Can The Young Safeties Step Up For The Dolphins?


Well fans, the draft is now behind us and free agency acquisitions are slowly coming to a close.  I have spent a lot of time looking over the current roster, analyzing players, and visualizing how good this Miami Dolphins team can be this year.  Thanks to a solid draft, I am a lot more optimistic now than I was just two months ago.  However, I do have some concerns about one group of guys on this team.  Now that Yeremiah Bell is gone, can the young safeties step up for the Dolphins?

For the last eight years, Bell was the starting strong safety and captain of the secondary.  He has started the last 67 games and has led the team in tackles for the past four years.  Bell played with intensity and passion.  But just like the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end.  Unfortunately, he was on the wrong side of 34 years old and he had his struggles last year in coverage.  Since he was set to make $6.2M in salary this year, the Dolphins had to let him go to free up cap space.  I think I speak for most Dolphin fans by saying we wish Bell the best of luck, as long as he doesn’t sign with the Jets…..

Now that Bell is gone, the Dolphins will be relying on youngsters Reshad Jones, Chris Clemons, and Jimmy Wilson to battle it out for starting positions at strong and free safety.  They were drafted by Miami in the last three years.  Although Miami has veteran options as recently acquired Tyrell Johnson and Tyrone Culver to also compete, Jeff Ireland is relying on his young draft picks to step up and take over the vacant safety positions.

Reshad Jones appears to be the front runner to take Bell’s old position as the starting strong safety.   But since Miami drafted him in 2010, his play in the secondary has been extremely inconsistent.  Early last year he made a laundry list of repeated mistakes that cost the Dolphins field position and points.  For example, he took terrible angles on passes and ball carriers, blew assignments in coverage, played out of position, bit on double moves, and failed to wrap up tackles.  To his credit, Jones did eliminate a lot of these mistakes and by the end of the season, and he was able to record two sacks and an interception.  But have we seen enough out of Jones to be convinced that he can consistently get the job done?

As for Chris Clemons, he showed early signs of potential as a free safety in 2010.  That year, he played in 15 games, recording 61 tackles with two forced fumbles and an interception.  The downside to his game is his ability to stay healthy.  Although he missed just one game in 2010 because of a severe hamstring injury, he battled through a groin injury during the entire second half of the season, which required him to have off-season surgery.

The injury bug would remain with Clemons all the way through the 2011 season, when he suffered a leg injury in the final preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, which caused him to miss practice and lose his starting spot.  He would suffer through hamstring injuries all year, playing sparingly in just 14 games.  Since being drafted in 2009, Clemons has not shown that he can consistently stay healthy.

Last year as a rookie, Jimmy Wilson had very limited playing time as a defensive back and got most of his minutes from special teams.  He finished the year with just 16 tackles, two forced fumbles, and an interception by mainly coming in as a role player.  Even though I love his potential, competitiveness, and hard working mentality, we have not seen him play enough at the safety position to necessarily claim “he will be good.”  Just like with Jones and Clemons, Wilson is currently a huge question mark at safety.

At this moment, can anyone possibly be confident that these youngsters can play well and get the job done this year?  With the lack of experience, playing time, injuries, and other unknowns surrounding this group, we can only hope for the best and keep our fingers crossed.

Although the skills and potential are there for these safeties to step up this year, we haven’t seen enough out of them to be assured they will play well consistently and stay healthy.  I don’t mean to sound pessimistic here, but these are my primary concerns about this group in the Miami secondary.   Keep in mind, the Dolphins secondary was 25th in the league giving up 250 passing yards per game and were ranked 30th in giving up 20+ yard catches last year.  This secondary must improve if the Dolphins want to be successful in 2012.  As for these young guys, it’s time to take the training wheels off and step up!

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