Miami Dolphins Preview, Part Four: The Defensive Backs

Rudolph ZepedaCorrespondent IJuly 17, 2009

Part four of a seven-part series previewing the Miami Dolphins.  The articles will focus on dissecting the team's most crucial positions before the start of training camp.

The Miami Dolphins are doing everything possible to improve last year’s 25th-ranked pass defense. 

They let Andre Goodman and Reynaldo Hill sign with Denver, but so far their replacements have struggled.  Cornerback Eric Green and safety Gibril Wilson looked bad during organized team activities, particularly against the deep pass.

Rookie corners Sean Smith and Vontae Davis impressed coaches, and both seem to have moved ahead of Green on the depth chart.  Nothing is certain during OTA’s because in reality, it is more like flag football. 

The good news is the pads start popping in August and the secondary will be taller and more physical.

The Cornerbacks

Will Allen had his best season as a Dolphin in 2008 and was given a two-year contract extension. 

He is the oldest member of the secondary and will be counted on to cover some of the best receivers in the game. He will face Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Terrell Owens, and Lee Evens and that’s just in the AFC East. 

Davis is a very physical corner and he could really stand out once he’s allowed to hit somebody.  He is still a very raw talent and it is still not certain whether he will be a corner or a safety in the NFL

Smith lined up with the first-team defense during the last round of OTA’s and the early reports on him are solid.  At 6-4 and 215 pounds, he gives the Miami the size to match up against Moss and Owens but he may not be ready for that just yet.

All three will be Dolphins in 2009 but the rest of the corners could be fighting just for a place on the team.

Green lost his starting job in Arizona to a rookie and this year a pair of rookies could move him down to fourth on the depth chart. 

Green is an experienced NFL corner, making 33 starts in four seasons with the Cardinals but has only two career interceptions.

Jason Allen could be on his way out if he struggles during pre-season.  Nathan Jones is a cheaper alternative.  Both played on special teams last year but Jones played in nickel and dime formations.  $1.9 million is too much to be paying a fifth-string corner if Allen drops that far he will get the axe.

He was torched by former Arena League player Anthony Armstrong and that is defiantly not a good sign.  The Dolphins struggled defending the deep pass last year and it could be a problem again. 

The Safeties

The Dolphins needed to upgrade the safety position, so they signed Gibril Wilson who played strong safety last season in Oakland.  He too was burned by Armstrong and now enters camp needing to prove he should be starting.

Wilson will be the starting free safety but that doesn’t necessarily mean the pass coverage will improve.  He is a proven tackler, 129 tackles in 2008, but the Dolphins don’t need another strong safety.

Yeremiah Bell came back from an Achilles tendon injury and led the team with 120 tackles last year.  He will struggle at times in coverage and has only one career interception. 

Tyrone Culver impressed the coaches at OTA’s so much so that he earned a new two-year contract and should see some time in dime formations.  He made several pass deflections and could earn a starting spot if Wilson continues to struggle. 

Rookie Chris Clemons has blazing speed and garnered some praise from Sparano after the rookie camp ended.  He won’t be needed right away because it looks like the Dolphins are confident in Wilson and Bell but in a few years he could be taking over. 

The off-season makeover may pay off down the road, but this year the Dolphins might struggle in against the pass again.    

This series will continue every Monday and Friday in July only on The Bleacher Report.  Look for Part Five: The Wide Receivers on Monday, July 20.