So far, I have broken down three positions for the Miami Dolphins—defensive line, wide receiver and running back. For my last positional preview, I'll take a look at the secondary, which is currently one giant question mark.
To me, Miami's secondary is their X-factor for the entire season. They have a talented but unreliable group, led by cornerback Vontae Davis.
Davis has been brilliant for some of his first three seasons in the NFL, but he can also tend to slack off at times. The former first-round pick was exposed on Hard Knocks for showing up to camp out of shape.
This is not a good sign for Davis, who said he has been working on his conditioning and that it has improved recently. Starting the first preseason game on the bench was not a good sign either for Davis, but hopefully it helps motivate him to return to top shape.
The player who started in place of Davis, Richard Marshall, is intriguing for a couple of reasons. Miami signed Marshall this past offseason to a three-year, $16 million contract to play nickel cornerback, but he got the start at cornerback against the Buccaneers.
Marshall is a former second-round pick who has averaged just over 82 tackles per season over the first six years of his career. If he can come in and be a consistent presence, it would provide a huge boost to the entire secondary.
In that preseason game, Marshall started the game opposite Sean Smith. While the secondary is the X-factor for Miami's season, Smith is the X-factor for the secondary. If he elevates his game, it would give the Dolphins a valuable weapon.
Smith is unique in that he stands 6'3", extremely tall for a cornerback. He is great in the air and against taller receivers, but he is relatively soft for his size. Against the Bucs, Smith looked shaky at best and will need to work hard for the rest of the summer.
When Miami cut safety Yeremiah Bell this past offseason, they lost a leader and trusted presence in the secondary. Two former fifth-round picks, Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones, are hoping to make fans forget about Bell this season.
Clemons and Jones only have three interceptions combined in their first two seasons, and they will need to create more turnovers if they are going to be successful. Both players know they need to play well this season, or Miami will turn elsewhere.
The one player who could steal a starting safety spot is Jimmy Wilson. Many Dolphins fans know Wilson's story by now—he allegedly shot and killed his aunt's boyfriend in 2007, spent almost two years in jail, was acquitted in 2009, went back and played at the University of Montana and was drafted by Miami in 2011.
Wilson is really athletic, and he has been pushing Clemons for the starting safety job. He mainly played cornerback in college, but he's strong enough and smart enough to also play safety, giving the Dolphins versatility in case Davis doesn't get in shape or someone else is injured.
If these players are on top of their game and play the way they are capable of, it could be one of the best units in the NFL. But if Davis doesn't shape up, Smith doesn't produce and the safeties are overmatched, it will make for a long season in Miami.