DAVIE – As a result of injuries on both sides of the ball, the Dolphins have dealt with a great deal of personnel changes this season. While some players were asked to unexpectedly fill voids due to injury, some players came into the 2017 season with knowledge they’d be asked to step up.
Unfortunately, not many players thrust into the spotlight this season have had success on a consistent basis, which is emblematic of the Dolphins’ 4-7 record.
With five games remaining, here are five players who have a tremendous opportunity to solidify their positions in Miami:
With his co-starter, Damien Williams injured and five games in the season left to make an impression Drake has a great opportunity to prove he can be the Dolphins’ feature back. Drake has had his fair share of explosive plays since getting more carries from scrimmage, but his big plays have been marred by two costly fumbles. Drake must perform admirably moving forward and prove he can be trusted to protect the ball, and make big plays on the ground and in the passing game.
Making his long awaited move from Mike backer to Will backer, Kiko Alonso hasn’t played as well this year compared to 2016. The Will backer is supposed to be where the team’s most athletic linebacker lines up, and on multiple occasions, Alonso has looked entirely too stiff to tackle in space and a beat late in coverage. Playing Mike backer is ideal for Alonso but Raekwon McMillan is the Dolphins Mike backer of the future, and Alonso must prove that he can handle responsibilities at weakside linebacker moving forward. If not, the Dolphins may be forced to address the position in the offseason.
Lauded for his tackling ability and physicality, Howard has not performed to his expectations this season. Howard has just three passes defended and admittedly needs to improve upon trusting his preparation, turning his head and finding the football in flight. Howard is talented and has the size and athleticism necessary to be a very good No.1 cornerback for the Dolphins but he must let it fly for the five remaining games and play with confidence. He’s got nothing to lose.
Parker’s performance during training camp led many to believe that 2017 could be his breakout season, but unfortunately an ankle injury he sustained against the Tennessee Titans has derailed his progress. Parker still isn’t 100 percent and according to offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, he’s “lost his edge” as a result. Parker has been given opportunities to make plays in recent weeks but he hasn’t come through for his team, which is concerning. While Parker is obviously talented, the Dolphins will need to rethink what they do at the wide receiver position in the offseason with Parker’s paucity of production and Jarvis Landry set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2018.
Right guard Jermon Bushrod has not practiced this week and could be out of the line-up with a foot injury this week. Jake Brendel will have tremendous opportunity to prove his worth to the Dolphins by playing well in the remaining five games. Brendel has enough versatility to play guard and center, but the Dolphins need to see him play well at one position in order to determine if one, or two interior offensive linemen might be needed in the offseason. Brendel is not under contract for the 2018 season, but if he plays well down the stretch, Miami will certainly bring him back into the fold.