Lately I have been thinking about the recent success of our beloved Miami Dolphins and just how well the entire team has been playing. Then I asked myself, how in the world did we start off the year 0 – 7? Why was our defense and especially the secondary so dreadful early on? The Dolphins had the fifth ranked defense last year under Defensive Coordinator genius, Mike Nolan. The Dolphins had so much potential this year. What the heck happened in the first part of the season? Curiosity was killing the cat here so I just had to go back and re-watch some tape. Sure enough, the proof was in the pudding. It certainly didn’t take long to figure out the weakest link in Miami’s defensive chain. Standing at ground zero of Miami’s problems in the secondary was one specific Dolphin. That would be Free Safety Reshad Jones.
Now, I typically don’t like to blame losses on one particular player. After all, football is the ultimate team game. But to say the play of Jones was atrocious during that forgetful stretch of the year is an understatement. It was much worse than the “Gibril Wilson Year” of 2009. He made a laundry list of repeated mistakes that would completely deflate any air out of the Dolphins. It’s the little things that are forgotten or go unnoticed during live games which can ultimately affect the outcome. Just to name few, I observed the following deficiencies during my science fair project on Jones: took terrible angles on passes and ball carriers, blew assignments in coverage, played out of position, bit on double moves, failed to wrap up tackles, interfered with team mate’s ability to tackle, slipped/fell down, tangled his feet up, etc, etc. Unfortunately, the Dolphins had no other options at the time. Third year free safety, Chris Clemons, was out with a serious hamstring injury which forced the Dolphins to continue playing rush and roulette with Jones in the lineup.
Jones consistently made critical errors in key situations game after game. Believe it or not, the Dolphins were competitive each week, always keeping the score close. However, his inability to make plays and generous ability to give up big plays cost the Dolphins field position, points, and ultimately games earlier in the year. It certainly left a bad taste in my mouth that will take a gallon of Listerine to remove. NFL Films could dedicate a Football Follies special, purely on his play. Do you remember that 45 yard touchdown pass to WR Vincent Jackson in week four at San Diego? You know, the one where Jackson falls down after making the catch, performs some yoga, does a few sit-ups, then finally gets up to shrug off a wimpy tackler to walk in the end zone? Yes, that was Jones, playing out of position. And yes, again showing his inability to wrap up. On numerous occasions, I noticed “Mr. heart and soul” of the secondary, SS Yeremiah Bell, just shaking his head with his hands in the air looking at Jones with disgust on his face. When the defense needed a big stop, it was always Jones who let the team down.
I think by now I’ve done my job of painting a clear picture of my disappointment in the play of Jones early on in the year. Unless he records about five pick sixes in the remaining four games, he will never be able to redeem himself from his early circus acts. However, it would be unfair to not at least mention that he has “slightly” improved during the last five games. No, he still doesn’t have any interceptions. And no, he still doesn’t have any forced fumbles. And yes, he still has just the one sack from the week two game against the Houston Texans. But, he has improved in coverage and staying in position without allowing WRs to just blow right past him on deep plays. He’s done a fairly decent job of wrapping up tackles as well (at least when he’s been given the opportunity). Most importantly, he doesn’t appear to be a “lost ball in high weeds” anymore.
I’m hoping that what we saw earlier this year was just prolonged growing pains from Jones. After all, it’s only his second year in the league. He still has several things to work on in order to improve. One being his downfield blocking after CB Vontae Davis gets an interception….Regardless, I’ve been lighting candles, crossing my fingers, and hoping that Mr. Jones can turn the corner and be a productive free safety for the Dolphins. Well, the dark clouds are finally starting to slowly part away. Hopefully some South Florida sun will shine down on number twenty.