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VIDEO: Tyquan Lewis highlights

“I want to win the 1-on-1’s, show fundamentals, show great technique,” Holmes said.

“Jalyn and I compete all the time in practice,” Lewis said. “It’s almost as if it’s another (Ohio State) practice. Except this time, it’s practice to get paid.”

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Dolphins’ 2017 NFL Draft class: Grading Chris Grier’s hits, misses

Charles Harris is off to a good start. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

For more than a decade, Chris Grier has helped the Dolphins mine late-round talent out of the NFL Draft. It’s an undeniable talent of his, and his latest hit looks like he could be a staple of Miami’s defensive line for years.

Among Grier’s seven draft picks last year, none proved to be a better value than fifth-round defensive tackle Davon Godchaux. The Dolphins saw a premium talent despite some red flags and, after thorough investigation, found a starting-caliber player with the 178th overall choice. Not only did he play well, he adapted well to the team’s expectations of professionalism

“He’s been exactly what you want a guy to be,” coach Adam Gase said.

Godchaux wasn’t the only good pick in the Dolphins’ 2017 draft class, which produced starting cornerback Cordrea Tankersley in the third round and a promising defensive end in Charles Harris with the No. 22 overall selection. Vincent Taylor, a defensive tackle they took in the sixth round, also was a contributor.

Among the three rookies who didn’t do much on the field this year, linebacker Raekwon McMillan (second round) and wide receiver Isaiah Ford (seventh) were on Injured Reserve the entire season. Fifth-round pick Isaac Asiata, a guard, took what the staff described as “a red-shirt year” because he needed significant work to get ready to play.

On top of those selections, the Dolphins found six undrafted free agents who can hack it in the NFL. Linebacker Chase Allen, from Southern Illinois, was the best of them and appeared in all 16 games with four of those being starts.

Cornerback Torry McTyer, safety Maurice Smith and punter Matt Haack also showed long-term potential. Haack was eighth in the NFL in punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line this year.

Any look at Grier’s draft from last year—in the Dolphins’ power structure, he spearheads that operation—must begin with Harris. While defensive end might not have been the greatest need at the time, he was the top player on their board and looks like he’s going to be very good.

Very good? With only two sacks and limited playing time stuck behind Cameron Wake and Andre Branch?

Yes, very good. Harris’ advanced numbers give a fuller picture of how well he played as a rookie. He was among the Dolphins’ best defensive linemen when it came to causing opponents to commit holding penalties, hurrying the quarterback and knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage. He did that despite playing just 47.5 percent of the snaps, including four games of 38 percent or fewer.

“His disruption numbers have been trending positively for us, so I think that those are blocks to build on and to move forward with,” defensive coordinator Matt Burke said.

McMillan and Tankersley are already marked down as 2018 starters, and Harris will get a chance to compete against Branch.

McMillan would’ve almost certainly been Miami’s starting middle linebacker in the opener had he not torn his ACL in the first game of the preseason. Tankersley took a much different track, coming on slowly in the preseason before coming on to take Byron Maxwell’s job in Week 4.

Tankersley had been inactive the first two games, but issues with Maxwell’s performance prompted the Dolphins to thrust him into the starting lineup against Drew Brees for his pro debut. He held his own and became a full-time starter.

If Tankersley can grow into an unquestionable starter, that gives Miami optimism about its secondary going forward with him, Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain all 24 years old.

If the Dolphins intended to pit Godchaux and Taylor against each other to battle it out for a job, Godchaux has the clear lead after Year 1. He had 40 tackles and a forced fumble, working his way onto the field for 47.8 percent of the defensive snaps.

But Taylor looks like a quality piece as well.

“We gained a lot this season from seeing Vincent do all of the things we asked him to do,” Gase said. “He was one of our high-energy guys. He practiced hard every day and he gave us value on special teams, which is great to get from a defensive linemen. I do think he’s a guy that we’re looking forward to keep developing and seeing how far we can help him grow as a football player.”

Even at this stage, with Godchaux and Taylor still trying to prove themselves, it looks like Grier has once again made good use of the late rounds. His best find was Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones in the fifth round in 2010, and in the last few years he found talent in Jakeem Grant (sixth round) and Jay Ajayi (fifth).

And if three or four players from this class are already full-time starters by the beginning of their second season, that’s another strong year for Grier.

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Miami Dolphins must explore reasons 13 players are on injured reserve

Ryan Tannehill is out this season, but there are good signs for 2018. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE — The Dolphins officially placed defensive tackle Vincent Taylor on injured reserve Thursday, and if that sounds familiar, there’s a good reason.

Taylor, who has a knee injury, brings to 13 the number of Dolphins on IR.

That’s more than the past two seasons combined.

It also goes a long way toward explaining why the Dolphins are staggering through a losing season after making the playoffs last year, when they finished with just four on IR. (The Dolphins ended 2015 with eight on IR.)

The uptick undoubtedly will be a topic of internal discussion after the season, especially for an organization that invests so heavily in sports science. Is there anything more that department could have done to prevent injuries? Any steps the trainers or medical staff should consider moving forward?

