As the NFL Draft is getting closer and closer almost all eyes of Dolphins Nation are looking towards and expecting the Miami Dolphins to draft a linebacker or defensive linemen with pick #22 in Round 1. While I also expect Miami will do such a thing as well, I wouldn’t be shocked if Miami did grab a cornerback or safety at #22 though as the Dolphins secondary still needs some help.
Last season the Dolphins secondary, even with all of the injuries, was ok most weeks. Which is why I think many fans are overlooking this unit and thinking things will be better this season once everyone is back from injury.
First, let’s look at the safety position and yes Reshad Jones is one of the better safety’s in the NFL these days. No issue with him but after him what do we have? The Dolphins did sign Nate Allen in free agency, and Allen is a solid yet unspectacular player who is on the downside of his career. Can Allen give Miami one good season, yes that is possible, but it isn’t something you can bank on? And behind Nate Allen who else is there at the safety position? Walt Aikens is a solid special teams player, but he is a weak defensive player. Michael Thomas, again a better special teams player than an actual defensive player. Bacari Rambo had a few nice moments, but for the most part, he was exposed in the passing game last season.
The point is the Dolphins are again one injury away at safety to Jones or Allen from having a horrible starting safety unit again this season. Miami will most likely draft a safety in the early rounds of the draft as it is needed to get some youth and speed on that side of the ball. Should Miami draft Jabrill Peppers at #22? I wouldn’t be against it at all. While not a true free safety Peppers has speed and can cover tight ends and even wide receivers when needed. Should Miami look at another safety at pick #22 like Obi Melifonwu? While some would say that might be a bit of a reach, is it really when Miami does have a pressing need at safety? Obi is a physical beast who has the size and speed to do everything, and he is expected to be a late first round/early second round pick. If he can come in and stabilize the Dolphins safety position and provide some legitimate depth there, then it must be considered.
On to the cornerbacks where I think it is a bit of a mixed bag what Miami has. Let’s start with Xavien Howard who far and away is the best cornerback on the Dolphins roster. Howard was hampered with injuries all of the last season, and in the limited time, he did play he was very good. A healthy Howard for an entire season is a legit #1 corner on this roster.
After Howard though things are far from certain. Byron Maxwell is most likely playing his final season in Miami folks let’s just start right there. There is an out in 2018 where Miami can let him go and have no dead cap space so being realistic Maxwell is probably gone after this year. Meaning Miami not only has to think about adding a cornerback now for depth but also a possible long-term solution to this position is needed. We all know Maxwell was benched early last season vs. Cincinnati and then after that got his head on straight and played much better. With that said, which Maxwell will show up this season? The guy who ended last season playing well and acting like a professional or the guy from early last year who was a disaster? With Maxwell and Howard, the Dolphins have a decent pair of starting cornerbacks, but it’s far from a strong duo of starters.
Tony Lippett….oh Tony Lippett. A total mystery in that you never know what you will get each week with Tony. To be fair, last preseason Lippett looked like he couldn’t even have played in the CFL or AFL and was a man entirely in the wrong profession. As the season progressed though Lippett improved mightily. Was he a great corner? NO! Was he serviceable most weeks? YES! Is he a consistent player you want to start in a pinch if one of your starters go down? Probably not. I will say this in that Lippett has improved year after year and if he continues to improve he can be passable starting CB in this league possibly. But do you want to roll the dice and bank on that? I don’t.
After Lippett the only other cornerback worth talking about is Bobby McCain, and last year McCain did not play well. I know some people watched him and saw something entirely different and see big things for McCain, but I have no clue what they were watching. McCain struggled as the slot cornerback most if not all of last season. Miami must upgrade the slot cornerback position.
The point of my article isn’t to trash the Dolphins secondary because honestly, I am not. Reshad Jones, Nate Allen, Xavien Howard, Bryon Maxwell will all be okay players this upcoming season. That is a solid enough unit right there. The issue is three of those players have a significant injury history, and Miami has little depth behind any of them. That’s where the concern is and why Miami must look to upgrade at both cornerback and safety.
At pick #22 everyone thinks a linebacker or defensive line is a sure thing, I’m here to say NOT SO FAST MY FRIENDS! If Jabrill Peppers is there, I think Miami may jump on him to secure the safety position for many years to come. Could Miami take Gareon Conley or Jalen Tabor at pick #22 to give Miami a long-term answer at CB and more legitimate depth this season? ABSOLUTELY!
With this draft, the Dolphins can throw a dart and improve their defense whether they draft a linebacker, cornerback, defensive end, defensive tackle, or safety. Honestly, Miami’s defense was so bad last year that every unit on that side of the ball needs help. So while everyone is talking about linebacker or pass rusher, do not be shocked if in Round 1 of the draft the Dolphins look to improve their secondary and go corner or safety.
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