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You look at them and, in many ways, they appear to be the same person. Both stand 5-10. Both weigh about 190 pounds. Both play cornerback for the Miami Dolphins. Both have built careers filled with big plays and game-defining moments.
But if you look closer, if you really study each player, you will find that Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan have some clear, well-defined differences.
Grimes is finesse and instincts wrapped around remarkable athletic skills. Finnegan is more physical, less disciplined and, while Grimes is more likely to jump over you, Finnegan would probably just as soon run right through you.
“Yes,” says Finnegan, “we are different players.”
Says Grimes: “He’s effective, I’m effective, just in different ways.”
But the bottom line for both players is the same: They stop receivers. They carve out big plays. They bring a sense of confidence and calm to this Dolphins secondary. I’m not sure I can remember the last time the Dolphins had a pair of starting cornerbacks quite like these two. Little big men. That’s what they are.
You look at them, how unimposing they appear to be, and you quickly wonder how they manage to match up against big, physical receivers. You watch them play and then you begin to understand.
There is a tenacity about them, a hunger, a real sense of purpose. You talk to both players, you listen to their words, you look into their eyes, and you see how they have both built successful careers. There is no shortage of confidence, no half-steps for Grimes and Finnegan. It’s full go all the time.
Every year is a challenge for these two. But this year? Look at the schedule. Look at the quarterbacks they’ll be facing. Brady. Manning. Rodgers. Rivers. Flacco. “This is what you live for,” said Finnegan.
Added Grimes: “Cortland and I have a chance to do some special things.”
For Grimes, it means more of the same. What an incredible season he enjoyed a year ago. All those big plays. All those key moments. A Pro Bowl invitation. He is a unique talent, a unique person.
That play a few weeks ago against Tampa Bay, when Grimes raced across the field to force a fumble at the goal line, showed us everything we need to know about this 8-year veteran. The determination. The perseverance. The relentlessness.
But it’s man-to-man coverage where Grimes excels most. A teammate of his recently told me that he’s never seen a player who can anticipate a receiver’s moves better than Grimes, a player who rarely even touches the player he’s covering.
“Yeah, I don’t know what it is,” Grimes said. “I’ve always had that ability. It’s an instinct I guess. Whatever it is, it works for me.”
Finnegan, unlike Grimes, has a lot to prove. As recently as 2011, he was one of the top cornerbacks in the league. But there was a leg injury in 2012 and a fractured orbital bone that limited him to just seven games last season. Some wondered whether he could ever return to that old form. But he had a strong training camp and there are clear indications now that he is real close to where he once was.
“I’m not willing to proclaim anything at this point,” he said. “I have to keep proving I can play, keep proving it every practice and every game. I’m just so grateful I have the opportunity to play the game I love.”
So different, yet so much alike. Grimes and Finnegan. Or is it Finnegan and Grimes? Doesn’t really matter. The Dolphins are fortunate to have both.
(On Wednesday, AC in the AM answers fans questions).
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