Rookie Jelani Jenkins Adds Depth, Athleticism To Miami Dolphins LB Group

By Craig Ballard
Kim Klement – USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins made big changes to their linebacker group this offseason, as out went Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett and in came Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler. This new look LB group should be faster and more aggressive at attacking/blitzing opposing quarterbacks, and rookie Jelani Jenkins could provide some versatility and depth to the unit as well.

With the 104th overall pick in this year’s draft, the Dolphins selected the 6-feet, 245-pound University of Florida product. This young man possesses several key qualities that Joe Philbin covets from his players. His athleticism is great and his football IQ is a very sound, certain strength of his. Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle place emphasis on tackling technique, which is already a strength for Jenkins. At Florida, he played several different LB positions, so I have to like his versatility even though he is likely best suited to be an outside LB exclusively at the NFL level. Another reason he was on Miami’s radar is he is very well suited to fit in to a 4-3 base defense like Miami runs — I’d say it is unlikely that 3-4 base teams had much interest in Jenkins.

Jenkins is a guy who can be effective when called on in pass coverage too. Zone, man, either way he has cover skills and has the athleticism to make a play on the ball. He does need to develop his pass rushing skills but the Dolphins may not ask him to blitz very often — more likely will be on the field to attack the run and help in pass coverage. Away from the field, this guy is uber smart. Jenkins was grades oriented thanks to his parents, and I love that sort of diversity. I have tons of respect for players who excel on and off the football field.

Miami very much wanted to draft a tight end and a kicker in the middle rounds, but both positions were addressed only after Jenkins was drafted. Miami saw him on the board at No. 104 and felt the value was too good to pass up. I look forward to watching this former Gator develop on the NFL level. Many consider him too small, but I would say time will tell if this guy can be legit on the NFL stage.

Craig Ballard is a NFL/NBA/MLB writer for Follow him on Twitter @craigballard77, and you can find all of his articles HERE

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