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AFC East Positional Breakdown: Defensive Backs
By on July 16, 2014 at 3:21 pm

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In a series leading up to the start of Dolphins training camp later this month, The Finsiders will bring you positional breakdowns of each team in the AFC East

During Wednesday’s show, The Finsiders’ crew discussed secondaries across the division. Here’s an overview regarding defensive backs in the AFC East.

Miami Dolphins

Projected Starters: Brent Grimes, Cortland Finnegan, Reshad Jones, Louis Delmas

Key Reserves: Jimmy Wilson, Jamar Taylor, Will Davis

Overview: The Dolphins secondary is full of playmakers, led by Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimeswho was recently ranked as one of the top pure cover corners in the league by NFL.com. Grimes is an elite corner in terms of coverage and playmaking. He didn’t allow a touchdown to a receiver all year and had four picks, including one for a touchdown. A new face will play on the other side of the field for the Dolphins in veteran corner Cortland Finnegan. The former All-Pro is a known around the league for his physicality and feistiness. He will bring a little more edge to the Miami secondary.

At the safety position the Dolphins have a similar situation in terms of old and new players, as former Pro Bowler Reshad Jones returns, and new addition Louis Delmas lays hits as well as any defensive back in the league. The next man up in the secondary is Jimmy Wilson, who can be plugged into play either cornerback or safety, and will likely fill the nickel role. Wilson’s aggressiveness and tenacity in coverage makes him a valuable asset to the Dolphins defense, he and the rest of the secondary hope to teach a few lessons to the talented young players that will back them up in two of last year’s draft picks in Jamar Taylor and Will Davis.

New England Patriots

Projected Starters: Darrelle Revis, Alfonzo Dennard/Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon, Devin McCourty

Key Reserves: Kyle Arrington, Brandon Browner

Overview: New England’s secondary could be one of the best in the entire league, but that will likely depend on one man’s ability to lock down one side of the field. Darrelle Revis will make his debut this season in colors that no one thought he would be in a few years ago. If Revis is back to his old self being two years removed from an ACL injury, it could spell trouble for quarterbacks in the division. Revis only had two interceptions last season, but looked to flash some of the talent and skill that made him the league’s best corner a few years ago.

Eventually starting opposite him will be former Legion of Boom member Brandon Browner, but the former Seahawk with a towering frame (standing 6’4) for a defensive back is suspended for the first four games of the year. Filling in that spot until then will be either Alfonzo Dennard or Logan Ryan, and both are ballhawks, especially Ryan, who had 5 picks last year. At the safety positions are Duron Harmon, a solid second year player out of Rutgers, and Devin McCourty. McCourty is the bigger name in the secondary, as he’s a two time All-Pro.

New York Jets

Projected Starters: Dee Milliner, Dimitri Patterson, Antonio Allen, Calvin Pryor

Key Reserves: Kyle Wilson, Dawan Landry

Overview: The New York Jets lost a fixture of their secondary this offseason, as longtime starter Antonio Cromartie left for Arizona. That move has accelerated last year’s first round selection Dee Milliner‘s timeline to develop, as he’ll be filling in for Cromartie . Milliner’s rookie season was inconsistent, as he shined at times, but struggled so much at others that he was benched, including in the Jets’ first game against Miami last season. With Milliner on one side, the Jets went the free agency route for their other starter in former Dolphins corner Dimitri Patterson. When on the field, Patterson was a reliable corner for Miami and playmaker, but he faced injury problems during the entirety of his career with the Dolphins, missing 24 of a possible 32 games in two seasons with the team.

At safety, the Jets have a real big hitter in this year’s first round selection of Calvin Pryor out of Louisville, who is likely the true replacement to what the Jets lost in Laron Landry after the 2012 season. Beside him is Antonio Allen, who won the team’s starting free safety job last season after being drafted in the seventh round of the 2012 draft. The team’s likely nickel corner is Kyle Wilson, who has yet to really produce in that role for New York since being drafted in the first round in 2010, as he’s struggled with the physicality needed at that position.

Buffalo Bills

Projected Starters: Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Aaron Williams, Da’Norris Searcy

Key Reserves: Corey Graham, Nickell Robey

Overview: On the outsides of the Bills’ defense, Buffalo boasts two former first round picks in Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore. McKelvin has yet to truly come into his own as a cornerback, but has been a major weapon once he gets his hands on the ball on either defense or special teams with five total touchdowns in his career. Gilmore on the other side hasn’t exactly been a standout and missed 5 games last season due to a wrist injury, but has been solid enough to retain that role going into his third season.

Playing the nickel spot is veteran cornerback and free agent addition Corey Graham, who has been a solid contributor  for both the Bears and Ravens in his seven seasons in the league. Graham also has versatility, and can play that hybrid safety/corner spot in certain formations if necessary. At safety the Bills have to replace Pro Bowler Jarius Byrd, who signed with the Saints this offseason. Aaron Williams keeps his free safety spot, and Byrd’s likely replacement is Da’Norris Searcy. Searcy will have a tall task replacing Byrd’s production, as Byrd had 22 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles in five seasons with Buffalo. 

RELATED: AFC East Positional Breakdown: Defensive Line

RELATED: Taylor Looks To Become A Playmaker

RELATED: Branden Albert Named Most Influential Free Agent Addition Of 2014


Please Note:
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.
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