Bobby McCain Jersey

With the NFL draft a little over a week away, the Dolphins could give a clear indication of where Fitzpatrick will line up, and their insight into the group of defensive backs already on the roster heading into training camp.

“I think my preference is to see what he can handle and see what he does that will help the team win,” Flores said during the NFL meetings last month in Phoenix of Fitzpatrick, who played nickel, safety and as a cover cornerback after being Miami’s 11th overall pick in the 2018 draft.

“If that’s multiple positions, then that’s multiple positions. If that’s one spot, then that’s one spot. … I think versatility is going to be very important, and he’s a very versatile player. He was last year. We’re excited to work with him.”

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Fitzpatrick lined up at safety on Tuesday, the first day of the Dolphins’ three-day voluntary minicamp, in place of Reshad Jones, who “made a decision to train somewhere else,” according to Flores.

Here is what the Dolphins should do with Fitzpatrick and their secondary moving forward: they should start Fitzpatrick, their most versatile defender with significant upside, opposite Pro Bowler Xavien Howard, and see if he can mature into a starting NFL cornerback.

If Flores and his new coaching staff believe Fitzpatrick is a better fit at safety or in the nickel, Miami will have to consider drafting a cornerback in 2020.

The Dolphins may not use the No. 13 overall pick in next week’s draft on a player like Georgia cornerback DeAndre Baker or LSU cornerback Greedy Williams, who could be the first defensive back off the board.

But in later rounds, cornerbacks like Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin, Clemson’s Trayvon Mullen, Notre Dame’s Julian Love or safeties like Florida’s Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Miami’s Jaquan Johnson, Washington’s Taylor Rapp or Virginia’s Juan Thornill are considered among the best defensive backs in the draft and could receive significant consideration from the Dolphins.

Flores plans to run a hybrid defensive with a mix of 4-3 and 3-4 principles, and will opt at times to have an extra defensive back or two on the field in the secondary instead of an extra linebacker or lineman in certain sets.

The Dolphins already have a lockdown cornerback in Howard, who intercepted seven passes, which was tied for the NFL lead last season, garnering his first career Pro Bowl appearance after his third season. Miami continues to work on signing Howard to a long-term contract extension.

If Flores and his new coaching staff believe Fitzpatrick is a better fit at safety or in the nickel, Miami will have to consider drafting a cornerback in 2020.

The Dolphins may not use the No. 13 overall pick in next week’s draft on a player like Georgia cornerback DeAndre Baker or LSU cornerback Greedy Williams, who could be the first defensive back off the board.

But in later rounds, cornerbacks like Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin, Clemson’s Trayvon Mullen, Notre Dame’s Julian Love or safeties like Florida’s Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Miami’s Jaquan Johnson, Washington’s Taylor Rapp or Virginia’s Juan Thornill are considered among the best defensive backs in the draft and could receive significant consideration from the Dolphins.

Flores plans to run a hybrid defensive with a mix of 4-3 and 3-4 principles, and will opt at times to have an extra defensive back or two on the field in the secondary instead of an extra linebacker or lineman in certain sets.

The Dolphins already have a lockdown cornerback in Howard, who intercepted seven passes, which was tied for the NFL lead last season, garnering his first career Pro Bowl appearance after his third season. Miami continues to work on signing Howard to a long-term contract extension.

If Jones is on the team as Grier predicts, Fitzpatrick likely would be the second-best boundary cornerback on the roster behind Xavien Howard. Bobby McCain appears best suited to play slot cornerback, though nothing is set. Besides Jones, T.J. McDonald is Miami’s other veteran starting safety.

Fitzpatrick said in December that one reason he wanted clarity on his position by February was to know what weight to play at. “I lost 10 pounds playing cornerback because I moved faster, chasing guys around,” he said in December. “If I’m playing safety, maybe 8 to 10 pounds more [is better] so I have a little extra thud.”

He said Wednesday that he’s handling the uncertainty by staying at the 204 pounds he finished last season. “I’m sitting in the middle, just in case I’ve got to lose weight or gain weight,” he said.

But Fitzpatrick sees positives in cross-training at multiple positions.

“The type of defense we’re projected to run, you have to be versatile,” he said. “You got to move around. I don’t think anyone in the secondary will be sitting in one spot. You could be in one spot in one game and in the next week, be in a different spot. No matter who you are, you have to move around, you have to cover guys in the slot, cover guys outside.

“It adds value to myself, to play different spots on the field. It adds value to me. It may be extremely tough and hard and taxing, but it’s worth it in the end. It’s worth it because you make more plays.”

He said when he asked which Patriots defensive backs he should watch, he was told “to watch all of them. All of them moved around. There was no guy who just sat in the box or just moved around.”

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