The Miami Dolphins are heading into April’s draft with some holes to fill. Players are needed to play Guard, Inside linebacker, cornerback, safety, and wide receiver. As the youth movement continues, Miami hopes to get significant production out the players they’ll select with their six picks in the upcoming draft. Out of all the units the Dolphins look to bolster, the secondary has the most question marks. From unproven players coming back from injury, to players with durability concerns, to upcoming 2016 cap casualties, shoring up the secondary should be high on the front office’s list of priorities.
The two players with the most to prove in 2015 are Jamar Taylor and Will Davis. Taylor and Davis were both drafted in 2013 with the idea that they would compete for a starting job, whether in the slot or on the outside. But neither player has been able to sniff the field because of injuries. Since both players have entered the league they have missed action due to one ailment or another. Both players started off on the injury report coming into their rookie seasons in 2013.
Davis suffered a foot injury in the fourth preseason game in 2013 and played in only three games in the regular season. He played in six games in 2014, starting in none, before tearing his ACL against the Buffalo Bills in Week 11 and ending his season. His best performance last season was against the Oakland Raiders in Week 4 when he had five tackles and two pass defenses on 28 snaps. In today’s NFL, successfully coming back from an ACL injury is common, and the Dolphins are hoping Davis comes back better than before the injury.
Taylor suffered a groin injury coming into his rookie season that led to a sport hernia that required surgery. As a result Taylor missed a lot of reps in camp; reps that were needed to grasp Defensive Coordinator Kevin Coyle’s complex scheme. As a result, Taylor only appeared in three games in 2013 (incidentally Coach Philbin has said the defensive scheme will be simplified). Taylor overcame the injury and late start from 2013, appearing in 13 games and starting three, but he never challenged veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan to become the full time starter. His presence was most felt in the Week 11 win against the Bills where he had seven tackles. The very next week against the Denver Broncos he suffered a separated shoulder after being manhandled at the line of scrimmage by Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.
Taylor played in the second to last game against the Minnesota Vikings but was then placed on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. Taylor had surgery to repair a torn labrum in January and all indications are that he will be ready for OTAs. While being interviewed on the Omar Kelly Show on 560 WQAM, Taylor was asked why he thinks he should be the starter in 2014 opposite Pro Bowl Cornerback Brent Grimes and he had this to say, “I feel like the tape don’t lie. When I played I balled out. Even if I came in for a little bit, I brought noise or energy to the team. You were going to feel some presence of number 22 on the field. If I messed up it’s because I’m young.. ..but guaranteed, in the next game I’m not gonna mess up on the same thing.”
Kelly also asked him about his injuries and durability. He said, “I feel like the injuries I’ve had were just bad luck, random injuries. They’re not nagging injuries like a hamstring or [major] like an ACL. I know I can stay healthy.”
Another player the Dolphins are counting on to come back from injury is free safety Louis Delmas. The Dolphins signed Delmas to a one year deal with the team in 2014 even though he had some durability issues. He played in 14 games before tearing his ACL against the Baltimore Ravens. Delmas brought great energy and leadership to the team, so the Dolphins have brought him back on another one year deal. A weak safety draft probably had something to do with that as well. Reports are he is ahead of schedule on his rehab and should be ready for the start of the season. The Dolphins also resigned fan favorite Michael Thomas to back-up Delmas at safety. Thomas is also a great contributor on specials teams. He is also in the walking wounded club, coming back from a torn pectoral muscle.
Looking to the future, the Dolphins need to start thinking about who is going to replace Grimes. Grimes is turning 32 this year and has two years left on his $32 million deal. He had another terrific year in 2014 in which he tied for first place in interceptions and earned his second straight trip to the Pro Bowl. But again, he’s going to be 32 year old this year. Chances are he will be a cap casualty after the 2015 season.
Thanks to my PhinManiacs.com 2015 Draft Guide, I have identified some players I think the Dolphins should potentially draft. While I don’t think the Dolphins should draft a cornerback or safety with the 14th overall pick, I do think they need to address the secondary with their second pick. The Dolphins used their third round pick in this year’s draft to acquire wide receiver Kenny Stills from New Orleans. I think waiting until the fourth round to shore up the secondary would be a mistake.
UCONN CB Byron Jones is the first player on my list. He is ranked as the seventh CB in the draft by PhinManiacs.com. According to PhinManiacs.com talent evaluator Shasky Clarke (@sclarkenfl), “Jones has all the desired tools of a top pro cornerback. He has prototypical size and length and utilizes them as a physical and effective press cover guy.” He comes from a small school, but we all know the Dolphins love those small school guys.
Next I like Utah CB Eric Rowe. He is the number five ranked CB by PhinManiacs.com and is a large DB at 6’-1” and 205 lbs. The thing I like the most about Rowe is his versatility. He’s listed as a corner, but PhinManiacs.com talent evaluator Jeff Hyde (@Jeff__Hyde) says, “Rowe is best suited for the free safety position in the NFL.” If the Dolphins draft Rowe, and Taylor or Davis end up winning the starting corner position, then Miami potentially has their safety.
The third corner I like for the Dolphins in the second round is LSU CB Jalen Collins. He is the 11th ranked CB by PhinManiacs.com. He’s another big DB at 6’-1” and 203 lbs (no more outside corners under six feet). He’s played in the SEC with top tier talent and PhinManiacs.com talent evaluator Jeff Hyde says, “Collins is one of the most physically gifted cornerbacks in this year’s class.”
The best case scenario for the Dolphins will be for Taylor and Davis to continue their development and bounce back from their injuries. That will give the Dolphins an opportunity to finally see what they have in these two. Will that happen? Who knows? Getting a full 16 games out of Delmas would also be ideal. Will be durable enough in 2015? Time will tell. Even though Grimes is still playing at an elite level, who will be his replacement?
As you can see, so many questions; in fact, there are just too many questions for the Dolphins not to address the personnel in the secondary sooner than later.
This column was written by Carlos Hernandez. Follow him on Twitter @LosDez
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