Where each Dolphins rookie stands and how he could contribute to playoff push

After trading most of their 2022 draft capital for wide receiver Tyreek Hill, the Dolphins weren’t expected to have significant contributions from their rookie class. However, the team has called on multiple first-year players in the first half of the season.

Entering the bye week, the Dolphins have six rookies on their 53-man roster. One, cornerback Kader Kohou, has been a starter for most of the season. Another, quarterback Skylar Thompson, made one start after injuries to Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater. And a third, safety Verone McKinley III, has seen his role increase in wake of the season-ending injury to Brandon Jones.

Here’s a look at where each Dolphins rookie stands and how he might be able to contribute to a playoff push in the remaining eight games.

LB Channing Tindall

2022 stats: Nine games played, two tackles

Skinny: The third-round pick out of Georgia and the Dolphins’ first selection in the 2022 Draft has played just nine defensive snaps this season. Five of those snaps came in the Week 9 win against the Chicago Bears; he was primarily used as a spy for quarterback Justin Fields.

Future role: Inside linebackers coach Anthony Campanile has spoken positively about Tindall’s growth, but the Dolphins have multiple veterans who they trust more than the rookie as of now. A rematch against the Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen, as well as potential playoff matchups against the Baltimore Ravens or Kansas City Chiefs, could see Tindall return to the field in his spy role.

Miami Dolphins linebacker coach Anthony Campanile watches as linebacker Channing Tindall (41) sprints for a drill during Dolphins practice at Baptist Health Training Complex in Miami Gardens on Wednesday, October 26, 2022. Daniel A. Varela/dvarela@miamiherald.com
Miami Dolphins linebacker coach Anthony Campanile watches as linebacker Channing Tindall (41) sprints for a drill during Dolphins practice at Baptist Health Training Complex in Miami Gardens on Wednesday, October 26, 2022. Daniel A. Varela/dvarela@miamiherald.com

WR Erik Ezukanma

2022 stats: Zero games played

Skinny: The fourth-round pick was a training camp standout but has been a healthy scratch for each game. Wide receivers coach Wes Welker said that after Ezukanma spent the summer at the Z receiver position, the team has asked him to learn the F position; Welker cited it as the reason undrafted rookie Braylon Sanders was elevated for the Week 9 game against the Detroit Lions and filled in for an injured River Cracraft.

Future role: Barring an injury to Tyreek Hill or Jaylen Waddle, Ezukanma doesn’t appear to have a clear avenue to the field in Year 1. The Dolphins have gotten good contributions from Cracraft and Trent Sherfield in the slot, while Cedrick Wilson Jr. has gotten more involved in recent weeks.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Erik Ezukanma (18) runs drills during a team practice session at the Baptist Health Training Complex on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla. MATIAS J. OCNER/mocner@miamiherald.com
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Erik Ezukanma (18) runs drills during a team practice session at the Baptist Health Training Complex on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla. MATIAS J. OCNER/mocner@miamiherald.com

LB Cameron Goode

2022 stats: Zero games played

Skinny: The seventh-round pick has spent the season on the practice squad.

Future role: Barring injury, it will be tough for the rookie to crack the team’s outside linebacker rotation this season.

QB Skylar Thompson

2022 stats: Three games played (one start), 57.4 completion percentage, 272 passing yards, one interception, 9 rushing yards

Skinny: The seventh-round pick made the team’s 53-man roster as a third quarterback and was elevated to the backup quarterback role when Tua Tagovailoa sustained a concussion. He made his first NFL start in Week 6 against the Minnesota Vikings after Bridgewater was placed in concussion protocol but sustained a right thumb injury.

Future role: Barring injury, Thompson will continue as the No. 3 role, but he has shown potential to be the team’s backup quarterback next season.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Skylar Thompson sets up to pass during pregame warmups before the start of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, November 13, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. David Santiago/dsantiago@miamiherald.com
Miami Dolphins quarterback Skylar Thompson sets up to pass during pregame warmups before the start of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, November 13, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. David Santiago/dsantiago@miamiherald.com

CB Kader Kohou

2022 stats: Eight games played (six starts), 39 tackles, five pass breakups, one forced fumble

Skinny: Kohou has been one of the best stories of the Dolphins’ season, an undrafted rookie from formerly Division II Texas A&M Commerce who quickly earned a starting role. With Nik Needham out for the season because of a torn Achilles and the return of Byron Jones from the PUP list still uncertain, Kohou has assumed the boundary role opposite Xavien Howard. Despite his youth, he has been reliable in coverage and a willing tackler in space.

Future role: Kohou is expected to keep his starting role for the remainder of the season. Even if Jones is able to return, Kohou could slide into the nickel role, once again giving the Dolphins a strong trio of cornerbacks.

Miami Dolphins cornerback Kader Kohou (28) tackles Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) during fourth quarter of an NFL football game at Soldier Field on Sunday, November 6, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. David Santiago/dsantiago@miamiherald.com
Miami Dolphins cornerback Kader Kohou (28) tackles Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney (11) during fourth quarter of an NFL football game at Soldier Field on Sunday, November 6, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. David Santiago/dsantiago@miamiherald.com

TE Tanner Conner

2022 stats: Nine games played, zero receptions (three targets)

Skinny: Conner made the team as an undrafted rookie and has primarily contributed on special teams while logging 23 snaps on offense.

Future role: The Dolphins like Conner’s potential, but he’s currently stuck behind Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe and fullback Alec Ingold, who the team uses like a tight end.

S Verone McKinley III

2022 stats: Three games played (one start), seven tackles

Skinny: The undrafted rookie spent the first half of the season on the practice squad, being elevated three times and making one start against the Lions. The Dolphins signed him to the 53-man roster ahead of the Week 10 win over the Cleveland Browns, where he continued to play as a deep safety in a part-time role.

Future role: The Dolphins have utilized multiple safeties to make up for the loss of Brandon Jones, who tore his ACL in Week 7. Coordinator Josh Boyer likes McKinley’s coverage skills and with some prolific passing offenses remaining on the second-half schedule, McKinley could be a big part of the defensive game plan.

WR Braylon Sanders

2022 stats: One game played, two receptions, 17 yards

Skinny: Sanders, an undrafted rookie, was elevated for the Lions game after Cracraft was ruled out. He lost a fumble on his first career catch but rebounded and caught another pass in his NFL debut.

Future role: Welker said that Sanders has been spending more time learning the F position. The Dolphins have good depth at wide receiver but he could be a candidate to be called up to the active roster again in case of an injury to the team’s top slot receivers.

CB Kalon Barnes

2022 stats: Zero games played

Skinny: The undrafted rookie hasn’t been elevated for any games this season.

Future role: Barring another rash of injuries at corner, Barnes isn’t expected to be elevated to the active roster.

OL James Empey

2022 stats: Zero games played

Skinny: The undrafted rookie hasn’t been elevated for any games this season.

Future role: The Dolphins’ offensive line has been one of the most positive developments this season. Barring several injuries, Empey isn’t expected to be elevated to the active roster.

WR Calvin Jackson Jr.

2022 stats: Zero games played

Skinny: The son of late Dolphins defensive back Calvin Jackson signed to the team’s practice squad in late October.

Future role: The Dolphins have good depth at wide receiver but Jackson has played in a similar scheme with the New York Jets and came to Miami with knowledge of the playbook.