The Raekwon McMillan experiment is over in Miami. McMillan came into the 2017 NFL Draft as one of the top linebacker prospects in the class out of Ohio State. Miami drafted the LB in the second round with the idea he would be the linchpin of a revamped unit. The results, however, never lived up to the potential.
Now, McMillian and a fifth-round pick are off to Las Vegas in exchange for a fourth-round selection. With McMillan gone, what is left in the Dolphins linebacker room? By taking a look at the Relative Athletic Scores (RAS), the 2020 Dolphins linebackers are a mixed bag in the athleticism department.
None of the remaining inside linebackers who figure to play a prominent role for the Dolphins in 2020 tested as “Poor” athletes. However, only one of the three tested as an “Elite” athlete, and interestingly, he’s the only one of the three who didn’t test as a linebacker originally. Kamu Grugier-Hill entered the 2016 NFL Draft as a safety prospect, but thanks to Kent Lee Platte and the work he’s done on Relative Athletic Scores, we can compare his results to other linebackers.
By weight, Grugier-Hill tested as one of the smallest linebackers ever since 1987, which makes sense, as he was initially a safety. Grugier-Hill’s weight of 208 pounds would put him as the ninth-lightest linebacker ever in the RAS database. Since then, Grugier-Hill has put on over 20 pounds to be listed at a small, but respectable for the position, 229.
Weight, and a poor showing in the bench press, are where the negatives stop for Grugier-Hill from an athletic testing standpoint. The rest of his results were all in the “Great” or better category, leading him to an overall “Elite” RAS of 9.19 when adjusted for the linebacker position.
That “Elite” score is highlighted by some of the best speed numbers we’ve seen at the linebacker position. Both his 40-yard dash and 20-yard split times rank in the top 10 all-time at the position, while his 10-yard split ranks just outside the top 10 at 11th.
After Grugier-Hill, there’s a nearly two-point drop-off to the next closest linebacker athletically: 2020 Dolphins newcomer Elandon Roberts. Roberts comes to the Dolphins linebackers group in 2020 after spending four seasons and winning two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots. Reunited with his former position coach, Roberts stands to figure prominently in the battle for playing time at inside linebacker.
Much like Grugier-Hill, Roberts tested as one of the smallest linebackers we’ve seen. Where Grugier-Hill lacked in weight, Roberts came up short in the height department — though Roberts’ weight was also poor. Measuring at just 5’11 ⅜”, Roberts is one of the 90 shortest linebackers tested since 1987, coming in at 89th. Unlike Grugier-Hill, Roberts has a couple of other blemishes on his athletic testing that keeps him out of the “Great” or “Elite” categories.
Roberts had two other tests that fall into the “Poor” category of 5.0 or lower. His 10-yard split time of 1.67 seconds ranks 709th out of 1283 linebackers with a recorded time. Roberts also came away with a “Poor” performance in the 3-cone test, finishing with a time of 7.2 seconds. That time was good for 460th out of 891 linebackers to record a time in the 3-cone.
Of all his other scores, only Roberts’ shuttle time of 4.26 seconds falls outside of the “Great” category of 8.0 or higher.
The last player in our look at what remains of the position group has the lowest overall RAS score of the bunch. Sam Eguavoen comes to the Dolphins from the CFL ranks, and, much like the other two linebackers, has poor numbers in the size department.
Eguavoen showed up to his Pro Day in 2015 and measured just over 6’ tall and weighed 227 pounds, numbers that put him in the bottom half of linebackers all-time in both categories. Strength was also an issue for Eguavoen, putting up “only” 16 reps of 225 pounds, a number that places him outside the top 1500 all-time.
That’s the worst of it for Eguavoen. What he lacked in size and strength, he made up for in explosion. Both of his explosion scores — vertical jump and broad jump — were well above the 9.0 “Elite” threshold. His 38.5” vertical jump and 10’ 5” broad jump were both good enough to land just outside the top 100 all-time, at 110 and 118, respectively.
Eguavoen managed two other scores — the 10- and 20-yard split — that exceed the 8.0 threshold for “Great” scores while clocking three tests — the 40-yard dash, shuttle, and 3-cone — in the “Good” category.
Who wins the battle of the Dolphins linebackers in 2020?
Even though the athletic testing is all over the charts for each of the Dolphins linebackers, there are some similarities between the three. Each member of the position group is undersized, whether it be height, weight, or both. All of them bring great explosion and good speed at the position. Each also suffers in the agility category relative to their Explosion and Speed scores.
The big question is: Who comes out on top of the linebacker battle? In all likelihood, the answer is that no one does, effectively. The Dolphins, behind head coach Brian Flores, want to be a team that employs multiple fronts, schemes, and defensive personnel packages.
The most likely answer is that all three linebackers will see significant playing time in a rotation that keeps each player fresh and keeps every offensive coordinator guessing.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be an even split between the three. In fact, it’s almost a guarantee the split won’t be even. So who might be the clubhouse leader to take the lion’s share of the reps at inside linebacker opposite Jerome Baker? If you listen to Flores, it’s likely Grugier-Hill or Roberts.
Grugier-Hill brings something to the table that the departed McMillan struggled with — coverage. According to Dolphins beat reporter Joe Schad, coach Flores said Grugier-Hill has been flashing in coverage during the Dolphins training camp. It’s a passing league, and being able to cover the middle of the field has been an Achilles’ heel for the Dolphins linebacker corps for years.
In the case of Roberts, it’s about setting a tone in more ways than one. Roberts has reportedly been a thumper in camp the off-season, with Schad referring to him as “an enforcer.” While Roberts brings physicality, his contribution is likely going to be more outside the box score.
Coming with Kyle Van Noy from New England, Roberts brings that winning mentality with him — an attitude a young, developing locker room desperately needs. He also brings an intimate knowledge of the system and scheme Flores wants to run with the defense. Having him on the field to act as a second coach for the squad may prove to be invaluable.
However, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Eguavoen manages to work his way to the top of the rotation. Eguavoen made quite an impression on the coaching staff and fans alike in limited playing time last season. He just may be in line for an expanded role in the Dolphins linebacker group for the 2020 campaign.