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2021 Miami Dolphins Training Camp Preview: Safeties

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

Personnel Changes

Table inside Article
Additions Departures
Jason McCourty (NE) Bobby McCain (WSH)
Jevon Holland (2021 NFL Draft) Kavon Frazier (CIN)

Coaching Staff

Gerald Alexander interned at Dolphins training camp 2019 and one year later took over as defensive backs coach in Miami when Josh Boyer was promoted to defensive coordinator. Alexander produced immediate dividends as he directed a secondary that helped Miami lead the league in takeaways (29) in 2020.

The big plays Miami allowed was significantly decreased upon Alexander's arrival, a point of emphasis from the onset of camp last summer.

"Communication is a must in our defense," Alexander said. "All guys have to be on the same page, especially at the safety position. We have the depth of the defense and we're responsible to really get everybody in line, so it's very important that whether you're young or an older vet, that the communication is on point. We know that big plays always run through the secondary. Whether it be in the pass game or the run game, the easiest way to give up an explosive play in the back end is lack of communication. What I tell those guys is lack of communication leads to disaster."

Group at a Glance

Continuing a theme of versatility and the adage of "the more you can do," the safety position in Miami often comes with a side hustle, so to speak. Eric Rowe made the switch from cornerback midseason in 2019 and has enjoyed success in that role ever since – particularly erasing tight ends. Since the switch, Rowe's allowed an opposing passer rating of just 69.8.

Rookie Jevon Holland joins second-year pro Brandon Jones who earned considerable playing time as a rookie. Both players played a combination of slot and safety in college with snaps coming in every pre-snap alignment imaginable. Both are instinctive sponges who soak up all the knowledge this Miami secondary – players and coaches – has to offer.

A significant portion of that knowledge comes from new arrival Jason McCourty, the most experienced player on the roster. McCourty has played perimeter corner, inside in the slot and safety in his 12-year career.

Clayton Fejedelem was a special teams captain his first year with the Dolphins, including spot duty on defense. Nate Holley was promoted from Miami's practice squad mid-season and contributed on special teams.

The Cast

Expanding on the numbers from the 'Group at a Glance' portion of this preview, Rowe's coverage numbers rival any safety in the NFL over his last 28 games played. Since his midseason switch to safety in 2019, he's allowed just 59.7 percent of passes intended for his man to go complete for an average of 6.18 yards per target (71/119 for 735 yards). He was charged with one touchdown allowed and picked off three passes for a passer rating against of 69.8. The completion percentage, yards per target and passer rating are all top 10 among NFL safeties (PFF).

Playing mostly corner, with some experience as a free safety in college, Rowe emphasized his work in the running game the last two seasons and produced a combined 48 run stops (tackles within two yards of the line of scrimmage) as a result. He also set career-highs with seven quarterback pressures and nine pass breakups in 2020.

Watching Jevon Holland on tape makes one wonder if he's seeing things before they happen as he's a very instinctive player. Those instincts, ball skills, leadership and communication skill set attracted General Manager Chris Grier, Head Coach Brian Flores and the Dolphins to the prospect out of the University of Oregon.

"He's a very smart, instinctive football player that's been a very productive player," Grier said on draft night. "It was his football intelligence and getting to know the kid that stood out as well."

"Jevon was one of, honestly, my favorite players to watch," Flores said. "Very versatile, played inside, played safety, punt return … a lot of ball production – so we're excited to get him and work with him."

The ball skills produced nine interceptions over the 2018 and 2019 college football seasons, tied for fourth-most in NCAA. Holland registered 24 run stops in his final college season and posted a career passer-rating-allowed of just 61.1.

Jones made headlines at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine when he revealed that he asked every team for their defensive film and playbook, making his way through four games of all 32 teams. That preparation showed up as a rookie to the tune of 62 total tackles (three for a loss), a sack, pass breakup and a forced fumble.

Pro Football Focus charted Jones with 361 snaps in the box, 24 in the slot, eight out wide and 92 as a deep safety in addition to 238 snaps on special teams. Jones made 15 run stops and recorded six quarterback pressures.

"I think a part of leadership is listening and serving, and you can't know how to do that until you get to know the guys around you," McCourty said earlier this summer. "This is a really good time for myself to be down here, get to know the guys in the locker room and get to know not only them but the support staff, the people in the cafeteria, just everybody in the building."

In his 12-year career, McCourty has posted a passer-rating-allowed under 90.0 in a single-season six times. He's pulled down 18 career interceptions and made 192 run stops.

Holley arrived by way of the Canadian Football League last summer and received his call up to the active roster from the practice squad in December. He contributed with 44 reps and three tackles on special teams. Holley was the CFL's Most Outstanding Rookie in 2019 with 100 total tackles (22 on special teams), a sack and an interception.

Fejedelem signed with Miami last March and earned the honor of captain of the Dolphins No. 6 overall ranked special teams unit (Football Outsiders). He played 319 total snaps (305 on special teams). In addition to six tackles, Fejedelem played a crucial role as the personal protector on the punt team, carrying the ball twice for a pair of first downs and 23 total yards.

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