Dolphins Secondary Sporting A Different Look

Posted Aug 21, 2013

Roster move brings about new opportunities.

There was a different look in the Dolphins secondary at practice Wednesday.

Veteran Richard Marshall wasn’t out there after the team terminated his contract, and that brought about a different set of emotions.

On one hand was the sadness of seeing a teammate, and to some a mentor, leave the team. On the other was a bigger opportunity for playing time.

Marshall started the first three preseason games for the Dolphins and slid inside to cover the slot in nickel packages.

“Decisions like these are never easy,” Head Coach Joe Philbin said after practice Wednesday. “We consider a multitude of factors before we make a decision like this. But we do feel like this decision came at the right time and it’s in the best interest of the football team. We wish Richard well in the future. He’s a very, very professional team player and we wish him and his family well.”

Perhaps the player most affected by Marshall’s departure is Dimitri Patterson, who seemingly has won the starting job opposite free agent acquisition Brent Grimes.

It was Patterson who came onto the field at cornerback in nickel situations in the preseason games, and Patterson also shared first-team reps with Marshall throughout training camp.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Patterson said. “All we looked at this thing is one day at a time. You can’t really get caught up on certain things. You’ve just got to go in with your head down. Even if something has been afforded to you, you still can’t get complacent. It’s a grind from here on out. At any given time you have to have that approach that it can be taken from you for whatever it may be and you always have to take that into consideration as a daily approach. That’s what I’ve been doing my whole career.

“But obviously to be playing a substantial amount of time, whether it’s starting or as a role player, I was going to be at peace with that no matter what.”

Patterson and Marshall came into camp expected to compete for the starting job. Marshall started the first four games of 2012 before landing on injured reserve with a back injury, while Patterson started the last two after being claimed off waivers from Cleveland.

Patterson has started 16 games in six NFL seasons — all in the last three years.

“This is really my first legitimate open competition since I’ve been in it, so I really didn’t know what to expect,” Patterson said. “Honestly, I just went into it with a positive mind-set, just saying to myself, at least I’m in it. Just took that approach every day and made the most of it. I wasn’t like I went home every home and checked it off, this day was better than yesterday because there’s so much that’s going on.”

Among the players whose playing time might increase in light of Marshall’s departure is Nolan Carroll.

It was Carroll who replaced Marshall in the starting lineup last season and he went on to start 10 games before spending the last two on the inactive list.

“It’s kind of one of those down days because Richard was a friend of mine, a good teammate of mine,” Carroll said. “He’s somebody I leaned on last year when he went down and I had to fill in for him. He’s a guy I got advice from every week. I think he contributed to me getting better from last year. For him to be gone is one of those things that’s disheartening, but we’ve just got to grow from it as a team and move on.

“I’m just going to continue to do what I’ve been doing, that’s all. Nothing has changed for me. That’s been my mind-set since camp has started. Every day is just going to be the same thing I’ve been doing, and that’s trying to get better and get that spot.”

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said the Dolphins had plenty of options in terms of replacing Marshall as the nickel cornerback.

He listed among them Patterson, Jimmy Wilson and rookie third-round pick Will Davis.

Philbin said the Dolphins have more than enough time to come up with an answer.

“It’s Aug. 21; we’ve got an important home opener against Tampa Bay this Saturday and then we have another game against New Orleans,” Philbin said. “We have a chance to evaluate players and then we have about 10 days before we open Sept. 8 in Cleveland. We’ve got work to do, no doubt about it, but we feel we have good candidates. But we need work.” Wilson says one thing the Dolphins secondary has going for it is a lot of versatility.

“We have a lot of different players that play different positions,” Wilson said. “We’ve got a lot of good depth, guys that could be starting on a lot of other teams. I think we just need to find out where we are at the end of these preseason games and everybody needs to collectively be going hard for the team.”
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