This post is part of a series of posts that will break down and evaluate the Miami Dolphins position by position. If you haven't read up on how players are being classified (the number and letter that follow each player's name), you can read this post explaining the evaluation system. You can also read the previous posts in this series by clicking here.
No I didn't forget. I actually received two e-mails over the weekend asking me if I had finished up this series yet. So I apologize for getting side-tracked with so much other news out there. Time to get back at it.
We have two positions to discuss before wrapping up this series of posts. Today we'll focus on the team's cornerbacks - a unit that is probably underrated by some. The Dolphins, though, did finish 8th in the league in defending the pass - an improvement from finishing 2009 ranked 24th in pass defense.
Though opposing quarterbacks had a similar completion percentage against Miami's secondary in 2010 as in 2009 (57%), the Dolphins did a much better job at limiting the big play. They allowed 7.1 yards per attempt in 2010, over a yard less than the previous season.
Of course, there's still room for improvement. But the unit is young and very talented.
Onto the evaluations...
Vontae Davis (2-C). At only 23, Vontae has become one of the best young corners in the league. He's physical and can matchup with any receiver. He still goes through growing pains, though. And he needs to do a better job at getting into position to make a play. But his potential is unlimited and he should continue to only get better and better as he matures and learns the nuances of playing the position in this league.
Sean Smith (2-C). I'm not quite sure why some fans insist on criticizing Smith. Pretty much everything I said about Vontae can be said about Smith. In fact, he might be the better cover corner. He beat out Vontae in 2009 for the starting job and has never looked back. Does he need to bring in some of those passes that hit his hands? Of course. And he will. He actually has good hands. For those that insist on comparing Smith and Davis, think of it like this. Smith is the better cover corner right now. Davis is the better playmaker. But instead of comparing the two, just enjoy the fact that we get to watch the best young cornerback tandem in the league week in and week out as they slowly become outstanding players.
Will Allen (2-B). I was thrilled to see the Dolphins re-sign the veteran cornerback. If he's healthy, he'll instantly upgrade this secondary - taking the starting nickel spot. I don't think he'll beat out either of the two young corners on the outside. But he should be able to fill the hole at the toughest position on defense to play (other than nose tackle). Also don't underestimate the effect of having the vet back to work with Davis and Smith as they did in 2009. Allen is a great guy for this team - both on the field and in the locker room.
Nolan Carroll (3-D). This kid had a very solid rookie campaign in 2009. He's got great measurables and has a future in this league as a boundary corner. I'm eager to see how he progresses now after a surprisingly strong rookie campaign. Will he take that next step?
Benny Sapp (3-E). I might have a lower grade on Sapp than some would. Maybe I'm being hard on him. He wasn't bad as the team's nickel corner last year. But I don't see much upside in the 30 year old and he caused me to throw things at the television more times than I would have liked. But for now, he's insurance in case Allen suffers a set back.
Nate Ness (3-D). Ness was a stand-out during training camp last year, making the switch from safety to corner. He's flashed some potential, though, and is a solid special teams guy. I just don't know if the Dolphins will have room for an additional cornerback on the roster in 2011. He's a kid with some upside, though, if a team can afford to invest time into him.
Contract situations: Will Allen's deal was only for one year, meaning he'll be free again after the season. He is known to like playing here in Miami, though. So if the Dolphins wanted him, he'd probably come back. Benny Sapp is also in the final year of his deal with the Dolphins. He's due $1.9 million - which could prove to be too rich for this organization's blood by September assuming Allen makes it through camp healthy.
Outlook: Like I said, I really like this group. There are three young guys here who all have a lot of upside - Davis and Smith in particular. I don't see this unit changing much, though I wouldn't be shocked to see the Dolphins add a developmental corner who might have the ability (lateral quickness, for example) to play the nickel.