This past week has been a rocky one for the Dolphins and the NFL in general. The difference between words and actions make reading Miami’s plan difficult. Are they tanking? Their actions say yes, yet coach Flores insists they are not. In any case, whether they’re tanking intentionally or not, 2019 is going to be all about player evaluation and development. It has to be, since winning is unlikely to be something they do a lot of.
So with that in mind, here are the top three players to keep an eye on as the Dolphins face the visiting Ravens to open the 2019 season.
Jerome Baker, LB
When facing off against a running quarterback like Lamar Jackson, containing him becomes crucial to success. If he finds a hole to run through, Jackson will take it and he will make the defense pay for letting him have it. That’s where Jerome Baker comes in. More than likely, the Dolphins will have extra defensive backs on the field throughout the game. That extra speed is very reminiscent of the Bill Belichick defense that Flores comes from. But Baker will be closer to the action, and his sideline to sideline speed and ability to shoot gaps and rush the passer will be crucial.
As one of the team captains, Baker is being looked at as one of the defense’s cornerstones. It will go as he goes. If his preseason performance is anything to go by, Baker could become one of the league’s best as time passes. Keeping Jackson in check will be quite a challenge.
Albert Wilson, WR
With Wilson listed as questionable with his hip injury, it’s unclear whether or not he’ll be back to full speed against Baltimore. Nevertheless, the reason Wilson is worth keeping a close eye on is because his future with Miami may be just as questionable as his game status. Wilson is under contract through 2020, but the Dolphins have made trades that suggest they aren’t beyond subtracting talent to add draft capital and cap space.
If Wilson shows signs of being back to his old self, and a WR needy team looking to contend comes calling, Miami may pull the trigger. Trading Wilson at this time would save the Dolphins around $7 million in cap space, and another draft pick would fall right in line with what Miami wants for the rebuild.
Isaiah Prince, OT
Prince went from a preseason backup to probable starter almost instantly. The Dolphins traded Laremy Tunsil, and now have only four tackles on the active roster. Prince is the only one besides Jesse Davis – who recently signed a three-year extension – who has experience in Miami’s offense. Thus, he’s the best candidate to start at right tackle on Sunday. That makes three rookies starting on the offensive line, the other two being guards Michael Deiter and Shaq Calhoun.
Prince had his ups and downs in preseason, but that’s to be expected for a young player. Prince started at right tackle for years at Ohio State, even getting a chance to protect first-round QB Dwayne Haskins. He showed steady improvement through college, but it’s no secret that OL coach Dave DeGuglielmo got frustrated with Prince a lot throughout camp and preseason. This will be a real test of what Prince is capable of. Depending on how he develops, he could be Miami’s long term right tackle, or further proof Miami needs to invest heavily in the trenches in 2020.
Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for six years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung