For a while now, the Miami Dolphins have lacked an elite group of defensive backs. Following the addition of Byron Maxwell, there was a domino effect in the secondary that will soon change that statement.
Reshad jones has been a top 5 safety in the league for a few years now and has provided a fair amount of veteran leadership to the unit. Outside of his play, the Dolphins’ secondary has been exposed game after game and has become a reason for many of the losses over the last few years.
Starting with last season, the Dolphins let go of Brent Grimes and acquired Byron Maxwell to fill his role. Maxwell brought in some leadership to the cornerback room, previously highlighted by Bobby McCain, Tony Lippett and Xavien Howard (all rookies or sophomores in the league).
After a shaky start and a benching for Byron Maxwell, everybody’s play began to improve. The Dolphins went on to win 9 of the next 11 games to close out the season.
Maxwell used the benching as motivation and had the best 9-game stretch of his career. Tony Lippett seemed to have finally established himself as a more-than-capable starting cornerback. Bobby McCain’s inconsistency was minimal and we began to see more good than bad. And this was all while Xavien Howard was watching from the sideline trying to come back from injury.
Howard has the potential to be a top-tier cornerback and the team has a very serviceable amount of depth behind him. That alone gives the fan base some exciting news as they drool over the potential that the group contains as a unit.
At the end of the 2016 season, the secondary was already on track to do great things in the future. But the team didn’t stop there; Miami added Cordrea Tankersley through the draft and signed Nate Allen and T.J. McDonald in free agency.
The aforementioned players will provide Miami with a starting free safety (both Allen AND McDonald) and a very talented FOURTH cornerback. Not only does the youth of Howard and Lippett give the team some excitement, but Tankersley makes the group electrifying for years to come.
Xavien Howard has true SHUTDOWN corner abilities- a very high expectation. Tony Lippett has an advantage because he played receiver in college; he knows what they’re thinking. Cordrea Tankersley was feared in college and was quarterbacks rarely threw his way. Byron Maxwell might have been the top corner in the league for a few games- can he last a whole season?
This is the best problem Matt Burke can have. There will be some injuries for sure, but the dropoff between starter and backup is very minimal (if at all) and will let Burke use his corners as he pleases.
That is only the cornerbacks, what about the other part of the secondary? Oh yeah there is the playmaking Reshad Jones, who will likely become a perennial Pro Bowler at the position. That solves half of the safety position.
While the team waits for T.J. McDonald to serve his 8-game suspension, Nate Allen will serve as the starting free safety. He could possibly be a liability, but his experience in the league paired with his veteran presence will prove to be a smart move for the organization.
A.J. Hendy, Maurice Smith and possibly Michael Thomas will all learn some valuable information from the veteran, Nate Allen. That alone will enhance the development of Smith and Hendy to get them ready to compete at the NFL level in years to come.
T.J. McDonald had a great few years with the Rams, solidifying himself as one of the league’s best safeties when it comes to bringing the bang on tackles. McDonald is a hard-hitting player will bring some alpha mentality to the secondary.
Pairing McDonald with Jones might just lead to the best duo on the roster. They could finish the season as the strongest safety duo in the league. They could propel the secondary in Miami to new heights, forcing the league to take note of their performance. Soon, the media is going to have to create a nickname for the polarizing secondary in Miami (the team that has been so bad in said category for years).
McDonald will have Pro Bowl help from his counterpart, making his job easier. Since he thrived with the Rams as the lone talent at the position, giving him free range of the back end might open up his game even more.
The secondary is on a fast track to be the best in the league. No matter how other teams will look at it. There is no denying the fact once McDonald and Howard produce as expected. Until then, all we can do is wait.
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