Dolphins Training Camp, Day 12: A young secondary growing up

On Wednesday the Dolphins took to the field in the morning for the 12th day of training camp. With just days left until the preseason opener against Tampa Bay, there's still a lot to sort out. So let's get right into some of the newsworthy developments from Davie.

Smith and Davis starting to assert themselves
As you all know, a big question entering training camp was how the two young cornerbacks - Sean Smith and Vontae Davis - would perform entering camp as the favorites to start and knowing that a lot of the defense's success this year would be on their shoulders. After a slow start to camp - particularly for Smith, who has been matched up with Brandon Marshall the majority of the time - many fans were beginning to whisper about these two.

"Sophomore slump."

If you kept quiet, you could hear the whispers from the "glass half empty" Dolphin fans.

But ever since Saturday's scrimmage when the defense was clearly ahead of the offense, there's been a change. Sean Smith broke up a deep pass on the first play of the scrimmage intended for Marshall. That seems to have been the beginning of a resurgence in practice from these two corners. Since then, both Davis and Smith have been looking like the corners we have all been hoping they'd be in year two.

Yes, Marshall has still gotten his over the past week - including a long completion over Smith this week that resembled the first play of the scrimmage. But all reports seem to indicate that these two have been winning far more battles this week than they've lost.

The most pessimistic of the reporters who cover the Dolphins, Omar Kelly, was impressed with Sean's work on Wednesday, tweeting that "Sean Smith had his best practice of camp this morning. He had a pick-6 and a couple of impressive deflections."

Kelly also added that "Vontae Davis had a nice breakup of a pass intended for Brandon Marshall, who was invisible today. CB's are catching onto his tricks."

I bet these two, along with the rest of the team, are excited to go up players other than themselves. And for Smith, in particular, it'll be interesting to see how he performs when he doesn't have to go up against a top three receiver play after play.

Others in secondary also playing well
Perhaps no one player on defense was under the gun entering camp as much as second year safety Chris Clemons. After the Dolphins failed to address their free safety position - though not for a lack of trying considering offers were made to Antrel Rolle and Ryan Clark - Clemons inherited the job. The Dolphins then saw enough out of Clemons during the offseason to not go hard after O.J. Atogwe when he became a free agent. And now? Tony Sparano can't seem to say enough about how his young safety is developing.

Clemons always had the speed and athleticism to become a solid free safety. The mental part was what most questioned. But Sparano says Clemons has participated in over 400 snaps in camp, working both with the first and third team defense. In those 400+ snaps, he's committed just one mental error - spurring Sparano to say Clemons has been "amazing" so far. He added, though, that he's not yet ready to name Clemons the starter. He wants to see Chris in a live game first. But it's safe to assume Clemons will be officially named the starter sooner rather than later.

We're all also aware that rookie corner Nolan Carroll has been turning heads left and right in camp and may prove to be a steal as a fifth round pick (the pick Miami got from the Niners for Ted Ginn, by the way). But Sparano also praised the maligned Jason Allen, telling the media that Allen has been a "really good surprise" in camp so far. Allen is one of the most important special teams contributors on the team so he was always expected to make the team this year. But expectations for Allen as a corner have been reduced virtually as low as can be for the former first round pick.

Maybe Jason has some hope as a nickel or dime back after all. Or maybe Sparano is just blowing smoke. Let's see what happens.

Camp Quick Hits

  • Nate Garner, one of the most valuable offensive linemen on the roster thanks to his versatility, may have re-aggravated the foot injury that caused him to miss all of the offseason activities this year. He's day-to-day right now but will likely miss the preseason opener - a blow to him as he had been working with the starters at left guard the past couple of days. But this now opens the door for some of the other guys who have been rotating in and out at left guard - Donald Thomas, Richie Incognito, and Cory Procter.
  • Keep an eye on Paul Soliai. He's quietly had an impressive camp and is going to have a bigger role than some probably expected this year.
  • The defense again was all over the quarterback on Wednesday during team drills. Is it time to start worrying about the offensive line yet?
  • Austin Spitler, working with the second team defense, picked up a couple of sacks on Wednesday and had his best day of camp since he returned to practice this week. He'll be a practice squad guy for sure.
  • Chad Henne completed 4 of his 5 attempts during 7-on-7s yesterday. The one incompletion was a pass break-up by Sean Smith.
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