It hasn't been the best of offseasons for the Miami Dolphins.
Free-agent acquisition Knowshon Moreno showed up for OTAs out of shape, required knee surgery and only recently practiced with his new team for the first time.
The rebuilt offensive line suffered a major blow when center Mike Pouncey underwent hip surgery that will sideline him until at least October.
Defensive end Dion Jordan, the third overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, was suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season after testing positive for a banned substance.
Well, now Jordan is going to have some company in "time out." This time, it isn't just a reserve pass-rusher who's in Dutch with the NFL. It's arguably the Dolphins' best defensive back, and the four-game suspension of safety Reshad Jones is the last thing the Dolphins needed as Week 1 nears.
As Mike Reiss of ESPN reported, Jones, like Jordan, was banned four games after violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs:
Jones released a statement in which he blamed the positive test on an over-the-counter supplement:
I recently learned from the NFL that I tested positive for substance that is banned under the NFL performance enhancing substances policy. I worked closely with the union to investigate what happened, and I learned that a supplement I took caused the positive test. I deeply regret not investigating the supplement carefully before I took it, and I will never again take a supplement without having it checked. I am very sorry for the effect of my mistake on my teammates and coaches. I apologize to them, the Dolphins organization, and fans. During the time away from the team, I will participate in an intense training program so that I can help my team as soon as I return.
Circumstances of the suspension aside, it continues a downward trend for Jones that seemingly started before the ink was dry on the $29.5 million dollar contract extension Jones signed in August of 2013.
Yes, Jones finished second on the Dolphins with 107 tackles last year. However, just as with Barry Church of the Dallas Cowboys (who topped 100 solos last year) a safety with big tackle numbers usually bodes poorly for the performance of a defense as a whole.
|Reshad Jones 2012-2013|
Jones' individual play backslid significantly last year as well, at least in the eyes of the graders at Pro Football Focus (subscription required). After trailing only Jairus Byrd and Eric Weddle among safeties in PFF's rankings in 2012, Jones free-fell to 66th in 2013.
In pass coverage, the disparity was even greater. After ranking third in that regard as well two years ago, Jones dropped all the way to 69th. Per PFF, Jones was the worst coverage safety in the entire AFC East last year.
It was a rough year, but as Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post pointed out, head coach Joe Philbin had singled out Jones' performance during OTAs.
Now, all that positive momentum is kaput, and the Dolphins are left with another early-season question in the back seven.
According to Omar Kelly of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Dolphins will likely turn to nickelback Jimmy Wilson at strong safety while Jones sits in his room and thinks about what he did:
That means that in Wilson, cornerback Cortland Finnegan (the presumptive starter opposite Brent Grimes) and safety Louis Delmas (who replaced the departed Chris Clemons), three of Miami's starters in the secondary in Week 1 against the New England Patriots will be new.
All behind a linebacker corps that's being shuffled around after pricey free-agent adds Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler flopped last year.
That's not good, especially for a Miami team that opens the season by welcoming in the team they're trying to catch in the AFC East.
The injuries suffered by Pouncey and Knowshon Moreno were unfortunate, but injuries are a fact of life in the NFL. Jordan's suspension was frustrating (especially given what the Dolphins gave up to move up and select him in 2013), but the Dolphins' front four is so loaded that Jordan won't really be missed.
Jones is an entirely different story. He was being counted on for a major role, not just making tackles, but also serving as a steadying force for a defense in flux this year.
Losing a player like that to a boneheaded suspension isn't how NFL teams take the next step after barely missing the playoffs the year before.
Unfortunately, it's par for the course of late where the Dolphins' luck is concerned.
Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.