Miami Dolphins Positional Breakdown: 2015 Cornerbacks
Cornerback has consistently been one of the most irritating positions for the Miami Dolphins throughout Joe Philbin’s tenure. Between trading away Vontae Davis and being unable to secure a solid player to compliment Brent Grimes, the Dolphins have made little progress adding depth at the position. However, the tables could be ready to turn for the team’s secondary, with an abundance of young talent at the position. The only problem determining which (if any) of the young defensive backs will be ready to help bolster the cornerback in the upcoming season.
The Prodigal Son. The Messiah. The Holy Grail. The Miami Dolphins’ cornerback position was as sorry as could be before signing Brent Grimes, whose play has made people forget he was cast aside by the Falcons due to a torn Achilles. What Achilles? He doesn’t need that. Brent Grimes isn’t mortal like we are. He is 5’11, and makes Randy Moss-esque plays over receivers who are 7 inches taller. There is a video of him jumping out of a pool standing chest deep in water. Just please direct me to the lab in which he was created so that I can order 10.
What to Expect:
The only issue to watch with Grimes is his payout for next season. His salary cap hit is expected to be around $9 million, which is only problematic due to the team’s impending cap crisis. It is very possible that Grimes stays on the team for the 2016 season, as he does appear to be indispensable. His fate entirely depends on the performance of the young corners Miami has acquired. If someone can make him even remotely expendable, the team could move on from the fan-favorite defensive back and save the money against the cap.
Taylor is a difficult player to analyze. He has the physical ability to succeed, and could have the greatest potential of the corners on Miami’s roster. While he has been limited by injuries, Taylor has shown flashes in his two seasons with of what he could become. He possesses impressive speed, and attacks the ball with tenacity. Often he appears to lack the killer instincts that you look for in a corner, and often bites too hard on running plays costing the team with poor open field tackles. It will also be important for Taylor to work on his cutting and coverage across the middle of the field, which is an area in which he struggled last season. If he is coached correctly and works to build upon his progress from last season, he could shine for the Dolphins within his more substantial role opposite Brent Grimes.
What to Expect:
Jamar Taylor is expected compete for the starting right side cornerback spot in 2015, replacing the washed up Cortland Finnegan who retired following a lackluster season (he should’ve retired immediately upon being stripped of his manhood by Andre Johnson, but I guess Johnson didn’t knock ALL of the pride out of Finnegan). Taylor showed improvement in his second season, and was actually able to stay on the field, which is progress due to his medical history.
Taylor will be targeted heavily in the upcoming season, as teams will want to avoid throwing the ball in Brent Grimes’ direction. Taylor will have to work hard to prepare for a season in which he will be consistently tested. Opposition will know how to attack him, and it is his job to improve in those areas so he can avoid becoming a liability for the team. If he doesn’t, maybe we can use one of the 10 Brent Grimes clones I just purchased from the lab in his place.
Will Davis is a fairly similar player to Jamar Taylor in that neither is afraid to get physical with opposing receivers, or come up and swarm the football. Davis is prone to using his hands in coverage, which is a blessing and a curse, as he can draw penalties for being a bit too touchy with the offensive player. C’mon Will, at least buy them a drink first.
While Jamar Taylor makes plays frequently with his aggression and strength, Davis is a quicker defender who plays consistently on his toes. This often leads to subpar tackling and issues in run defense. Will Davis was definitely a project, and it is hard to make judgments regarding his ability based on his limited playing time. If he wants to become a more complete player for the Miami Dolphins, he will have to improve his tackling ability, and be more disciplined when making contact in coverage. As of now, Jamar Taylor should have more playing time as his run stopping ability makes him a more well rounded corner.
Will Davis will be one of the many corners in the unproven rotation for Miami. He could be a valuable backup given Taylor’s injury history, but if all goes according to plan you wont see Davis in the starting lineup for Miami this year. Based on reports out of offseason activities, Tony Lippett has been impressive, and the McCains (Brice and Bobby) are in contention to start in the nickel. If Davis has a great camp, he could break into the nickel spot, but look for him to earn his keep as a reserve and rotational piece for the Dolphins’ defense.
Think of every possible stereotype for a player who lacks the measurables but has a certain quality that makes him a successful player. He’s “just a ball player”. He has “game speed”. He just has that “killer instinct”. Lippett is not the strongest, fastest, or most agile, but he makes plays. Lippett was a dual threat for the Michigan State Spartans, playing both wide receiver and cornerback. Lippett’s experience at wide receiver should help him at corner, as he has a detailed understanding of the opposing position.
What to Expect:
Before offseason activities, I would have told you that Tony Lippett wouldn’t see the field in his first year. I firmly believed he would need a self-imposed redshirt year in order to specifically hone his abilities at the cornerback position. However, after offseason activities it seems like Lippett could be developing quicker than I had initially expected him to. He has been described as a ball hawk thus far, and has been able to make plays even against the first string offense. It is definitely too early to reach any conclusions regarding Lippett or his prospective role with Miami, but if the premature reports are correct, Lippett could be a big help for the Dolphins’ secondary.
Also, here is your regularly scheduled reminder that Tony Lippett murdered Baylor’s kicker this past season. You’re welcome.
The McCains (Brice and Bobby)-
Initially, I was going to do separate segments for the two corners. However, I came to the realization that their skill sets and roles actually could be remarkably similar for the Dolphins. Both have the on-field ability of a nickel corner. They are more suited to play inside, partially due to a lack of top end speed to keep up with pass catchers on the outside. Bobby McCain (the team’s 5th round pick) struggles particularly when he has to make an aggressive play on the football. His strength lies in his agility and instincts, which allow him to process and play and move with anticipation. Brice McCain has had more experience in the league (because Bobby has none), and is a more refined player. His motor is one of his best qualities, and he has always been regarded as a hard-nosed player.
What to Expect:
As of now, Brice McCain is slated to be the Dolphins’ starting nickel corner. If he can perform just slightly above average, it was a great budget signing for Miami. The team needs a strong presence at the position, considering the fact that outside of he and Brent Grimes, the majority of Miami’s cornerbacks are in their first three years. Bobby McCain will be more of a project, and was another developmental pick by the Dolphins’ front office. I do not expect to see him on the field much as a rookie, but it will be interesting to watch his development through training camp and as a reserve.
The Miami Dolphins have to be concerned about cornerback heading into this season, with only one truly proven player at the position in Brent Grimes. However, the Dolphins’ have allowed for some hope by employing the “Spray and Pray” strategy. They acquired two low-cost free agents in Zack Bowman and Brice McCain, two young players in the draft in Tony Lippett and Bobby McCain, and have Will Davis and Jamar Taylor returning one year wiser. While I am not the biggest proponent of this strategy, there is something to be said for strength in numbers.
Outside of Grimes, the field of cornerbacks appears fairly even right now. That is a good thing because it means the team has more depth at the position, but is a negative because it means nobody has separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Heading into training camp, the battle for the two starting cornerback positions (opposite Grimes, and in the slot) will be very interesting. The Dolphins’ are relying on at least one player to elevate their performance, and help the team’s secondary out in 2015. With loads of young talent, Miami’s coaching staff should be hopeful that there is at least one diamond in the rough hidden within a very crowded secondary.