Free safety will be one of the focal points when the Miami Dolphins mini-camp kicks off tomorrow morning in Davie, Florida. Head Coach Tony Sparano and his staff will get to see all the potential candidates this weekend for the starting position in the upcoming season.
Second-year defensive back Chris Clemons , who was drafted in the fifth round out of Clemson last year, took the first-team snaps during last week’s OTAs. Rookie Reshad Jones will make a run for the starting job too. Jones, who starred at the University of Georgia, also was a fifth-round pick and between the rookie mini-camp and the first set of OTAs has made a positive impression on Sparano and his teammates through his hard work and vocal presence.
"I think I can step right in,'' Jones said during this weekend's rookie minicamp. "That's what I'm willing and ready to do, step right in and play.''
Even after the selection of Jones, it looked like Clemons also would be competing with fourth-year defensive back Tyrone Culver , who had 32 tackles and an interception last year.
The Dolphins have had two different starting free safeties in each of the last two seasons, Renaldo Hill and Gibril Wilson.
After a semi solid 2008 season, Renaldo Hill left Miami for Denver, signing a four-year deal. Miami immediately was on the look for a replacement.
On February 26, 2009, Gibril Wilson agreed to a five-year contract with the Dolphins worth $27.5 million with $8 million guaranteed. He had a relatively disappointing season with only 93 tackles, one sack, and no interceptions.
Wilson, who a year before signed a contract with the Oakland Raiders, that made him one of the highest paid safeties in NFL history, was released by Miami on March 5, 2010.
Miami was on the look again.
Sparano is hoping that he can find a legitimate starter at the safety position.
“We’re going to look at these two guys for a little while,” he said. “And with Tyrone Culver, he’s really into the nickel and the dime – gets him back there enough for us to see him, so I’m not going to be concerned about that right now. I’m really going to see these two young kids for a little while at that position and then we’ll see. We may change it up.”
Regardless of who ends up getting the job, the entire secondary is going need to work together, especially now that new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has put his stamp on the defense and is putting together some complex schemes. That’s what makes this mini-camp even more important as in addition to some new terminology to learn there are a lot of new faces on the defensive side of the ball.
Needless to say, there will be plenty of heated competition down there in south Florida under the hot Florida sun.