Last season, the Miami Dolphins brought in now-retired cornerback Cortland Finnegan to play alongside Pro Bowl corner Brent Grimes. A former Pro Bowler and star corner himself, Finnegan played well enough to beat out the Dolphins' 2013 second-round draft pick Jamar Taylor for the starting job, but an injury sidelined him near the tail end of the season and he never regained his form after his return.
But Finnegan's presence did a lot for the young corner, as well as his fellow cornerback Will Davis, and they have both come out and said that they learned a lot from the veteran corner. Now, presumably, the only player in Taylor's way is Taylor himself. But defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle recently said that the starting job is not yet his to lose.
"I wouldn't say it's fair to say at this point yet." Coyle said. "It's anybody's job because, at a number of positions, that being one of them, you really can't, you can put yourself in position to go into training camp working with a first group or what have you, but a lot of that's going to be determined when you start playing preseason games and you're playing out here with pads - you really get a chance to completely evaluate these guys because there's, in my opinion, right now there's tremendous competition at the linebacker spot, in the secondary, as far as the depth in the defensive line. None of that will be settled until some point in training camp, probably later in training camp."
Naturally there's competition that Taylor has to overcome, veterans Brice McCain and Zack Bowman will be gunning fr the starting job as well. But according to Coyle, so far Taylor has done an excellent job showing that he has what it takes to finally step up and take the starting job on the other side of Brent Grimes.
"Jamar's done an outstanding job. He's come into it very confidently, coming through a good offseason. He's got his shoulder back rehabbed and ready to go." Coyle said. "I see a real spark in Jamar the way he's practicing, but just in his overall mental attitude. He's confident, he's determined, he wants to go out and win a job, realizes there is a lot of competition out there within that group. But each and every day he's performed at a high level. That's been very encouraging."
This optimism did not come unwarranted though. Late last season, Taylor showed some great things that caught the attention of Joe Philbin and the coaching staff.
"I liked the way he went out and competed number one, first and foremost." Philbin said. "I thought from a technical standpoint, fundamentally there were some really good shots of him doing things exactly the way we've been coaching and teaching in a variety of different coverages. That was really the number one thing that I liked last year on tape."
If Taylor can stay healthy, he is the favorite to win the starting job this season, and all signs indicate that he will win the job handily. He's physical, he's aggressive, and he's had time to develop for a year under the wing of veteran Cortland Finnegan, who went out of his way to tutor the young corner. Now, the time has come for the culmination of all that development to come to the surface.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater