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When is the last time the Miami Dolphins had an elite safety? My mind races back through the years and, to be perfectly honest, I have to go all the way back to the 70’s with Jake Scott and Dick Anderson to find a top-shelf player at that position.
Brock Marion made the Pro Bowl one year, but really didn’t do much other than that. Glenn Blackwood had some quality games in the 80’s and Louis Oliver was pretty good in the 90’s. But elite? Not really. And that’s about it, clearly an area that has been void of superior talent for much of this franchise’s existence.
Reshad Jones is about to change all of that. After watching him grow as a player, after evaluating what he did a season ago, it is clear to me and many others that Jones is on the doorstep of something very special.
What better indication of that than the new four-year contract extension Jones signed on Monday? That really says all you need to know.
“I went out last year and showed I’m one of the elite safeties in this game and I just want to continue to show that,” Jones said. “I definitely have the ball rolling in the right direction.”
Various services that evaluate such things had Jones ranked among the top five safeties in the league last season. You look at the numbers and they scream productivity: 94 tackles, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
But you’ve got to go further than merely statistics to properly see what type of player Jones is becoming. You have to look closely at some of the plays he has made. You’ve got to examine his work ethic, his knowledge of the game and an inner confidence that has nothing to do with being cocky.
How about that interception last season against Buffalo? “I still can’t believe I made that play,” Jones said. “I do things sometimes and ask: How did I do that?”
How about the one-handed interception of a Tom Brady pass? “For me to pick off Tom Brady, a future Hall of Famer, now that was special,” Jones said.
Clearly, though, the thing I like most is that, based on all appearances, the best is yet to come.
Jones is entering his fourth season. He is only 25 years old. He has emerged as a bonafide leader of this defense.
Listen to his secondary coach Lou Anarumo: “The guy has done everything we have asked him to do. He has excellent ball skills. He’d be a heck of a wide receiver. I don’t want to pin potential greatness on anyone. But, with this player, he has a chance.”
Jones looks around the league and sees some outstanding safeties. But it is perennial All-Pro Ed Reed who he likes to pattern himself after. Because of Reed’s smarts. Because of his versatility. Because of all the big plays he makes.
“A lot of people say I have the potential to be another Ed Reed,” Jones said. “I just want to keep it going.”
Jones is a crucial component in this Dolphins defense. The front seven figures to be as potent as any front seven in the league. The cornerbacks, most of them new, have a nice mixture of experience and youth. But it is important to have a quarterback in the secondary, somebody to recognize what is happening, somebody who leads by example and provides a real comfort zone that the back of the defense is well covered.
We have seen far too many times in the past how poor play at safety can ruin an otherwise solid defensive effort. We have seen missed tackles and botched interceptions. We have seen so many safeties come and go.
But we have really never seen a player with an upside as great as Jones.
“It’s all about being consistent,” he says. “I know I can play this game at a high level. I just want to do it every down. I’ve really become comfortable at breaking down formations, seeing plays before they happen and knowing exactly where to position myself before the ball is snapped.”
This season, for Jones, is all about taking his game to the next level, about further cementing his reputation, about refining his game and, most importantly, about making game-changing plays.
Veteran cornerback Brent Grimes has seen a lot of quality safeties during his six years in the league. He has played with some and has watched some from a distance. But he knows a good player when he sees one and it just took him one offseason program and a few weeks of training camp to know what Rashad Jones is all about.
“Some of the things he does is really impressive,” Grimes said. “If you are looking for a true safety that has the entire set of skills you need in a player, then you are looking at him.
“He has a chance to be really special.”
And for this franchise to have a safety like that is long overdue.
Thursday morning A.C. in the A.M. will take a look at owner Steve Ross
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.