Back during his days at Liberty University, Miami Dolphins defensive back Walt Aikens was a standout corner, but when he was drafted by Miami in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL draft, then head coach Joe Philbin decided that he would be better utilized as a safety.
While he hasn't made a name for himself at that position, he has at times acted as a reserve player off the bench, and he has proven to be a special teams ace as he enters his fourth year in the league.
But the Dolphins are under new management now, and head coach Adam Gase has asked the soon-to-be 26-year old Aikens to move back to his old college position to increase the depth at corner, giving Aikens a real sense of nostalgia, and reminding him of the work he did at Liberty.
“First, it brings back memories." Aikens said. "Second, when you see certain plays, certain formations, you kind of get a feel for it after a while. Offense is always changing; but at the same time, if you’re in the right spots, you can easily make a play on the ball or break on the ball. It’s preparing me well.”
While he is getting this time at cornerback, he has been told that he is responsible for remembering the training he received at safety, making it so he can be inserted at either position at any time and turning him into a much more versatile player.
“I’ve got to be in a role where I can do both." Aikens said. "The more you can do, the more you bring to the team. So wherever coach wants me to play, I can go in and contribute right away.”
The Dolphins already have Byron Maxwell, Tony Lippett, Xavien Howard and rookie Cordrea Tankersley to compete for the boundary positions at corner, while Bobby McCain is the projected slot corner, with young players Lafayette Pitts and Jordan Lucas bringing up the rear.
Although, as last season proved, a team can never have enough depth at cornerback, and Aikens is already showing some of the same potential he did back in college.
“We like having a versatile player in that role on the roster, so Walt has done a good job,” defensive coordinator Matt Burke said. “Again, we’re trying to put him maybe in a spot that he’s not as comfortable and see how he responds, and he’s done a good job working for us so far.”
Aikens has taken to his old position like a dolphin to water, and the added versatility will be extremely valuable to the team in 2017. In the meantime, Aikens will continue to improve and bring himself back to form at his old position, and enjoying every moment of it.
“That’s what I always want to do." he said. "That’s my main position. Special teams is just something special I can add to the team. Going back to my college position, I’ve been more comfortable with each passing day. We’re having fun out there.”
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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