Cornerback Nik Needham was one of the biggest success stories for the Miami Dolphins in 2019, but he's come a long way since last summer.
With the Dolphins signing Byron Jones as a free agent and selecting Noah Igbinoghene in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft to bolster their cornerback corps, it's been easy to forget about Needham — as well as the other young cornerbacks on the roster.
But that doesn't mean they should be dismissed because one or more of them could end up playing some kind of role in 2020.
"I think Nik has made a lot of improvement over the course of the year," head coach Brian Flores said Tuesday morning. "How Nik came into training camp, he’s learned a lot. I think he’s matured a lot. I think he’s taken a lot more of a professional approach from his rookie year. He’s made some strides.
"I tell these guys, when you get your opportunity, you have to take advantage of it. It’s like basketball. When you get your opportunity, that’s like getting to the free-throw line. You either make it or you don’t. That’s kind of some of the things we talk about. So when Nik goes in because somebody else goes down and plays well, that’s what we’re talking about as far as taking advantage of your opportunities. And that’s not just football, that’s life in general. Nik has done a good job."
Needham came to the Dolphins as a rookie free agent, then worked his way off the practice squad to end up starting 11 games in the secondary.
He admitted after being promoted to the active roster that he maybe wasn't quite professional enough in his approach during training camp, but it was a lesson well learned.
As one would expect with all rookies, there were some ups and downs for Needham as a rookie. His highlights came with his two interceptions, including his first career pick in the 16-12 victory against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Needham figures to be a better corner as he enters his second NFL season, but exactly where he fits in the plans for the Dolphins secondary remains to be determined.
But he may get a chance to show what kind of improvement he's made.