Miami Dolphins: Why Reshad Jones Is a Top 10 Safety in the NFL

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Miami Dolphins: Why Reshad Jones Is a Top 10 Safety in the NFL
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Miami Dolphins safety Reshad Jones is not perfect, but he is emerging as one of the best all-around safeties in the NFL.

His versatility against the run and the pass has made him a factor on nearly every down. While there are some aspects of his game that need some polish, there are so many more things he does well than things he doesn't.

His talents have been on display all year, but he put all of it on display at once against the New England Patriots, finishing the day with 10 tackles, a sack, a pass deflection and an interception.

The Patriots wanted to target Jones on a downfield pass, where he has struggled at times this year (more on that later).

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady saw Jones locked up on tight end Aaron Hernandez, who has been slowed down by a high ankle sprain this year, but has been no less of a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.

Once he saw the one-on-one, he knew where he was going with the ball. 

What he didn't notice, though, was that Jones had gone Freddie Krueger on the matchup nightmare by keeping his eyes on the ball while staying with his man stride for stride. He got in between the ball and the receiver, and with an amazing display of athleticism, he came up with the interception.

Brady's interception-less streak was alive and well at 204 pass attempts before Jones played the Grim Reaper with one touch of the football.

Overall, Jones has been a maven in pass coverage this year. According to ProFootballFocus.com, he has allowed more than one catch into his coverage in just four games this year and more than two just once. He is also the second-rated safety in coverage, and by passer rating he ranks fourth among all safeties with 50 percent or more of their team's snaps.

He attributes his growth to a deeper understanding of the game and more dedication to film study.

"Route recognition, in-game adjustments. I'm watching film and I know the formation and see things before it happens," Jones told the Sun-Sentinel. "That allows you to go out there and use your athletic ability to play a lot faster."

That was on display in his game-clinching interception against the Bengals.

With the Dolphins safeties in Cover 2, the Bengals ran two deep routes in Jones' direction. This can be dangerous territory for a safety, because he could be caught out of position if he gives too much leverage one way or the other.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton made his decision easier, though, by staring down his receiver. That made it easy for Jones to stay in the middle and help against receiver Andrew Hawkins.

Jones simply kept the play in front of him, and as a result, he was in position to make the play on the misfired ball.

He's not just making plays on the ball, though. He's making plays when his teammates mess up.

Against the Rams, for example, safety Chris Clemons was caught terribly out of position on a deep ball to wide receiver Chris Givens.

Clemons was turned the wrong way and didn't even see Givens, as the speedy pass-catcher blew past the back end of the defense. Jones was hot in pursuit and chased down the play to prevent the touchdown.

His frustration was obvious after the play, when he shrugged his shoulders at Clemons for being in the wrong spot.

He is making big plays in every way possible and his coaches know what a valuable tool they have.

"He's got a lot of qualities that you look for in today's safety because he can play the run very effectively and yet he's a good cover guy. And he has blitz skills," said defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle in the Sun-Sentinel article. "I think he's getting better and better every week and, hopefully, as the season continues, you're going to see his presence be felt more and more."

As Coyle points out, Jones' talents in run defense can't go unnoticed, either.

The Bills were primed to run to the left behind Dorin Dickerson on this play, but the left side of the line got sealed off pretty quickly by the stout Dolphins defensive line.

This is where Bills running back C.J. Spiller can be dangerous at times, when he cuts it back and runs against the grain.

Jones had something to say about that, though, and quickly got past Dickerson and into the backfield to force Spiller all the way outside, where he was eventually brought down near the sideline for a one-yard gain.

Spiller has made many defenders look silly in similar situations, but Jones stayed disciplined, stayed close in pursuit and forced the short gain.

As mentioned above, it hasn't all been perfect. For instance, he was caught horribly out of position on a deep ball against the Titans.

 

He was locked up in man coverage on tight end Jared Cook and lined up 10 yards deep.

Cook ran a go route directly at him and he didn't budge. Really. Just look at where his feet are on the last frame compared to this one.

Because of that, Cook has no trouble taking advantage of a flat-footed Jones and getting right past him.

Easy pickings for a touchdown.

That's about the only time he's been exposed in coverage this year. Other than that, his record is nearly spotless, as illustrated in the stat sheet above.

He may not get the recognition he deserves playing for the Dolphins, but with all the tools at his disposal, Jones is already among the most talented and versatile safeties in the NFL.

 

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.

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