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  Position Analysis: Defensive Backs
    | Home | News Wire | Roster | Depth Chart | Schedule | Links |  
         

by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

Click Here To Contact Chris

 

On a periodic basis between now and the 2006 NFL Draft, I will take an in-depth look at the Dolphins. This week: Defensive Backs.

 

Cornerback

 

Current State: The recent release of the great Sam Madison rips a gaping hole in the cornerback corps, a team strength just one year ago. Together with the trade of Patrick Surtain and the release of Reggie Howard, the Dolphins now have a dire need to identify and/or acquire two new CB starters for the first time since the Jimmy Johnson era.

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Of the players currently on the roster, Travis Daniels and Will Poole are the most promising prospects though both men have questions to overcome. Poole missed all of the 2005 season with a severe knee injury he sustained in a May minicamp. How will he recover in his first year back? Recall that Poole posted a solid rookie campaign at the nickel back position in 2004, logging 37 tackles and a sackÖexcellent numbers for a rookie and part time player. As for Daniels, he saw much more action than expected due to Pooleís injury. Daniels did some positive things (62 tackles, 1 pick, 13 passes defensed) and generally improved as the season wore on, especially in covering the deep ball. The question on Daniels is one of upside. Does he have the ability to become a dominant starting corner?

 

Reserves Kiwaukee Thomas and Eddie Jackson were free agent pick-ups that received regular playing time on defense. Shirdonya Mitchell spent the entire season on injured reserve; his game is highly thought of by the coaching staff. Art Thomas was recently added to the roster.

 

Strengths: Young prospects (Poole, Daniels) with probable upside.

 

Weaknesses: No proven starting caliber players.

 

Offseason Priority: Very High. Aside from quarterback, this is the teamís most pressing need. If the Dolphins keep their first round pick (16th overall selection), it is very possible that they will use it to select a cornerback. Top prospects include Virginia Techís Jimmy Williams, Ohio Stateís Ashton Youboty, Clemsonís Tye Hill, and Florida Stateís Antonio Cromartie. Free agency is a solid but expensive possibility the team will surely explore. Top free agents include Nate Clements, Charles Woodson, and Ty Law. The Bills placed a franchise tag on Clements while the Raiders declined to do the same to Woodson. Law (Jets) will be an unrestricted free agent.

 

 

Safety

 

Current State: The Dolphins possess an adequate group of safeties with free agent Lance Schulters being the pleasant surprise in the secondary this past season. Schulters was signed late in July, almost as an afterthought. He ended up starting all 16 games at free safety, logging 76 tackles, two sacks, four interceptions, and six passes defensed. His pick of a Jake Delhomme pass was the difference in the upset win over the Panthers. Schulters was the teamís outstanding defensive back last season. Travares Tillman, a high profile early free agent signing, stepped in as the starter at strong safety for 10 games after the now released Tebucky Jones was lost for the season. Tillman was fairly productive, with 54 tackles, three interceptions and five passes defensed.

 

Yeremiah Bell was finally able to enjoy an injury free season and, as expected, his game progressed quite a bit as a result of the playing time and experience he received. His most important play of the season was his sack of San Diegoís Drew Brees with less than three minutes to play and the Dolphins holding a 20-14 lead. Brees fumbled the ball on the play, leading to a Dolphin field goal and the decisive points in the game. Bell is a player the Dolphins should continue to invest in; heís going to get better.

 

Reserve Norman LeJeune was signed late in the season not long after Jones went down. Jack Hunt and the newly signed Siddeeq Shabazz round out the group.

 

Strengths: Free Safety (Schulters and Bell).

 

Weaknesses: Strong Safety and an overall lack of quality depth.

 

Offseason Priority: Medium to High. The Dolphins would benefit greatly from acquiring a dominant, hard hitting strong safety in the mold of Rodney Harrison. Alas, players like this are tough to come by. Texas SS Michael Huff would sure look good in a Dolphin uniform, though he is predicted to be gone by the time the Dolphins go on the clock. Could free agent SS Adam Archuleta (Rams) be on the Dolphin radar?

 


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