Jelani Jenkins to Dolphins: How Does the LB Fit with Miami?

Alessandro MiglioFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2013

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 08:  Jordan Jefferson #9 of the Louisiana State University Tigers is tackled by Jelani Jenkins #3 of the Florida Gators at Tiger Stadium on October 8, 2011 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The defensive overhaul continues for the Miami Dolphins. The turnover in the linebacker corps continues with Jelani Jenkins out of Florida.

Jeff Ireland signed Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler to replace Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett, respectively, giving Miami a more attacking look at the position. Dion Jordan was drafted as a pass-rusher, but he could spend time playing outside linebacker.

Jenkins is the latest linebacker addition to the club.



Miami has plenty of linebackers, but Jenkins does add depth. It is unlikely that his role will be anything but special teams as a rookie, but he could play his way onto the field in passing situations as a cover linebacker.

Here is what Bleacher Report's Scott Carasik had to say:

Jenkins drops back almost seamlessly into zone coverages. He's able to read the quarterback's eyes well and gets good depth. He makes the plays on the ball that you want a linebacker to make and can cover at tight end well.

His ability to locate a ball in air has allowed him to snag multiple interceptions and even a punt block out of the air. He has a ton of potential to get even better in man coverage than he is. He just wasn't used in man very much. He sniffs out screens and flat passes effectively.

In the NFL, Jelani Jenkins would be best used as a 4-3 outside linebacker on either the strong or the weak side. His only real weaknesses come from a lack of block-shedding technique. With the right coaches and strength training, he could be a special player at linebacker.

He is a perfect fit for this defense, but he will be brought along slowly.


Roster Fit

Jenkins will likely be fighting last year's fifth-round pick Josh Kaddu for a spot on the depth chart, even if Kaddu fits more like Dion Jordan than Jenkins on the team.

Jonathan Freeny and Jason Trusnik will also be in the mix, though one or two of these guys could be on the chopping block at this point. Trusnik signed a three-year deal in 2012, so the logical conclusion is Freeny is in the most danger.

Koa Misi, Wheeler, Jordan—he will play OLB at times—Kaddu and possibly Trusnik will all likely be in front of Jenkins on the depth chart. But Jenkins can make an impression and make himself the de facto backup during the preseason.


Early Projections

Fourth-round rookies don't have much promise as starters out of the gate, and there is little reason to think otherwise for Jenkins.

The Florida product could spell Misi on passing downs if he proves himself during the preseason, but it is likely he will get most of his work in playing special teams.

For reference, here are his statistics from his tenure at Florida:

Tackles Pass Defense Fumbles
Year Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds FF
2009 1 1 2 1 0 0 0
0 0 0 0 0
2010 41 35 76 4.5 2 1 47 47 0 2 1 10 0
2011 48 27 75 6 2 1 75 75 1 7 0 0 1
2012 19 10 29 5 2 1 14 14 0 1 0 0 0
Career 109 73 182 16.5 6 3 136 45.3 1 10 1 10 1

He only played nine games during his senior season due to injuries, which affected his play a bit when he was on the field.

With proper development, Jenkins could actually supplant Misi on the roster. It's just going to take a year or two to get there.