Dolphins linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel’s departure seemed likely this offseason, after the team traded for Bradley Chubb and cut Van Ginkel’s snaps on defense from 801 in 2021 to 334 to 2022.
But then new coordinator Vic Fangio started studying tape of Dolphins personnel. And he immediately took a liking to Van Ginkel, convinced him to return this season and is now working to expand his role.
During ongoing offseason practices, Fangio has Van Ginkel taking snaps at inside linebacker — a position he hasn’t played since his freshman season at Wisconsin. He’s also continuing to work at outside linebacker, which is his natural position. Van Ginkel could be a good fit at inside linebacker in nickel packages.
Van Ginkel said he’s excited about learning a new position.
“I’m embracing the role and trying to learn different positions to give myself an opportunity to be on the field and be productive,” he said Tuesday. “It’s a different game [inside]. I’m still learning the role and what it takes. It’s a process, not something that’s going to happen overnight.”
Playing inside linebacker has “always kind of been an option,” he said. “Teams have always looked at me [and asked]: ‘Can he play inside or outside? I want to be able to learn both. It gives me an opportunity to play.”
He has been studying tape of inside linebackers who played in Fangio’s system in Denver and San Francisco.
What’s clear is that Fangio likes Van Ginkel’s ability, and he’s looking for ways to use him in a defense that is expected to start Chubb and Jaelan Phillips at outside linebacker and Jerome Baker and David Long Jr. at inside linebacker.
According to Van Ginkel, Fangio told him “that I fit well in his defense and he’s got a good defense, and everything he does has a purpose to it and he can use me schematically and he is going to use me to my advantage and put me in position to make plays.”
Van Ginkel has been productive when he plays; he has 11 sacks, four forced fumbles, a fumble recovery for a touchdown, 23 tackles for loss and an interception in four seasons.
Van Ginkel, who visited New England and Las Vegas in free agency, signed a one-year deal with a $1.5 million base salary and $750,000 bonus plus up to $400,000 in additional bonus money, per overthecap.com.
“I’m just happy to be back; this has been home to me for the last four years. I’m appreciative that they appreciate me and wanted me back..
“Coach Fangio is putting guys in the best position to make plays. If he thinks I can do that inside or outside, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
Notable developments from Tuesday’s practice, the first of four or five open to reporters this offseason:
▪ Rookie running back De’Von Achane and receivers Braxton Berrios and Cedrick Wilson Jr. were among the standouts.
Wilson made three catches, including an impressive one on a throw from Tua Tagovailoa.
Achane showed his speed and burst on a couple of runs, and also displayed his good hands with at least two receptions.
Berrios had two receptions for sizable gains, both on well thrown passes from Skylar Thompson.
▪ Receiver Erik Ezukanma caught a 22-yard sideline pattern from Tagovailoa.
.▪ Jevon Holland picked off a poorly thrown pass from new backup quarterback Mike White.
▪ Cornerback Bryce Thompson nearly intercepted a poorly thrown Skylar Thompson pass intended for Wilson.
And Skylar Thompson badly overthrew Robbie Chosen (formerly Robbie Anderson) on a play in which Chosen was wide open.
▪ Jaylen Waddle and Alec Ingold dropped passes from Tagovailoa.
▪ Cornerback Kader Kohou made a nice pass breakup on a Tagovailoa throw to Wilson.
▪ Campbell rookie tight end Julian Hill had at least one reception, from Thompson.
▪ Raekwon Davis, Phillips, Mitchell Agude, Aubrey Miller and Cameron Goode were among those with would-be sacks.
▪ Rookie cornerback Cam Smith had one good play but also allowed a 20-yard reception by Freddie Swain, who jumped to come down with it.
▪ Center Connor Williams and defensive lineman Zach Sieler — who are entering the final seasons of their contracts and are believed to be interested in extensions — weren’t at the voluntary practice. No definitive clarity was offered on whether the two issues were related, but I would keep an eye on this.
Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, whose camp is negotiating a contract extension with the Dolphins, participated and spoke to reporters afterward but declined to comment on extension talks, saying he’s leaving that to his agent.
▪ Beyond Williams and Sieler, others not spotted Tuesday included receiver Tyreek Hill, left tackle Terron Armstead and cornerback Trill Williams, who is coming off a knee injury that sidelined him all of last season.
▪ Safety Brandon Jones (torn ACL in Week 6) and cornerback Nik Needham (ruptured Achilles in Week 7) were on the field but not yet able to participate in practice.
▪ Linebacker Duke Riley wore the orange jersey that’s given to the standout performer from the previous day’s practice.