Not only was this group of defensive backs more opportunistic in terms of creating turnovers, but their ability to lock down opposing receivers in coverage, especially in the red zone, made teams one dimensional at times. They also provided stellar run support, led by starting safeties
The ultimate testament to the improvements made by the secondary was cornerback
BREAKING DOWN DOLPHINS DEFENSIVE BACKS
• Brent Grimes (5-10, 183) — Coming off of a devastating Achilles injury in Atlanta that cost him the entire 2012 season, Grimes was out to prove he was fully recovered as a free agent with the Dolphins and he did so in memorable fashion with a team-high four interceptions. By season’s end he was arguably the best cornerback in the AFC and did not allow a touchdown catch by an opposing receiver in all 16 games, earning his second Pro Bowl berth with some eye-popping athletic plays. He is a top candidate for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year.
• Nolan Carroll (6-1, 205) — Carroll was asked to step up his play immediately after Patterson’s groin injury suffered in the season opener kept him out for the next five weeks and he delivered his best season as a Miami Dolphin in 12 starts. The fifth-round pick out of Maryland back in 2010 snagged a career-high three interceptions and registered 47 tackles (43 solo) while providing stability on the opposite side of Grimes.
• Reshad Jones (6-1, 210) — Fresh off a new contract and Pro Bowl-caliber season in 2012, Jones maintained his reputation as a hard-hitting safety and a nightmare for running backs reaching that second and third level of the defense. He led the team in solo tackles with 84, was second overall behind linebacker
• Chris Clemons (6-1, 214) — Clemons is the quarterback of the secondary and is responsible for getting everyone lined up properly while calling out the coverage adjustments. He finished with 92 tackles (62 solo) and an interception, but perhaps his biggest contribution was making sure Michael Thomas was in the right spot and the proper coverage in the second half against the New England Patriots. That’s when the former practice squad player from San Francisco was thrust into action at the most critical time of the game.
• Dimitri Patterson (5-10, 200) — A strong finish to the 2012 season and an even stronger training camp convinced Miami’s coaching staff to elevate Patterson to the starting spot and release incumbent Richard Marshall, and his two interceptions in the season-opening win at Cleveland validated that move. He missed the next four games, then picked up where he left off with two more interceptions in a three-game stretch in late October, but could not fully overcome the groin injury and was placed on Injured Reserve for the final three games of the season.
• Jimmy Wilson (5-11, 205) — Wilson was perhaps the most versatile of Miami’s defensive backs, as he was asked to play mostly in the slot as the nickel corner but also lined up on the boundary and at safety and never missed a beat. He sealed the home-opening win over the Atlanta Falcons with a late interception of a Matt Ryan pass and finished eighth on the team in tackles with 39 (38 solo) and one forced fumble.
• Michael Thomas (5-11, 196) — By far the feel good story of the season, Thomas went from having never played in an NFL team while occupying a spot on the San Francisco 49ers’ practice squad to being the hero of Miami’s 24-20 upset of the Patriots at Sun Life Stadium with a game-ending interception of future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Tom Brady in the end zone. Thomas’ breakup of a Brady pass intended for Danny Amendola in the right corner of the end zone three plays earlier was even more impressive and he quickly became a national story for his heroics.
Safeties D.J. Campbell and