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
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.
• 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.
• 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.
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