The Miami Dolphins are weeks away from opening training camp for the 2017 season and there should be a lot of focus on the Dolphins safety group. A group who played well in 2016 but should see a lot of improvement in 2017.
Last season the Dolphins had to move some pieces around when they lost Reshad Jones for the season due to a shoulder injury. Late in the year they lost Isa Abdul-Quddus to an injury as well. The Dolphins turned to street free agent Bacarri Rambo to fill that void. This year, Jones is healthy.
When healthy Jones is one of the top safeties in the NFL. Fully recovered from his injury, Jones should make an immediate impact on the Dolphins defense, especially against the run where Jones excels at.
Without Jones the Dolphins were also unable to pull off the safety blitz as effectively. Jones plays at his best when he moves around just behind the linebackers. Capable of getting back into coverage, Jones has the ability to confuse quarterbacks.
Jones signed an extension this past off-season and will be looking to prove that it wasn’t a mistake. Jones’ return makes the defense better in a big way.
There are rumors circulating that Aikens may drop back with the corners this season, at least through camp. Aikens continues to improve but he needs to find a home at one position and then learn to be great at it instead of average at both. He as the potential and corner seems a better fit for him this year. Training camp will tell however and if can’t progress his playing time will be reduced until he can.
Thomas signed another tender offer this year and again is on a one year deal. A leader in the Dolphins community off the field, Thomas is one of the best special teams players the Dolphins have but he hasn’t been able to crack the starting lineup on a regular basis. This year he will have to compete with newcomer Nate Allen for playing time at safety.
There was a time when Allen was one of the top safeties in the league. In fact it was only a few years ago that many thought he would breakout to the top but that didn’t happen and Allen’s production started to slide. He signed a one year deal with the Eagles after his rookie contract expired but the following season, 2015, the Eagles opted not to re-sign him. He signed instead with Oakland where he tore his MCL and appeared in only five games. In 2016 Allen struggled to stay healthy. He played in 14 games but started only four. Miami is hoping that the change of scenery and a return to health will return Allen to the player he was in Philadelphia.
There is so much to like about McDonald’s addition to the Dolphins but the team will have to wait until after week 8 as McDonald is suspended for what essentially was driving under the influence of prescription drugs. McDonald was expected to be a huge player in free agency when he entered back in March but the suspension curtailed the enthusiasm.
McDonald started 53 games in his four seasons with the Rams and is considered a top safety in the league. McDonald will be allowed to practice and play through training camp but will have to leave the team once the season begins. The Dolphins will get a boost upon his return as McDonald will join the team for the final 8 games with fresh legs and body.
A.J. Hendy – Maurice Smith
Hendy has the upper hand in the battle for the likely fourth and final spot on the roster having one year more experience than Smith. At least until McDonald comes back to the team.