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2021 Miami Dolphins Training Camp Preview: Cornerbacks

Today, our training camp preview series takes us to the cornerbacks' room. To reserve your spot at Miami Dolphins training camp, click the photo below.

Personnel Changes

Table inside Article
Additions Departures
Justin Coleman (DET)
Trill Williams (NO, 2021 UDFA)

Coaching Staff

Entering his third season with the Dolphins, new Cornerbacks Coach Charles Burks' route to heading up his own room in the NFL was a circuitous one. Before serving as a Dolphins defensive assistant for the 2019-2020 seasons, Burks was the defensive coordinator at Southeastern Oklahoma State. At the time of his hire, Burks was the youngest coordinator in the Great American Conference at the age of 26.

After his first coaching job at his alma mater East Central University in Oklahoma, Burks took a Texas two-step with stops at Texas A&M-Commerce and West Texas A&M.

Working primarily with the cornerbacks in 2020, Burks' name often came up in player press conferences as a great teacher.

"In practice, I'm working on small things so oftentimes I work with 'Chuck' (Charles Burks) and we're doing looking over the shoulder, catching the ball at the high point," cornerback Byron Jones said in June. "We'll just walk through some of the man coverages in terms of getting out of a break 45 degrees downhill, a 90-degree break. Just kind of slow things down, but allow yourself to work on the technique component of it."

Head Coach Brian Flores led the New England safety room for three years while Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer headed up rooms in the secondary for 11 years with both New England and Miami prior to his 2020 promotion to Dolphins defensive coordinator. Defensive Backs Coach Gerald Alexander held the same title at California and Montana State for four combined seasons before arriving in South Florida.

Group at a Glance

In 2020, the Dolphins found the right ingredients, then proceeded to add to the group in 2021.

Byron Jones' arrival gave Miami two perimeter corners with accomplished NFL resumes (Xavien Howard). Together, they blanketed opposing receivers, giving Miami one of the league's most-imposing tandems, particularly in man coverage. Howard led the league with 10 interceptions while Jones set a career-high in that department with two of his own.

Nik Needham transitioned inside to the slot after a year of playing primarily on the perimeter. The former undrafted free agent from Texas El Paso earned 1,360 reps on defense in his two years as a pro with four interceptions, 18 passes defensed, 112 tackles and a pair of sacks.

The Dolphins added competition with Justin Coleman, who was one of the game's premier slot corners with Seattle before taking on a more widespread role with the Lions the last two seasons. Second-year cornerback Noah Igbinoghene's versatility has been a talking point this offseason as he can play both inside and out. Jamal Perry has also seen time in the slot, outside, at safety and on special teams.

A collection of undrafted free agents and members of last year's practice squad retained on futures contracts will add competition to the room – Terrell Bonds, Javaris Davis and Tino Ellis have a year of experience with the Dolphins while undrafted rookies Trill Williams and Jaytlin Askew look to make their mark in their first NFL training camp.

The Cast

The youngest player in the NFL last season, Igbinoghene earned valuable experience in his rookie campaign. The on-field work was supplemented by the plethora of knowledge and wisdom imparted from Miami's experienced players and coaches at the position.

An exceptional athlete who flipped from wide receiver to cornerback ahead of his sophomore season at Auburn (career passer rating of 73.6 and completion rate of just 47.3 percent allowed in college), Igbinoghene was praised by veteran Byron Jones for his professionalism.

"He's an incredible talent," Jones said. "I think the way he's approaching the game this year is going to be special. I think, to be honest as a rookie, he balled out in camp. I was really impressed with the way he performed and approached the game. He's been consistent throughout the entire season in terms of the coaching. 'Chuck' (Charles Burks) is not easy on anybody. He's certainly not easy on the guys he knows the expectations are very high for. I think Noah did an incredible job of just being there, being attentive every single day, and learning and trying to put fourth what 'Coach Chuck' was wanting out of him."

Askew played just nine total defensive snaps his final season at Georgia Tech, but he was a fixture on the special teams unit. He made nine total tackles (PFF) during his four years on special teams, a period that spanned 393 total snaps. In 157 career coverage reps, Askew allowed just 56.5 percent of passes targeted for his man to be completed.

After a sterling five-year run with the Cowboys playing both safety and cornerback, Byron Jones came to Miami and helped elevate the Dolphins secondary into one of the league's most productive units.

Jones' work ethic and approach to the game have kept him on top of his craft from Day 1 as a rookie with Dallas back in 2015. Jones discussed his offseason approach earlier this summer.

"I'd love to work on my technique more and just be more of a technician and not rely just solely on my athleticism; and I'd also like to be more of a playmaker and get my head around and take more chances at the ball," Jones said.

Howard became the first player in the NFL with double-digit interceptions in a single season since Antonio Cromartie did in 2007. Last season, he allowed a completion rate of just 54.5 percent (PFF) with only 7.7 yards per target against his coverage. His 20 passes defensed led the NFL en route to a first-team All-Pro selection.

Coleman played for Flores and Boyer in New England in 2015 and 2016 before joining the Seahawks in 2017. There, Coleman was one of the game's premier slot corners. He held opposing slot receivers to 457 yards and two touchdowns allowed on 60 targets (7.6 yards per target), two interceptions and a passer rating of 83.3 between 2017-2018 with Seattle.

Among slot corners with at least 30 targets per season, Coleman ranked eighth in passer rating allowed both in 2017 (83.3) and 2018 (82.5), per PFF. With the Lions in 2019 and 2020, Coleman missed some time with injuries but was utilized in a multi-faceted role playing outside, in the box and on the occasional blitz.

Wearing many hats since arriving in Miami in 2019, Jamal Perry played 312 snaps last season in a variety of roles. According to Pro Football Focus, Perry had 15 snaps as a box defender, 82 in the slot, seven on the perimeter and 36 at free safety. He also played 172 snaps on special teams making five total tackles.

Starting his pro career with the Memphis Express of the defunct AAF, Bonds spent the last two years with the Baltimore Ravens. He made his debut in 2020 playing primarily on special teams. During Memphis' lone season, Bonds blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown.

Teammates with Igbinoghene at Auburn, Davis spent the 2020 season on the Miami practice squad. As a collegian, Davis allowed opposing quarterbacks to post an NFL passer rating of just 57.6, thanks in large part to his eight interceptions compared to just four touchdowns allowed (PFF). He also held receivers – primarily in the rough and rugged SEC – to just a 53 percent completion rate.

With smooth feet and a competitive spirit that fits in line with the Dolphins philosophy, Needham kicked inside as a primary nickel corner with immediate success in 2020. Matching up with a handful of the game's best slot receivers, Needham measured up. Over the course of a month, Needham matched up with Cooper Kupp (LAR), Keenan Allen (LAC), Tyler Boyd (CIN) and Jamison Crowder (NYJ). He held those four players to a combined eight receptions on 14 targets for 86 yards and an interception (PFF).

Ellis was on the Dolphins practice squad in 2020 after an impressive career at Maryland. There, he allowed a career completion rate of just 53.3 percent (PFF). He also registered a combined 15 pass breakups over his four-year collegiate career.

A long, imposing corner with a penchant for physicality in press, Williams originally signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent. Now with Miami, Williams is hoping to parlay an accomplished college career into professional success. At Syracuse, Williams allowed a career NFL passer rating of just 79.1 with four interceptions compared to four touchdowns allowed (PFF). He limited opposing receivers to a career completion rate of 58.7 percent.

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