Mike Hull will have a bigger role for the Miami Dolphins this season. The question is whether or not he’ll be the man in the middle.
In the split of a second the biggest day of your life can turn for the worst. That was the case for rookie linebacker Raekwon McMillan. In his first action on special teams he tore his ACL. Just like that, a hopeful season for a young man with a dream is put to a halt.
There’s no question that the loss of McMillan is going to hurt. The second round rookie out of Ohio State was on tap to start week one. Now he’s spending the duration of his rookie season on injured reserve. That means it’s time for somebody to step up and it’s head coach Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Matt Burke’s responsibility to have someone ready to go Sep. 10.
The next man up mentality is key to live by in the NFL. Injuries are bound to happen no matter your status in the league. Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum and general manager Chris Grier worked this offseason to have the best players in camp in case the scenario were to happen. McMillan and veteran Lawrence Timmons were both brought in but otherwise it’s a similar linebackers room.
So who’s the next guy in line? Timmons could make the move over to the middle of the defense as could Kiko Alonso. If that’s the choice then Neville Hewitt may benefit and get the start against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers week one. However, it was Mike Hull that got the bulk of the action in the first week of the preseason.
It’s not hard to forget Hull. He stepped in for an injured Alonso last season against the Arizona Cardinals and intercepted Carson Palmer in his first quarter as a starter. And while he draws comparisons to Dolphins all-time great Zach Thomas there’s still many doubters.
Too small. Not fast enough. Lacks the strength to be a middle linebacker in today’s NFL. Those are all labels that are placed on Hull. The same labels that were placed on Thomas coming out of Texas Tech and they continue to follow Hull as he enters his third season out of Penn State.
What Hull does have that are key for the leader of the defense is intangibles. Is it enough to win himself a starting spot?
Fortunately for Miami they have three more weeks to make a decision. Training camp will be wrapping up soon but they get to hit the field again this Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens.