The Dolphins made a bold and aggressive move just before the 2012 season by trading away CB Vontae Davis for a second round pick in this coming draft. This left the Dolphin secondary much weaker than it was expected to be and the Dolphin defense did suffer some bumps and bruises from it along the way.
However, now the Dolphins have the ammo to rebuild their secondary be it in the form of free agency or the draft. Here we see how the roster currently looks, and what it could look like going forward in 2013 and beyond.
MDD Staff Writer: Chad Pullen
CB Sean Smith
Some hard truths. Sean Smith is not a #1 shutdown corner. What he can be, is a very solid #2. And what this year’s draft is lacking is a true #1 Morris Claiborne type, so the best the Dolphins can do is try to draft another #2 corner, pair that player with Smith and Richard Marshall, and then hope that by drafting another pass rush specialist with the 12th pick in the first round to go along with Cameron Wake, the pass rush should be able to get to the quarterback faster lessening the amount of time the corners need to cover. Thus the need of a true #1 to matchup with the Calvin Johnson’s, A.J. Green’s, Andre Johnson’s of the world is reduced. Smith was needed to step up with the trading of Davis, and especially needed to step up when Richard Marshall went down. Smith did not do that. He was beaten by double moves routinely and eventually started to back off so much that many receivers merely started playing catch after 9 and 10 yard gains before Smith would tackle them. Fortunately for Smith and the Dolphins, a lot of the times he was beaten the passes were not completed either due to poor quarterback play or mistiming by the receivers. He is now a free agent, and if he demands top 5 corner type money, he should be let go and the Dolphins immediately are in need of multiple corners in the draft. If his contract demands fit his production, Miami should work to keep him and then help him out by adding another DE and CB in the draft to protect Smith in their schemes and deepen the talent on defense.
CB Richard Marshall
Marshall was originally signed to be the third corner on the roster but quickly impressed the coaches enough that they made him the starting corner opposite Smith and eventually Davis was traded away meaning that Marshall would be the starter for the entire season. A back injury hampered him however, and midway through the season he was sent to IR. Marshall has 2 years left on his deal, and should have sufficient time to recover from his injury and be ready for training camp. Marshall is versatile enough that he could play some safety in a pinch, and if the Dolphins decide to load up at corner this offseason, he could move to safety to best utilize the talent they build up. If Smith is not retained, Marshall suddenly becomes the best corner on the roster and the Dolphins need to draft or sign multiple corners to address that fact.
CB Dimitri Patterson
Patterson signed almost the exact same 3 year contract as Marshall with Cleveland last offseason, and late in the year Cleveland decided to part ways with him and the Dolphins scooped him up. They did not have enough time to work with him to see what they have, but at about 4 million owed this year, they have the option to at least work with him in the offseason and see if he could contribute as a third or fourth corner. Currently he ranks as the oldest player in the Dolphin secondary, one that figures to be even younger if they draft a couple in April.
CB Nolan Carroll
Carroll started out the year being targeted quite often, but towards the end of the year starting in place of Marshall, he began to settle into his role pretty well. He is not starter material but he is a good enough corner to be on the roster in dime packages as well as spot duty. He is still young enough that he can continue to improve but he’s best suited for fourth or fifth corner on a roster.
S Reshad Jones
Jones is the epitome of patience with draft picks as he showed very little flashes of production his first two seasons but flourished as a full time starter this season as the Dolphins second best defensive player behind Cam Wake. Jones filled the stat sheet across the board being involved in 95 tackles total, 1 sack, led the team in interceptions with 4, had 4 tackles for loss, 9 passes defensed, forced 2 fumbles and recovered 2 as well. Bottom line, Jones did a little bit of everything for the Dolphins and turned in a pro bowl caliber season. Suddenly a position that looked like it could be a big need when the season started seems fairly settled. Miami could look to upgrade the other safety spot but it is no longer a major concern. And if Jones improves even more from this year, the Dolphins defense could start to get much stronger.
S Chris Clemons
Clemons was decent as a full time starter this year, however he does not have the instincts that Jones does or make plays all over the field the way Jones did in 2012. He still gets beat deep occasionally and takes some off angles at times, but he is a physical safety that will make tackles when needed. Miami could choose to let them start another year together and be just fine, but with the extra draft picks and a deep safety class incoming, Miami could look to upgrade another position on the defense to try and really reach that elite level. Even if that happens, Clemons should remain for depth at either position and can also help out on special teams. Both Clemons and Jones were found in the fifth rounds of their respective drafts, so Miami could conceivably wait til then again to address the position if they choose.
S/CB Jimmy Wilson
Wilson has been a versatile find for the Dolphins from the seventh round of the 2011 draft however he is not a player the Dolphins want to rely on full time. He can play both Safety and Corner however, and is a solid special teams player so he does have value on the roster. He is best suited for back up and fill in duty once the Dolphins address the corner position, at that point Wilson will probably slide to Safety on a full time basis as a backup. If the Dolphins manage to add3-4 players in the secondary, Wilson could find himself left out.
Julian Posey, Bryan McCann, R.J. Stanford were all used as fill in corners in 2012, and Jonathon Amaya and Tyrone Culver were also used at Safety as well as Special Teams units. As the core of the team deepens and the roster fills with more talent, these players figure to be the first ones bumped off for 2013.