The Miami Dolphins secondary looks very promising in the years to come. Rookie cornerbacks Vonte Davis and Sean Smith both handed in solid seasons in their first year in the league.
Davis recorded four interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. Smith has yet to record an interception in the regular season, but he did have 12 passes defended last season and was rarely attacked by opposing offenses because of his glaring size—6’3”, 215 pounds.
The Dolphins’ first- and second-round picks, respectively, from last season should form a fearsome duo at cornerback for the next half decade. They’re joined by Will Allen as the team’s three legitimate starting options at the position.
Allen tore his ACL in week six last season and comes into the season as a question mark. He has stated, however, that he intends to start in 2010.
When healthy, the 31-year-old is the best corner on the roster and will likely compete with Smith for the opportunity to start opposite Davis.
Allen is still recovering, however, and he could lose ground to Smith in the early goings of the year. Expect him to reclaim his starting role sooner rather than later, though.
While Smith showed great progress in 2009, Allen is arguably a top 15 cornerback in the NFL. He’ll be back ready to compete before you know it.
Nathan Jones, the Dolphins’ starting nickel back from 2009, is an unrestricted free agent and reports indicate Miami will not resign him—as one of the few good options in free agency, Jones will demand a contract above his value and the Dolphins will have to let someone else pay him.
Jason Allen and Evan Oglesby are the only other cornerbacks under contract, but their contributions are primarily on special teams. Sean Smith should be the one to take over duties as the nickel back in 2010.
At safety, the Dolphins seem to have a pair of polar opposites. Strong safety Yeremiah Bell was selected as an injury-replacement for the 2010 Pro Bowl and his 114 tackles led the Dolphins in ‘09.
He also added three interceptions and had nine passes defended. The 32-year-old may start acting his age over the next year or two, but for the present time is one of the best in the business at strong safety.
Gibril Wilson, the Dolphins other starting safety, has mostly been a disappointment since signing a $27 million deal as a free agent last offseason. He struggled in his role as the team’s free safety and many people from around the league feel he is better served playing as a strong safety rather than at the free spot.
Too often Wilson blew his coverage assignments and allowed big plays to opposing offenses. He failed to record an interception for the first time in his seven-year career and finished the season with only 93 tackles; well below the 129 he recorded the year before while playing for the Oakland Raiders.
There has been speculation that the Dolphins will release Wilson, but general manager Jeff Ireland appears unlikely to do so. It seems Miami isn’t willing to admit a mistake on signing Wilson to such a lucrative deal a year ago.
Backup safeties Tyrone Culver and Chris Clemens both served as solid special teams players in ’09 and will likely continue that role this season. Both were called upon to play heavy minutes throughout the year as the Dolphins staff grew tired of Wilson’s errors.
Don’t be surprised if one of the two replaces Wilson as the team’s starter at free safety before the season begins.
Culver is a five-year veteran who has been a career backup to this point and Clemons is a former fifth-round pick coming off his rookie season. Both have displayed better performance than Wilson to this point, though.
Secondary Grade: A-