Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano spoke to the media today, answering a series of questions about many aspects of the team. One of the most intriguing topics is one we have spotlighted here previously - the position battle for the starting free safety position.
The Dolphins have had an open competition for the position all offseason. Chris Clemons is currently listed as the starter, but Reshad Jones seems to be the preferred player in the position.
When asked about the competition, Sparano replied:
"Well, it's still up in the air to me. I thought Chris played really well in the first week of the season and I though he players well again last week. I thought Reshad probably played a little bit - made a few more plays in the game the other day just because the plays ended up coming at him. I don't think Chris was really challenged much in the game. But, I did feel Reshad in the open field a few times, and around the football, so I think it's still up in the air right now. I really don't have my mind made up yet."
So far through the Dolphins two preseason games, Clemons has four tackles, one for a loss, two passes defensed, and one quarterback hit, while Jones has contributed three tackles.
However, Clemons is seen as a player constantly in the right place, but lacking the big play capabilities. Jones is thought of exactly the opposite, out of position or getting beat, but taking chances to make the big play. If either one of them shows progress towards the other's strength, they will lock up the starting role.
Sparano was asked if Jones, who the coaching staff like because of his ability to make the big play, had the inside track to the starters roll.
"You know I don't know about 'advantage,' but I do know that he's seemed to have made more plays about the football in my time with both there guys. You know, Chris has probably been more consistent, back there, you know, if you will, I think from a mental standpoint, getting guys lined up. But, Reshad has done a much better job of that as of late.
"At the end of this, I mean, I think we have to grade it on a whole package. First of all, it's important to get those guys lined up. I lived through something like that, I'm going to say, year two here, and that wasn't too good here. You know the ball was over our heads, and we had some problems there, and that wasn't too good. But, secondly, the production at the position. We need to be productive, and I think that's going to be the key at the end of this. I think this going to go right to the end. Not something I'm rooting for, going to the end with, but that's where I think it's going to happen."
Over the next two preseason games, the competition between the two free safeties will be an intriguing plot line. Both players bring a lot to the Dolphins secondary, but both need to bring more. As soon as one of them does, the position will be his.
We just need to see who that is.