Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin understands it’s a luxury having a cornerback like Brent Grimes available to shadow some of the best wide receivers in the game. But he also knows that it can take away from defensive cover schemes and limit the packages he and Defensive Coordinator Kevin Coyle use throughout a game.
“I think sometimes some of the drawbacks are maybe you aren’t quite as multiple in your coverages if you are always trading people around,” Philbin stated recently. “When you just say (on) a side, I think you have a little more flexibility that way.”
Regardless of the scheme he’s played, No. 21 has been one of the best corners in the game this year. Grimes, who was selected for his third Pro Bowl this year (2010, 2013, 2014), is tied for third in the NFL with five interceptions − one shy of his career-high. Now in his second year with the Dolphins, Grimes started all 15 games recording 56 tackles (46 solo), while also leading the team with 13 passes defensed. His abilities have carried him from one side of the field to the other without affecting his top-dollar value.
“It’s really just based on matchups and pass concepts we are estimating that the team may use that particular week,” Philbin admitted about the schemes they’ve used. “We’ve done some of it in the past, but you’re right probably not to the degree that we’ve done it this year.”
Grimes’ ability to play either corner position gives the Dolphins flexibility − much like the 2013 addition of Dion Jordan, who could permanently move from his defensive end position to linebacker next season.
“The nice thing about him is we can put him at linebacker and he can drop in coverage, or we can put him at linebacker and he can rush,” Philbin cited. “They (the opponents) have to figure out how they can count him, so to speak, in terms of their identification system (on offense). I think that’s one advantage of having him out there is it creates a little bit of indecision and sometimes he can play man-to-man, he can play zone, he can rush the quarterback. I think his versatility and flexibility is a big advantage for us defensively.”
Whether or not Jordan will move back from the line of scrimmage or keep his hand in the dirt in 2015 is still to be decided, yet the third-year coach has experimented with the concept in recent weeks and isn’t limiting No. 95’s capabilities as of yet.
“We’ll see how it goes, but he’s certainly an athlete,” Philbin continued. “He can do a lot of different things.”
One of the drawbacks of moving Jordan to linebacker is his growing stature.
Currently, the third-overall selection in the 2013 Draft is listed at 6-foot-6, 275 pounds. He’s tall, but could be susceptible to shiftier running backs and quick receivers − opponents he’ll likely face every week at outside linebacker.
Also, a lingering shoulder injury limited his snaps as a rookie and he was suspended for the first six games of this season for use of banned substances.
“I think he’s moving well,” Philbin admitted. “His drops are pretty natural for a guy that doesn’t practice it. That’s not what he does all day. I think his movement skill, his tackling in space I think has been good. Some of the things you’ve seen him do, it’s not the same necessarily as playing linebacker, but covering kicks, you are in space, you are moving around and you have a lot of ground to cover. He certainly can do those things. I don’t think he’s outgrown it.”
With Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon ahead of him at defensive end, Jordan has been used specifically in designed speed rush packages. But his shift to the linebacking Corp. this year could open some doors to a bright future in a aqua and orange uniform next season.
This story was written by Steven Wilson. Follow him on Twitter: @StevenJWilson11