One of the most fun current Miami Dolphins player to cover is cornerback Tony Lippett. The former college wide receiver turned corner is smoothly making the transition from offense to defense in his NFL career. When it comes to his NFL level talent, he is not quite there yet but you can witness his growth.
To ﬁnd signiﬁcant defensive stats on Tony Lippett, you would have to go all the way back to his redshirt freshman year at Michigan State. His 18 total tackles that season is hardly the experience needed to play at an NFL level. Fast forward to round five of the 2015 NFL draft and the Dolphins took a gamble after seeing his limited action in three games prior. Teams attempted to throw his way just eight times, a few broken up, and gained 13 yards.
With a limited sample size, Miami felt that was enough to give him a shot. They could afford to gamble with a late round pick as his experience on both sides of the ball also gave them depth if needed in a thin receiving corps at the time. Instead, the Dolphins chose to roll the dice and his career as a defensive back came to shape.
Lippett led the Miami Dolphins with just four interceptions last season. However, those interceptions came at key moments in defensive stands. In just his second season, he went from nine games played to 16. In those 16 games, his tackles/assists tripled and went from one pass knocked down up to 10. While statistically, nothing about those numbers scream future Hall of Famer, fans still should have plenty to get excited for.
Teams ask players to change positions in the NFL all the time. Most position changes come from necessity. For most players, however, they tend to stay on the same side of the football. They might ask a quarterback to switch to receiver, a corner into a safety position, or a guard would switch to tackle. Lippett went from a receiver, with a little defensive experience, to corner in one season. His growth at the NFL level between year 1 and year 2 are what coaches could hope for.
The Miami Dolphins have plenty of players vying for playing time at cornerback. The Dolphins already have Xavien Howard and Byron Maxwell penciled in as starters. From there the Dolphins have experienced vets like Bobby McCain, Jordan Lucas and Tony Lippett expected to play their roles. Even newcomer Cordrea Tankersly could see signiﬁcant playing time if he can hold his own.
This offseason, many analysts had cornerback as a position of weakness for the Dolphins. While not all these players are household names, expect one or two of them to push to become one. If Lippett can make improve just as much in year 3, the Dolphins would have ﬂexibility to move on from veteran Byron Maxwell’s bloated contract. Maxwell is one of their top defenders, if he can consistently produce at a high level he is an asset to the team. Fans would hate to see him go. However, Miami has many roster decisions ahead and he might be a cap casualty. Unless either takes a step back this year, fans should expect Lippett and Howard their starting CBs going forward.
Editor’s Note: This article can also be seen in our upcoming NFL Preview Edition.