When the Miami Dolphins selected LB Jordan Tripp in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, the team did not expect Tripp to contribute much during his rookie season outside of a special teams centered role.
That could all change as outside linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler have both struggled thus far in their second season with the team.
Both Wheeler and Ellerbe were viewed as liabilities for Miami last season at linebacker — Wheeler at the weak-side outside linebacker position and Ellerbe at the middle linebacker position — and did not look overly impressive during their look with the starting unit last Friday night in Miami’s preseason opener.
Tripp, on the other hand, has made some flashy plays that have led to a promotion from a third-string outside linebacker to working with the second-string unit alongside Jason Trusnik (MLB) and Chris McCain (OLB) while also seeing snaps with the first-team defense in nickel and dime situations.
Tripp could be the next big thing for Miami at the linebacker position due to his aggressive style of play and his ability to move quickly to the football. The former Montana standout is a phenomenal athlete at the linebacker position — he ran a 4.67 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine — and shows shades of former Miami-great Zach Thomas in his ability to diagnose plays and play at such a physical level.
Miami is looking to boost their run defense, which ranked 24th against the run in 2013 — one of the team’s worst marks against the run in several seasons.
The unit was gashed in their preseason opener on a 77-yard touchdown drive, forcing the coaching staff to weigh other options such as Jelani Jenkins, Trusnik, McCain and Tripp over the Ellerbe-Wheeler experiment.
Tripp could be their answer playing alongside new middle linebacker Koa Misi. He collected 95-plus tackles twice during his collegiate tenure and collected 15 total sacks during that time as well.
He’s an old-school, physical, tough, nitty-gritty style player who could bring an added level of physicality to Miami’s defense that surely looked quite finesse in 2013.
Not to mention, if the team is looking for a player capable of making a big play, look no further than Tripp’s 73-yard forced fumble return for a touchdown in the team’s scrimmage two weeks ago.
Tripp will get the nod to start the season over either Ellerbe or Wheeler.