It’s possible the answers are no, but these are questions the organization must continue to ask itself each offseason. Injuries will always be part of this game, but those three areas of expertise are designed to allow the Dolphins to maximize the talent they have. For whatever reasons — and certainly they include lousy luck — the Dolphins did not get the most of their roster in 2017.

Glancing down the list of the unlucky 13, you’ll find five players who were considered likely starters at the beginning of training camp. That’s 23 percent of the starting lineup that was  standing on the sidelines in T-shirts. It also represents $44.4 million against the salary cap, according to overthecap.com. 

The list includes second-round pick Raekwon McMillan, a linebacker who blew out a knee on the first play of the preseason. Chalk that one up in the lousy luck category, the type of play that could happen to anybody.

The other whopper of an injury was to quarterback Ryan Tannehill, which is where second-guessing could come in. Tannehill injured his knee last year but chose to rehab rather than undergo surgery. Once in training camp, the decision backfired with another season-ending knee injury. The team never recovered.

Also gone: G Jermon Bushrod, OT Ja’Wuan James and TE Julius Thomas, all of whom may have played their last snaps in Dolphins jerseys.

If the 13 figure sounds like a lot, consider that it’s barely above the league average. As of Thursday afternoon, there were 389 NFL players on IR, an average of 12.2 per team. So the Dolphins are in the ballpark.

It’s also interesting to note the direct correlation between staying healthy and staying in contention. The dozen teams currently in playoff position have an average of just 9.5 players on IR, led by Atlanta, with a league-low three.

Those raw numbers tell half the story. The Eagles are in reasonable shape with just 10, you might say, but when one of them is QB Carson Wentz, that’s a different story. Seattle (13) lost two key members of its secondary in Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor.

Then there’s the hard-luck Giants and Texans, who have lost 20 and 19 players, respectively, including WR Odell Beckham Jr., QB DeShaun Watson and DE J.J. Watt — three of the last guys they could afford to lose.

The Giants, 49ers and Redskins share the league lead with 20 players apiece on IR. The most fortunate are Atlanta and Dallas (four), followed by three teams in playoff position: the Vikings, Steelers and Titans (six each).

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LB Raekwon McMillan ‘looks good’ in recovery – and Miami Dolphins desperately need him to

Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan rolls on the turf after being injured on the opening kickoff during a preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons on Aug. 10, 2017. Kiko Alonso looks on. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

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.”

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Miami Dolphins’ Adam Gase: Many injuries this camp are ‘things that you can’t control’

Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan is helped up after being injured early in the pre-season game against Atlanta Falcons at Hard Rock Stadium. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

 

DAVIE — The Dolphins have a training staff, a medical staff and a sports science staff.

They have gone through an entire training camp with as little tackling as humanly possible.

And still, the results from an injury perspective have been devastating.

You won’t see Ryan Tannehill, Raekwon McMillan or Tony Lippett this fall. With three preseason games still to play, the list of key players out for the year already is too lengthy.

It’s logical to ask if more can be done to minimize future risk. Coach Adam Gase, for one, wasn’t second-guessing himself this week when asked about those already lost.

“It’s just an unpredictable factor of the game,” he said. “A lot of the injuries we’re having are things that you can’t control.”

[RELATED: Another one? CB Tony Lippett tears Achilles, will miss season]

Critics would question whether the Tannehill case fits that profile.

After Tannehill was hurt late last season against Arizona, the decision was made to go with rehab over surgery. All spring and summer, everyone insisted he looked like the same old Tannehill until that morning when he came up lame on a non-contact play. It’s fairly obvious that every month surgery was delayed was a lost month in Tannehill’s career. But remember, the ultimate call is Tannehill’s, not the Dolphins’. It’s his knee. Besides, if he had surgery in December, he may have missed half this season anyway.

Next, McMillan blew out a knee, robbing the Dolphins of their second-round pick and a linebacker who could have helped their porous run defense.

Tuesday we learned that cornerback Lippett tore his Achilles, which means he’s racing the clock to be ready for light drills when the 2018 training camp arrives. One bad step, one bad landing, is all it takes.

“He jumped up and then came down,” Gase said of Lippett. “No one touched him. That was it.”

The Dolphins were only slightly more fortunate with Ted Larsen, who likely would have started at guard. Larsen tore a biceps and is expected to miss half the season.

To be fair to those charged with minimizing risk for the Dolphins, we’ll never know how many other injuries their work may have prevented. DeVante Parker, for one, no longer seems brittle.

Moving forward? Who’s to say how much will change — or needs to be changed? From the outside looking in, the reasonable expectation is that those inside the building continue to ask themselves that question.

“We haven’t had a ton of soft tissue injuries, which really that’s the biggest thing you’re preparing for,” Gase said. “A lot of our injuries have been ACLs, biceps,  things that … it’s a part of football. It’s the worst part of it, but there’s nothing that you really can do to prevent it.

“You do everything you can physically in the weight room and try to prepare yourself and try to schedule practice right and not fatigue your guys to the point where their bodies are breaking down. But at the end of the day, training camp is meant to be hard. It’s meant to harden you up. It’s meant to get you in condition. So you’re not going to prevent everything.”

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