Miami Dolphins' Jerome Baker embraces teammate Elandon Roberts' 'Dark Grind' mentality

Joe Schad
Palm Beach Post
Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Jerome Baker (55) forces a fumble with a tackle in the fourth quarter at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, December 20, 2020.

Jerome Baker figures to catch up with his former college and pro teammate, Raekwon McMillan, on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

"That’s my big brother right there," Baker said. "I talk to him pretty much every week."

Baker is a speedy, athletic linebacker and McMillan, who the Dolphins traded to the Raiders before the season, is a physical, run-stopping thumper.

McMillan's role was filled for Miami by Elandon Roberts, the hard-hitting, run-stuffing former Patriot. And Baker said this week he's gotten tight with Roberts.

In fact, Baker was wearing a "DARK GRIND" baseball cap this week, representing the philosophy and mindset Roberts takes to work. It's Roberts' brand.

"The 'Dark Grind' is the work you put in when nobody’s looking," Baker explained. "The work you put in when it’s just you and the grind. That hard sweat that you’re not doing it for cameras, you’re not doing it for people, you’re just doing it for you to get better."

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Baker has always been a sideline-to-sideline demon. Last season, Baker racked up 126 tackles and this year he already has a team-leading 97 tackles.

Baker has taken giant leaps as a pass-rusher and has a career-high six sacks. But he's also worked really hard to improve against the inside running attack.

"Honestly, I study and I talk to E. Rob (Roberts) because he’s quite good at run defense — the run stopping," Baker said. "So I talk to him, I’m in his ear, I’m in Kyle (Van Noy's) ear. I’m pretty much just asking the question, ‘How can I get better?’ Sometimes the truth hurts, but you definitely just have to take it and you’re either going to just fold or you’re going to attack it and that’s what I’ve been doing."

Baker says he wants to be a three-down linebacker, which he generally is, as he makes Miami's defensive calls. What he really means is he doesn't want to be pigeonholed as a cover linebacker or a pass-rush linebacker.

"He works relentlessly to get better in each part of his game," Miami linebackers coach Anthony Campanile said this week. "I feel like as the season has gone on, there really isn’t one part of his game that he hasn’t improved upon. The run game, the pass game, as a pass rusher, he’s had some success doing all of the things we’ve asked him to do."

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Baker's most memorable play of the season was a 30-yard sack of Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs. In the past two games, Baker has racked up 3.5 sacks, 17 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 4 quarterback hits and 1 forced fumble.

Baker is creating "splash" plays. But ironically, Baker believes the area he's become better at is staying within himself and Miami's system.

“I think for me, it was just realizing I don’t have to make the tackle all the time," Baker said. "I don’t have to do the splash play. Sometimes building the wall is the best thing to do."

Those words ring true to first-year defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, who has the NFL's first-ranked scoring defense.

"There’s 11 guys out there on the field and they all have to be working as a unit," Boyer said. "If we have one guy that breaks down on every play, then a lot of times those are going to be big plays against us. It doesn’t hurt you every time, but the majority of the time it really does."

Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Jerome Baker (55) celebrates a sack of New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) Sunday in the fourth quarter at Hard Rock Stadium.

One thing Campanile suggested Baker is doing well this season is studying and preparing well. It gives him a good feel for what the opponent will try to do to him.

As Roberts would say, he's embracing the grind.

"E. Rob, (Roberts), he’s been around long enough, you can just tell he’s all about putting that work in when nobody’s looking," Baker said. "He doesn’t care who’s around. He doesn’t care if it’s coaches, he doesn’t care if it’s players — whoever it is. He’s just going to put the work in and get better. He got me this hat and I’m all for wearing it."

Saturday's game

Dolphins at Raiders, 8:15 p.m., NFL

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