Eye in the Sky Report – Final Review of our Secondary
Honestly, I was a little impressed with our overall record. I was expecting us to be in the 5 to 6 range, but was pleasantly surprised on how we finished. If you take into consideration the OT loses, or the missed FG, or the dropped INT’s we could have had a winning season. The future looks brighter than it has in a few years, but there is still a lot of work to be done, especially in our secondary.
Let’s start with the facts by comparing 2011 vs. 2012:
We saw drastic percentage differences, but there is always a subsequent action to each reaction. We saw a steep decline in ‘total passing’ defence by a difference of 71%, however a steady rise in rushing defence with an increase of 57%.
We knew this was going to happen with the introduction of 4-3 formation. Since we are now assigning two DE’s rather than one NT. The formation change that was implemented by Kevin Coyle was the reason we saw this increase.
What we need to understand and fix during our offseason, is why we did not see any increase in total interceptions and how our secondary dropped down 71% in total passing yards allowed. The obvious reaction would be that we had a free parking sign listed in two integral positions in our secondary, free safety and weak side corner back.
Richard Marshall was supposed to make us forget about trading Vonta Davis, however that was not the case. Marshall didn’t play well enough to warrant that fact, and unfortunately was not able to provide any redemption by being allocated to the Injured Reserve list. There is hope that his chronic back issues will be resolved next year, but even when he was on the field opposing Quarterbacks would focus their attention on the Wide Receive that he was covering. Some experts would state that Marshall would be an ideal fit for a nickel back, very similar to how we used Will Allen a few years ago. Here’s is hoping that a full offseason and condition program would entice our fan base to trust in Marshall once again.
Regardless of how Marshall transforms his game, our front office needs to address the void we have at cornerback. I am still a little perplexed on why we traded Davis, as his salary was ridiculously cap friendly and he still has a tremendous upside. Let’s look at the stats, Davis played only ten games this past season and had 3 interceptions. That beats all secondary players, who all played more than 10 games, on our team with the exception of Rashad Jones.
Let that marinate for a second.
We have five draft picks this year in the top 100, we need to repeat what we did in 2009, where we doubled down and selected two cornerbacks. With Sean Smith contract status up in the air, we might once again be starting two rookie cornerbacks.
Speaking of Smith, I am not sure how to judge this blue chip prospect. Everyone looks at the raw physical attributes and you can’t help being impressed. 6’3, 218lbs, under 4.7 40 time, but you shake your head sometimes based on his play on the field. One play that I can’t stop thinking about was against the Colts. 4th Quarter, Miami is down by 3, and we have the Colts on a third and short, on their 28 yard line. Andrew Luck scrambles from the pocket, gets hit by Wake, and floats a dead duck in the air. Sean Smith had a perfect opportunity to pick the ball in the air, as he was the only player around the ball. Not only did he miss the INT, but it slipped right through his hands, then his chest and finally his knees. Blue chip prospects make that type of play. Especially when Indy punted the ball on the next play, and won the game by three points. Those are points left on the field, and since Smith has dawned a Miami Dolphin uniform, and I can’t think of one play where he put points on the field. Now he wants to be paid like a top tier cornerback, I don’t agree with the salary that he is requesting. If I was Ireland, I would give him and three year incentive ridden contract. If you get 5 INTs, I’ll give you 5 million, if you score a defensive touchdown you get 1 million dollars, but to give him 20 million guaranteed, that would be a mistake on our cap.
Speaking of mistakes, enter Reshad Jones. The mistake was on me. I requested that this player get cut, and wasn’t worthy of being a NFL player. I ate my words this past year. It’s funny how a player can progress right before your eyes and you are just watching him grow into the player you always thought he would be. Jones was the best player on our team. Period. Nothing more you can say about that. Jones play spoke for itself. He was constantly roaming the field, making plays, tackles, and causing chaos where ever he was. How can we reward a player for growing up in our system and progressing like he did this past year, give him a new contract. Jones has earned it, in fact, his existing contract doesn’t expire until the end of next year, but if he has another career year we can be assured that he will be commanding more money, let’s be smart and show our existing players that if you play hard and we see this type of progress we will reward it. If you have a chance, take a read of my previous article dedicated to the progress on Reshad Jones (http://phinphanatic.com/2012/11/02/eye-in-the-sky-report-a-different-type-of-spotlight-on-reshad-jones/)
Another contract situation to pay attention to is Chris Clemons. Another player that hasn’t really proved that he belongs on the field. Yes, Clemons had his most productive season since he was drafted, and perhaps that is a sign of things to come (-similar to Jones last year). However, like Smith, Clemons is requesting a new contract. I would not break the bank for this player either. Clemons hasn’t proved to any of us that he deserves us to break the bank. A fair 3 year, 6 million contract would be the best idea for both sides. I would even throw in the same incentives as I have stated for Smith. Clemons played well in Coyle’s Zebra formation, however we just need to see more progress out of this player to ensure that he is worthy of a starter position in 2013.
When training camp opens this summer, we might only have one returning starter, and that might be a good thing. Our current players with the exception of Jones, produced the lowest amount of takeaways and game changing plays we have seen since 2006, where we only had 8 total team interceptions. Coyle has laid a nice blueprint on how to stop the run, however a new blueprint must be implemented on reducing our passing yards per game and that starts with a total review of how to increase our team talent in the secondary. With the NFL turning into a passing league, we must start paying attention to the caliber of players that will represent our secondary otherwise opposing QB’s will target that free parking sign we have posted in our secondary.