Miami Dolphins 2020 Training Camp Preview: Outside Linebackers

The Miami Dolphins outside linebackers needed an overhaul entering 2020. With four new faces, who are in the shake-up for playing time?

With the 3-4 defense that Brian Flores and the Miami Dolphins run, the need for strong outside linebacker play is crucial, and subsequently, they invested heavily into this group in the 2020 offseason. This position group will be facing some new challenges as some players will be playing in an odd front for the first time. With one of the holdovers out for the season, it’s most likely that the top four Dolphins outside linebackers in 2020 will be playing in their first season in Miami.

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Flores reuniting with a familiar face in Kyle Van Noy

Van Noy was a must-have outside linebacker for the Dolphins in 2020. With the defensive plan to show varying looks, there may not be a more versatile outside linebacker in the NFL. Van Noy’s role in 2019 changed with Flores leaving the New England Patriots, as he rushed the passer more than ever.

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In Miami, Van Noy will go back to being deployed in all facets of the position. Be that setting the edge in run support from the line of scrimmage, dropping into coverage, or rushing the passer as a blitzer or true edge defender. Having a joker type player in Van Noy will make the Dolphins very difficult to assess out of the huddle and on pre-snap reads.

Shaq Lawson heads to South Beach looking to impress

To say the Dolphins lacked pass rush in 2019 may be the understatement of all understatements, as they registered just 22 sacks and only 122 total pressures. Lawson was signed to a three-year, $30 million deal in mid-March to hopefully improve the Dolphins potency in this area.

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Lawson’s first two years with the Buffalo Bills didn’t amount to much, but over the last two seasons playing mostly in passing situations, he’s been able to find some success, with career highs in sacks, solo tackles, tackles for loss, and quarterback hits in 2019. He’s already somewhat failed in the 3-4 outside linebacker role, so we may see him used to make this defense look more like an even front at times. However, his hand usage and run diagnosis have vastly improved in the last couple of years, meaning he may have more success in that 3-4 role as well.  

Emmanuel Ogbah bring the potential of high upside

Ogbah was the first pick of the second round in the 2016 NFL Draft. Entering the NFL with great college production and athleticism, he had a rookie season that suggested he was set to become a solid starter in the league for years to come. Injuries thwarted his production in the next two seasons in Cleveland leading them to trade him in the 2019 off-season.

With Kansas City last season, it was really starting to come together once again before a pectoral injury ended his season. He has versatility in his roles, including the ability to play inside if asked, and has always been a player who does his job. Ogbah possesses a wide arrangement of tools, but can this be the year he puts it all together?

Dolphins drafted a productive wild card in the fifth round

While some of the other outside linebackers the Dolphins brought in for 2020 may be asked to play stand up for the first time in a while, or ever, it might suit fifth-round pick Curtis Weaver the best. Weaver lacks the height to be a traditional hand in the ground player but is quick off the edge and has great hand activity as a rusher.

Editor’s note: Curtis Weaver was waived by the Dolphins with an injury designation on Monday afternoon.

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Freeing Weaver to rush from a stand-up stance will allow him to get his hands on offensive tackles even quicker. His run assignments need polishing, as he gets taken out of too many plays, and doesn’t always set the edge like he’ll be required to in this scheme.

Who will be fighting for roster spots and playing time?

On Tuesday, August 18th, veteran outside linebacker Vince Biegel ruptured his Achilles tendon and is out for the season. While we do not know where Biegel would have fitted in this Dolphins depth chart, it does present opportunities for a number of players to compete for that fifth outsider linebacker spot.

Andrew Van Ginkel

Van Ginkel would have seen a lot more reps in 2019 if not for starting the season on injured reserve. He has the athleticism to fight for playing time, and there were a few who likened him to now teammate Van Noy coming out of Wisconsin. Van Ginkel also has the ability to both drop into coverage and bend around the edge in order to get after the quarterback. If he shows he can be stronger in tackling and shedding blocks, he’ll find reps with his versatility.

Sam Eguavoen

After playing three seasons in Canada, Eguavoen joined the Dolphins for 2019. He posted 42 combined tackles and 3.5 sacks, which were both solid numbers. He’s a high energy player which shows when he is blitzing. He will most likely be competing with Van Ginkel for the fifth outside linebacker spot for the Dolphins in 2020.

James Crawford

Crawford logged just 62 total snaps in 2019 before heading to injured reserve. As a rookie in 2018, he turned heads in Green Bay with his special teams work. His athletic ability has shown on special teams, but his frame is too light for serious consideration to play outside linebacker in an odd front. With so many brought into this positional room, it seems as though Crawford is a long shot to be on the roster when the Dolphins head into Week 1.