In my opinion, this defensive backs group needs to find consistency and create turnover opportunities to take this defense to the next level. I realize that bringing pressure by the front seven on opposing quarterbacks will make every secondary better, but the talent and experience within this group needs to elevate from week one and then stabilize throughout the year! It can’t smother someone’s passing attack one week and then allow 400 plus yards the next!
New defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle preached attack and turnovers during mini-camp and that will not change moving to training camp. His experience coaching the secondary with the Cincinnati Bengals over the last eight seasons will give him a keen eye on what needs to improve and who fits where as we get through the preseason. Here’s a preview of the players looking to make a difference in 2012:
-Vontae Davis: The time is now for Vontae Davis to consistently be considered a top five corner, not only within the AFC, but also across the NFL! Davis has all the physical attributes necessary to dominate at his position, and plays with an energy that can become contagious on that side of the football. He finished 2011 with 43 total tackles and led the defense with four interceptions, which matched his personal best from 2009.
Vontae needs to stay healthy (only started 12 games last season due to a hamstring injury) and become a fixture on the edge for the Dolphins this year, and for years to come!
-Sean Smith: If the time is now for Vontae Davis, his opposite number on the corner better put more change in the meter immediately! Sean Smith has the size, ability and skill set to not only get the job done, but also give the Miami Dolphins defense the ability to attack. Smith has lacked consistency with his technique and that has led to giving up more cushion to receivers then he would like. I have noticed during OTA’s and mini-camp a renewed focus from Smith.
You can tell he’s on the verge of becoming a big part of this defense and as his play elevates, more opportunities to play the football will be the result. Everyone is focusing on the play of the safeties, but if Vontae and Sean play to their abilities, this defense will be scary in 2012!
-Richard Marshall: Signing Richard Marshall in the off-season gives the Dolphins plenty of flexibility and much needed depth in the secondary! Marshall played in all 16 games last season for the Arizona Cardinals starting in nine of those contests. He was active playing all four positions in the secondary for Arizona while racking up 78 total tackles, two sacks and three interceptions in 2012.
The versatility is definitely an asset for Miami if either Davis or Smith miss playing time due to injury, and gives this defense a veteran player (going into his seventh year) that can line up anywhere in the secondary.
-Nolan Carroll: Nolan played a reserve role in 12 games last season starting in only three games filling in for an injured Vontae Davis. Carroll plays with an aggressive style on the corner and is not afraid to come up and strike opposing ball carriers. Against the San Diego Chargers he finished tied for the lead in tackles with five and had his lone interception of the season against Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Buffalo Bills.
-Marcus Brown: Marcus brings good size at 6’2 203 pounds to this position. After going undrafted in 2008 coming out of McNeese State, Brown did get some NFL experience playing for the Cardinals in 2008, Cincinnati in 2008-2009, and the St. Louis Rams in 2009-2010. Like most defensive back in his position, they must shine on special teams to land on the final 53.
-Anderson Russell: This will Russell’s second season trying to earn a spot on a roster since coming out of Ohio State. Last season he saw limited playing time for the Washington Redskins making only two appearances on the active roster, and a total of two tackles.
-Trenton Hughes: Coming out of Maryland, Hughes (5’11”, 190 pounds) is considered to have great athleticism and speed at the corner position. His experience in college playing special teams will help his chances with Miami, but needs to earn opportunities at practice to prove he can play at the next level.
-Kevyn Scott: The local product from St. Thomas Aquinas High School gets his opportunity to make this team after a successful career at Syracuse University. At 5’11 208 pounds, Scott has experience playing multiple positions in the secondary and extensive work on special teams. He’s a long shot but has earned playing time at every level!
-Vincent Agnew: Agnew has the experience of last training camp to draw from and the opportunity to impress a new coaching staff this season.
-Jonathan Wade: Like Agnew and others, Wade is trying to separate himself from the pack. He was selected in the third round of the 2007 draft by the Rams, but then spent time between Detroit (2010), Cincinnati (2010) and then landing in Miami.
-Reshad Jones: If there’s one person on the defensive side of the football that must mature and play like a veteran this season it’s Reshad Jones. He finished fourth on the team in total tackles with 62, two sacks and one interception in 2011. His best performance came on the road against the Bills where Jones had five tackles and one interception, but also lead the defense in tackles in the opener against the Patriots. Kevin Coyle will get Jones to be cognizant of the angles that he takes and that should lead to more opportunities.
-Chris Clemons: Chris is also penciled in along side Jones to play a major role in the middle of the secondary. The major theme of the secondary has been consistency and Chris did improve in that area last season. Not only was Clemons effective in the secondary but also played a significant role on special teams. He blocked the first punt of his career against Buffalo, and it was recovered for a touchdown. A play like that hadn’t occurred since 1990!
-Tyrone Culver: One of the surprises on the roster in the secondary was Culver. He was used primarily on special teams early in the year, but flourished after getting his first start against Denver on October 23rd. Culver’s numbers continued to climb with every start and finally got a turnover against the Eagles after also forcing the fumble. He’ll be right in the middle of this battle for playing time and has the experience to get it done.
-Jimmy Wilson: Moving from the corner to the safety position, this coaching staff is trying to find a way to get Wilson more involved in this defense. Wilson had a productive rookie season finishing tied for fourth in passes defended, and getting his lone interception against Cleveland on September 25th.
Jimmy’s role on special teams grew with every game and he contributed by blocking a punt that led to a Dolphins touchdown against the Eagles. Like other defensive backs on this roster, Wilson can play multiple positions especially inside against the slot receiver on third down situations.
-Tyrell Johnson: The Dolphins signed Johnson this off-season after spending his first four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings (2008-2011). His experience will help coming into this competition and Johnson’s ability to tackle in space only strengthens his chance to make this roster. 2009 was his most productive year as a pro making 57 total tackles and one interception.
-Kelcie McCray: The undrafted free agent from Arkansas State started 37 games gathering 220 total tackles and 10 interceptions. McCray also can get to the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage getting nine tackles for loss in 2011. Playing quarterback in high school just might give him the edge over some of the younger defensive backs because everybody knows that quarterback are the smartest players on the field!
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.