PARTING shots
Dolphin Digest|August 30, 2021
It’s time for Baker to become elite
ANDY COHEN

Linebacker Jerome Baker has had a very nice first three seasons with the Dolphins, so nice that he was rewarded with a three-year $39 million contract extension this offseason.

But now with the experience of having led this defense in tackles for two straight seasons, it is time for Baker to reach another level.

It’s time for him to become elite.

There are several players on this defense who face a similar challenge at this juncture of their career. But it is Baker from this vantage point where the spotlight shines the brightest. He has the tools. He has the smarts. He now has the experience. He has put together a resume filled with solid performances, and if he fails to progress from here, he remains good enough to be a quality starter for a long time.

But the Dolphins need him to be more than that. This defense needs him to be more than that. He is now firmly in his prime years, comforted by that contract extension, and determined to keep his career trajectory pointing upward. You look at his numbers: 37 starts in 48 games, 311 tackles, 11.5 sacks and two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown against the Jets. Impressive stuff. But as good as those numbers are, you look at Baker’s physical tools, you think about his knowledge of this defense, and you just know he is capable of more game-turning plays.

The Dolphins have some promising options at linebacker, what with the drafting of Jaelan Phillips, the signing of veteran Benardrick McKinney and the anticipated progress of third-year player Andrew Van Ginkel. But it is Baker from whom we expect the most of this season.

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