Continuing my 30 for 30 NFL preview event, I am previewing the Miami Dolphins' positions as camp gets underway.
Today, I will be looking at the defensive backs (remember, most of these were written before camp began).
The Miami Dolphins defensive backfield is turning back the clocks. Sean Smith and Vontae Davis are big play cornerbacks with tremendous upside.
If they succeed, they will be the best cornerback tandem since Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain formed their own islands in the mid 2000s.
Both got a chance to start last year due to injuries and poor play. Smith got his shot in training camp, when a free agent signing Eric Green couldn’t cover anyone in the preseason games.
He was quickly cut, giving Smith a shot to be the starter as the regular season began. Davis played in spot situations for the first six games before taking over due to Will Allen’s torn ACL.
Of the two, Davis looks to be the most polished. He made some big plays last year, especially in clutch situations.
His interception, returned for a touchdown against Buffalo in week four, was the first big play of the season. His end zone interception of Tom Brady (pictured) was the difference in the week 13 victory over the Patriots.
Sean Smith is big and physical, but his defensive presence and football awareness is questionable. This led to him being beaten on numerous big plays, which hurt his confidence.
Once his confidence went down, bigger plays formulated against him. This off-season he took his biggest asset, his size, and improved it. He is showing up to camp jacked, and will look to out muscle the big wide receivers that he covers.
For the Dolphins benefit, if one of the kids should struggle, Will Allen is waiting to fill in. Provided that he’s healthy, he still has the talent to be a starter.
Jason Allen can play if he needs to, as he will see significant time at nickelback and on special teams. Unfortunately, this is his peak in contribution, which was not what the team had in mind when he was drafted in the first round in 2006.
At safety, Yeremiah Bell will continue to start at the strong spot. There is not much more to say about this position, because he is the only one with any chance to play. He is one of the safest men on the roster.
The free safety position is much more indefinite. In fact, it could be the biggest question mark on the team.
Last year’s big free agent pickup, Gibril Wilson, was a disaster. He couldn’t cover or tackle, which were unfortunately his only two jobs.
Knowing that they made a mistake, the Miami front office cut their losses and let him go. A couple of young fifth round picks should be battling for the starting position in August.
Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons, who were drafted in the fifth round of the 2009 and 2010 drafts, respectively, will be gunning for the spot. The latter looks to be the early front runner. He made some plays in limited time last year, and has the most upside.
The big play was the unit’s biggest weak spot last season. With everyone maturing and getting better, this should improve in 2010. With the loss of the defense’s two biggest pass rushers, the defensive backs will be counted on more than ever to prevent the long ball.
Time will tell if they are up for it.