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2013 Training Camp Preview: Defensive Backs

Posted Jul 8, 2013

Mix of youth and veterans makes for a balanced secondary.



Success on defense against the pass is something Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle takes pride in, especially since his background is as a defensive backs coach. So last year’s struggles by the secondary in his first year as a coordinator frustrated Coyle.

Between April’s NFL Draft and some free agency moves, Coyle will be coaching a slightly different looking group of cornerbacks and safeties when training camp opens. He’ll be breaking in a crop of talented but raw rookies and first-year players and grooming seasoned veterans in an attempt to put together a deeper and more sound defensive backfield.

Physical and athletic safeties Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons return to try and reclaim their starting roles, but the departure of cornerback Sean Smith and the uncertain status of Richard Marshall coming off a back injury has opened up some intriguing possibilities at cornerback. Free agent acquisition Brent Grimes stood out during OTAs and minicamp, while rookies Jamar Taylor and Will Davis hope to push incumbents Marshall, Nolan Carroll and R.J. Stanford.

BREAKING DOWN DOLPHINS DEFENSIVE BACKS

• Reshad Jones S (6-1, 210) — By season’s end, Jones had put himself in the conversation among the top safeties in the league with 94 tackles (74 solo), four interceptions, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. The former fifth-round pick out of Georgia is poised to take that next step towards a Pro Bowl.

• Brent Grimes CB (5-10, 183) — A Pro Bowl season back in 2010 with the Atlanta Falcons convinced them to franchise Grimes as they envisioned him being a force in the secondary. Unfortunately, Grimes injured his Achilles’ tendon in the 2012 opener at Kansas City and was lost for the season, but his quickness and agility were on full display last month in Davie and if healthy he will prove to be one of the key offseason additions.

• Jamar Taylor CB (5-10, 192) — Indianapolis is where Taylor pushed himself into the spotlight with a stellar NFL Scouting Combine that was highlighted by his 4.39 in the 40-yard dash. Miami wasted no time picking him in the second round with the 54th overall pick out of Boise State, seeing his natural ball instincts (four interceptions as a senior) and ability to stop the run and rush the passer as skills that fit in nicely with Coyle’s system.

Dimitri Patterson CB (5-10, 200) — This seventh-year veteran joined the Dolphins in mid-December of last year after being waived by the Cleveland Browns and started the last two regular-season games, recording five solo tackles (four in his debut against Buffalo). His experience (16 starts in 73 games) gives him a slight leg up on the rookies as he hopes to rekindle the success he had in 2010 with the Philadelphia Eagles when he had four interceptions in nine starts.

• R.J. Stanford CB (5-10, 185) — Shortly after the Dolphins traded Vontae Davis to the Indianapolis Colts, they plucked Stanford from the waiver wires when Carolina cut him loose and he didn’t let them down. Stanford played in all 16 games and had 15 tackles (12 solo) and another six on special teams, proving to be valuable as a nickel corner.

Jimmy Wilson S/CB (5-11, 205) — By far the most versatile of Miami’s defensive backs, Wilson transitioned from cornerback to safety and then back to corner with ease last season, starting four of the 15 games he played in and racking up 35 tackles (29 solo) two sacks and one pass breakup. He also blocked a punt that was recovered in the end zone by Olivier Vernon for a touchdown against the New York Jets and brings a physical presence on every snap.

• Nolan Carroll CB (6-1, 205) — No matter the situation, Carroll’s demeanor never waivers and it’s that level-headed approach and discipline that has made him a favorite of the coaching staff. He started each of the last games in 2012 and finished with 47 tackles (41 solo), five passes defensed, one sack and one forced fumble as a boundary corner and hopes to hold off Taylor and Davis.

• Will Davis CB (5-11, 186) — General Manager Jeff Ireland moved back into the third round to grab Davis, which adds a little pressure on the youngster out of Utah State to deliver on that gamble. Last year was Davis’ first as a starter in just two seasons at Utah State and he intercepted five passes while registering 64 tackles (46 solo) and he and Taylor already have formed a bond in hopes of becoming the future cornerback tandem for the franchise.

• Chris Clemons S (6-1, 214) — Like Jones, Clemons was a fifth-round draft pick only one year earlier back in 2009 out of Clemson and started 14 of 15 games in his second season alongside veteran Yeremiah Bell. Last year he quietly put together his best season with 96 tackles (69 solo) and two interceptions and is a perfect compliment to Jones, especially as a run defender.

• Richard Marshall CB (5-11, 198) — Marshall started off strong for Miami in the first four games with 17 tackles (all solo), four passes defensed and an interception before injuring his back and eventually landing on Injured Reserve. This will be his eighth season and after a rigorous rehabilitation he has his sights set on regaining his starting spot and perhaps teaming with Grimes to form one of the more feared tandems in the AFC.

Kelcie McCray S (6-1, 200) — Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas State immediately following the 2012 NFL Draft, McCray was opening some eyes during the early part of training camp before breaking a bone in his foot. By placing him on Injured Reserve, the Dolphins showed they had confidence in him rather than releasing him with an injury settlement and now that he is 100 percent, McCray plans to shine again.

There are five other defensive backs fighting for roster spots or hoping land a spot on the eight-man practice squad – rookie seventh-round pick Don Jones at cornerback, cornerbacks Julian Posey and De’Andre Presley and undrafted rookie safeties Keelan Johnson and Jordan Kovaks.