It's still early on the NFL calendar, but Jordan Tripp is already making an impression with the Miami Dolphins.
Tripp, a Missoula Big Sky graduate and former Montana Grizzly, was selected by the Dolphins in the fifth round of this spring's NFL Draft. After a strong performance in Miami's first preseason game, Tripp has received repetitions with the starting defense in practice, according to the South Florida media.
"It's a broad spectrum. The more knowledge you can bring to the game the more reliable you're going to be," Tripp, who is playing both inside and outside linebacker, told the Sun-Sentinel. "My comfort level is only getting better and better. I'm just taking advantage of the reps they give me and focus on making new mistakes, not the same ones again, and learning from those mistakes."
Tripp became a favorite of multiple NFL draft experts last spring as one of the small-school prospects to watch. His pro-day measurements impressed scouts, but it was his leadership and playmaking ability at Montana that really stood out.
The skill and motivation he showed in Missoula, which ultimately earned him the coveted No. 37 Grizzly jersey, have apparently put Tripp in position to grab one of Miami's three starting linebacker spots -- a rarity for a rookie, let alone a small-school player drafted in the fifth round.
Mark Duffner, the Dolphins linebackers coach, told the Palm Beach Post he doesn't care where a player went to college.
"I'm not as overly concerned about that, the small school or not," Duffner said. "They had to be highly competitive where they were.
"(Tripp's) a highly competitive guy and he did see reps against (Atlanta's) second group (in the first preseason game). It didn't appear like it's too big for him right now and we're going to continue to see his ability to make plays."
Coyle trying to earn roster spot with defending Super Bowl champs
Another former Grizzly linebacker is making noise on the opposite coast. Brock Coyle, a Bozeman native who suited up alongside Tripp in Missoula, was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Seattle Seahawks.
Coyle started last week's preseason game against the Broncos.
“When I watched him in college at Montana, I really saw some instinctive intelligence and some hunger and some competitive drive,’’ Seahawks linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. told the Seattle Times. “And everything I thought I was getting is that and even more.’’