Jones Taking His Safety Play To Next Level

Posted Nov 20, 2012

Young safety coming off his best performance.

Pass defense has become such a valuable commodity in today’s NFL, with a premium being placed on quality defensive backs. Miami Dolphins third-year safety Reshad Jones is beginning to emerge as one that fits in the above category.

One of two fifth-round draft picks in 2010 (starting cornerback Nolan Carroll was the other), Jones solidified his starting spot with a solid training camp and preseason. As this season has progressed so has he, with his best all-around game coming last Thursday night at Buffalo.

Jones led all defensive players with 14 tackles (11 solo), one pass breakup and one forced fumble and was all over the field. The former Georgia Bulldog helped against the run as much as he made tackles in the secondary after the catch and he has left a good impression on Miami’s coaching staff.

“Obviously, his productivity the other night was excellent,” Head Coach Joe Philbin said. “He’s an instinctive football player. He’s got good play speed. He’s an aware guy out on the field and I think that helped him be around the football so much the other night. I thought he tackled well and he is a guy that we think is coming along nicely.”

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has an extensive background in the secondary having served as the Cincinnati Bengals’ defensive backs coach from 2003-11. This is one of the younger secondaries he has worked with, with cornerback Sean Smith in his fourth year and nickel back Jimmy Wilson in his second, but he sees a lot of potential.

Cincinnati had to face the Baltimore Ravens twice a year so Coyle got to see Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed quite a bit. Reed has pretty much set the bar at the position and Jones likes to pattern his game after Reed’s, which is why Coyle doesn’t mind identifying him as the playmaker in Miami’s secondary.

“Well, I think we’re starting to see Reshad kind of enter that role,” Coyle said. “He made a number of plays the other night, was around the ball and had a couple of close plays. He had the fumble caused and made some really good plays in the open field. In the last couple weeks, he hasn’t had the opportunities to make the plays on the ball down the field that he had made earlier in the season. Hopefully, over these next six games, we can see him doing those kinds of things.”

Jones put in a lot of work during the offseason to improve his all-around game, specifically his tackling skills, because his natural ball instincts are what stood out at Georgia and made him appealing to NFL scouts. The biggest criticism he faced last year when he made 12 starts at safety had to with his awareness on the field and his propensity for allowing big gains after the catch because he was out of position.

So far this season, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound native of Atlanta has been in the right place more often than not. He currently ranks third on the team in tackles behind linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett with 58 (45 solo) and has a career-high two interceptions, six passes defensed, three tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and one quarterback hit.

“I think it’s night and day from where I was a year ago and I feel a lot more comfortable out there now running around,” said Jones, who is tied with fellow safety Chris Clemons in total tackles. “We have a great scheme and Coach Coyle is doing a great job as a defensive coordinator putting stuff together. He’s making a lot of great calls out there and for me, I worked on taking better angles this offseason and pursuing to the ball better on run fits and in the passing game and I’ve learned so much from Coach Coyle and defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo.”

Players on both sides of the ball for the Dolphins have taken notice of the huge steps Jones has taken this season and he’s even hear comments from some opposing players and coaches. Dansby interacts with Jones quite a bit as the Mike linebacker making the defensive calls and the two of them work in concert to align the back end.

This is Dansby’s ninth season in the league and third in Miami, so he is the established leader of the defense. Compared to where Jones was even a year ago, Dansby sees a totally different player and someone that can only continue to get better.

“He’s taken it to another level and it’s good to see him mature as a player,” said Dansby, whose 76 tackles (56 solo) lead the team. “The whole defense realizes this young man is making strides towards being something special in the league. He can do it all and he’s got the potential to reach that high level. He’s becoming a leader back there and it’s much needed. He can definitely be a special player not only for this organization but in the league in general.”

Game Pass: Miami Dolphins