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Heading into the 2010 NFL season, the secondary will be considered the weakness of the Dolphins defense. Karlos Dansby has upgraded the linebacking unit, while first-rounder Jared Odrick will pack a punch off the defensive front.
Last year the Dolphins routinely got beat deep, with two rookies starting at corner for most of the year, and free safety Gabril Wilson's inability to make tackles in the open field.
Secondary coach Todd Bowles spoke of how they had to change that.
"We’ve got to play smarter, and play with a little bit more experience," Bowles said. "It was a culmination of things, and that can’t happen regardless of whether the unit is young or old. This is still football. The golden rule is to keep the guy in front of you, and they’ve got to understand that.”
Cornerback Vontae Davis hopes to change the perception after what could be a giant year for the second-year man out of Illinois. He has had rave reviews thus far in the offseason, and has all the physical tools to become a top-flight cornerback. Going up against Brandon Marshall everyday in practice can only speed up his development.
With Davis essentially locked in to start on one side, that leaves a battle between Will Allen and Sean Smith on the other.
Smith still appears to have the advantage with Allen not completely 100 percent after his battle back from a torn ACL sustained in week seven of last season. Regardless of who wins the "starting job," both cornerbacks figure to get a good chunk of playing time and might be inserted into the starting lineup on a match-up by match-up basis.
Smith has unusual size and length for a corner (6'3") and could be used more against the bigger, physical receivers the NFL has to offer, while Allen could be utilized against the league's smaller, quicker wideouts.
Jason Allen is in the mix as a reserve corner with rookie Nolan Carrol pushing him for fourth string on the depth chart.
At safety Yeremiah Bell has been steady on the strong side for a few years now and is one of the leaders of the Dolphins defense.
The inexperienced Chris Clemons is the favorite to start at free safety, and brings excellent range to the position with his imposing speed.
Rookie Reshad Jones and Tyrone Culver will likely be the backup safeties. Culver will be used much more in game situations next year as he has some game experience. Jones, a big hitter in his days playing for Georgia, hasn't played well in training camp thus far.
How good the secondary becomes this year might ultimately depend on the pass rush up front. If they can get consistent pressure on the quarterback it will make life in the secondary a great deal easier.
It's time for the Miami secondary to step it up and take this Dolphins defense to an entirely different level.