The Miami Dolphins skipped adding any corners in the 2008 draft opting to build the team from the trenches out. This year, the focus on the secondary was evident when they re-signed Yeremiah Bell and picked up street free agent Gibril “I can’t tackle” Wilson two days before the start of free agency. A move that at the time was heralded. As the draft approached speculation was rampant on how the Dolphins would add to their youth movement.
This past draft was loaded, especially up front, with talented outside and inside LB’s, something the Phins needed despite the fact they re-signed Channing Crowder and brought in CFL stud Cameron Wake. Instead the Dolphins went with a “secondary” plan. That plan included Vontae’ Davis in round 1, Sean Smith in round 2, and Chris Clemons in round 5. Heading into week 8 of the NFL season, the two early round rookies are coming full circle for the Miami Dolphins. In a big way.
Miami has been primarily getting both corners work opposite Will Allen by rotating the two in and out. The hot hand got more reps. The problem was that both often had a hot hand. Davis and Smith have done well in a division that features Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards who they already faced and Randy Moss who they have not. They have also covered Roddy White of Atlanta, Reggie Wayne of Indy, Vincent Jackson in SD, and Marques Colston in N.O. A pro-bowl list to say the least. While the duo has at times given up a play or two, for the most part, they have shut down the opposition.
Now comes their first real task. Not holding down one side of the field, but both. For the first time the Dolphins rooks will line up opposite each other to start the game. Davis and Smith, Smith and Davis. Could this be the first game of a long future? Will this be a sort of “history in the making” type game? The beginning of another Surtain/Madison type era? While that is a lot of pressure to put on the shoulders of a couple kids, it’s a valid question considering the play thus far.
Their first task is a NY Jets team that is still whining and complaining about their first loss to the Dolphins only 2 games ago for Miami. The Jets already had Edwards and the Phins only had a few days to prep for his addition to the Jets team. Now, they have an entire week and 3 games of film to study. Who will get the task to cover him? Smith who matches more to his height or Davis is more physical? Will they swap? One thing is for certain, after 7 weeks of playing NFL football, this duo doesn’t shy away from the big name attractions lining up at WR. In fact, they almost seem to relish it.
Last week saw the activation of rookie Safety Chris Clemons who made not tackles on ST’s but forced the runners into the waiting arms of his teammates. Clemons was singled out by head coach Tony Sparano for his play. Was Clemons activated so that the Phins could employ more secondary help in the face of the vaunted New Orleans passing attack? Hard to say but the bigger question is when will he be on the field outside of ST’s? Is Clemons going to push the million dollar free agent Wilson out of his job?
Clemons is a physical safety who likes to hit whereas Wilson has struggled making not only game defining tackles but simply tackles. Clemons was also a ball hawking machine during TC but will that translate to INT’s on the real field?
The only question that really can be answered is that the Dolphins have 3 youngsters in place that are the future of the Dolphins secondary and as good as they are playing now, it’s hard to imagine what they can be playing like when they actually find the game slowing down in front of them. This weeks game is the first real test for this duo of young corners. An opposing team who wants to prove that the first go around for the Phins was luck and nothing more. A vendetta team playing at home in front of a hostile crowd. A talented WR who has had 3 games in his new uniform. And on the opposite team, two not so wide-eyed rookies who want to prove they belong.