Miami Dolphins cornerback Richard Marshall has been battling a back injury all season, finally having to be ruled out of this Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Marshall has, reportedly, been given the week off in order to allow him the rest needed to finally get the back healthy and have him back in time for Week 6's game in Miami against the St. Louis Rams.
However, Marshall being ruled out of the game means third corner Nolan Carroll has now moved up to starter this week. Carroll has four starts in his career, and has been a source of frustration for Dolphins fans for the three years he has been with the team. Carroll has skill and shows flashes of great play at times, only to be beaten badly on the next play.
Carroll is currently the 87th ranked cornerback in the league, according to Pro Football Focus, grading out with a -4.6 score. To be fair, though, Marshall is only the 78th ranked corner, so the fall of from Marshall to Carroll is not that big, based on play this season. Carroll has allowed 11 of 23 passes thrown to his receiver to be caught, giving up 14.3 yards per reception.
Marshall, meanwhile, is actually worse, giving up 14 receptions on 23 targets to his receivers with a 14.8 yard per reception average.
"I think he has played well," Miami head coach Joe Philbin told the media recently, speaking about Carroll. "We would like him to make more plays on the ball at times just like our other defensive backs. He's a competitive guy, he's intelligent, and you know what you're going to get from him when you put him in the game. You're going to get a great effort from the kid on the special teams and defense. He's done well, but I think there is room for improvement."
Against the Bengals, the Dolphins secondary will be tested. The Bengals currently have the eighth ranked pass offense in the league, and boast the wide receiver with the second highest receiving yardage total in the league, A.J. Green (behind Miami's Brian Hartline). Besides Green, the Bengals also have second year receiving Andrew Hawkins and rookie Armon Binns, not to mention tight end Jermaine Gresham. With one fewer defensive back, especially one of the starting defensive backs, the Dolphins are going to be challenged this week.
Other than Marshall and Carroll, the Dolphins are currently carrying three other cornerbacks, starter Sean Smith, R.J. Stanford, and De'Andre Presley, who was promoted from the practice squad this week. The team can also utilize cornerback-turned-safety Jimmy Wilson at corner, as they have throughout the season.
Carroll has two interceptions, six passes defensed, and 56 tackles since being the Dolphins' fifth round pick in 2010. Carroll has been on the field for 110 defensive snaps so far this season, or 38% of the plays the Miami defense has run in 2012. He played a season high 58% of the snaps last week against the Arizona Cardinals.
The Dolphins will have a challenge on Sunday. Hopefully Carroll will be able to step up and keep the Dolphins in the game.