Do you remember at the beginning of last season when former Miami Dolphins’ Cornerback Vontae Davis said “I’m going to go out on a limb and say we’re the best tandem in the league?” He was obviously referring to his sidekick, CB Sean Smith. As absurd as that statement was last year, maybe our old friend Vontae was on to something with that famous quote. Although he clearly overhyped his own skills, his bold statement appears to be holding some water now with regards to his old partner in crime. After the first five games of the 2012 season, is Smith starting to become an elite cornerback in the NFL?
Before many of you start attacking the title of this article, please keep in mind the key phrase “starting to become.” By no means am I saying Sean Smith is already an elite CB. But in my opinion, the play of Smith has been one of the biggest surprises of this young Miami Dolphins’ season, especially since his performance last year was mediocre at best. In 2011, he was tied for 36th among CBs with just two interceptions and ranked 45th in passes defended with only 10. Smith had zero forced fumbles and continuously struggled with wrapping up because he consistently tried to use one-arm tackles.
Since being selected in the second round of the 2009 NFL draft by the Dolphins, Smith was starting to earn the label of being soft because he seemed afraid to hit people. He struggled with hauling in interceptions and lacked the ability to make game changing plays. Smith was also part of a very suspect secondary, who ranked 25th in the NFL last season, giving up almost 250 passing yards per game.
But that was the past and this is now. 2012 is a contract season for Smith and he showed up to camp bigger, faster, stronger, and with a new short hair cut. His publicity of starting to become a shutdown corner has recently been discussed over several media outlets nationwide. This is mainly due to the fact that over the past two weeks, Smith has done an admirable job covering arguably two of the best receivers in the NFL: Larry Fitzgerald and A.J. Green.
Fitzgerald finished with eight catches for just 64 yards and did have one TD. His longest catch of the day was for only 13 yards. Not to mention Smith had two key interceptions against the Arizona Cardinals. One of those was in the end zone to stop a critical drive late in the game.
Green had nine catches for only 65 yards and one TD as well going up against Smith. Going into the game Green was one of the most explosive deep threats in the league and was second in receiving yards behind our very own, WR Brian Hartline. But his longest catch of the day only went for 18 yards. On that same play, Smith did force a fumble by punching the ball out of the hands of Green, which was something he was unable to do all last season. However, the Cincinnati Bengals were able to recover the loose ball.
According to several NFL analysts, sports talk radio shows, and most importantly the coaching staff, everyone seems to agree that Smith did an excellent job covering these two elite receivers and did a great job preventing the “big play” down field. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. It’s going to take more than just five solid games to erase three years of subpar performance from Smith.
Like former Dolphins’ WR Chris Chambers explained on his Monday appearance on radio sports show 560 WQAM, Smith needs to consistently play well each week to be labeled a shutdown corner. But Chambers did say he was very impressed with Smith’s size and performance thus far this year. If he keeps playing at this level, by the end of this season, Smith could be mentioned in that “elite” conversation. So in your opinion, has Smith finally turned the corner?