One of the biggest takeaways of the first day of Miami Dolphins padded practice for this 2021 season? The team has some absolute maulers up front in their base defense. The Dolphins weren’t necessarily stout with consistency in 2020 stopping the run; they needed the emergence of players like Elandon Roberts and Raekwon Davis to find some level of stopping power up front and help the team with a playoff push that ultimately fell just short of the ultimate goal of a postseason berth.
But the Dolphins did well to attack their strengths and weaknesses alike this offseason, including a concentrated effort to stack up on bodies to help the run defense in 2021. John Jenkins’ addition on the line will help. So, too, will the presence of hybrid types like Vince Biegel (injury) and Brennan Scarlett (free agency).
But, for at least the first day of pads, no one shined quite like Benardrick McKinney. The former standout with the Houston Texans is looking to bounce back after seeing his career derailed by injury — and the Dolphins appear to be cooking up a perfect recipe to do exactly that. McKinney was a monster during Tuesday’s practice; knifing into the front on numerous occasions and disrupting gaps. Had the action allowed for taking ball carriers to the ground, more than one play would have seen McKinney driving runners to the turf.
Miami, generally speaking, took the air out of the ball at practice today. With the pads on, it was a great time to focus on the trenches and the intensity of full contact as a part of the team’s evaluation process. There’s been plenty of high-flying action in 7 on 7s to this point in training camp but today was dedicated, unofficially, to winning in the trenches.
McKinney and the rest of the front seven won the day.
It’s a promising showcase for a player who suddenly finds himself in a contract year in 2021 after a surprising restructure that cut several years off of his current deal. And it’s also an exciting peek at what could be for a Dolphins defense that was good in a number of ways last season but certainly left room for improvement. Miami’s got the horses up front to be an improved unit against the run — and no one player made a better statement about making an impact between the tackles better than McKinney.