The Miami Dolphins are entering the mandatory part of their offseason activities with the veteran minicamp from June 17-19. The Dolphins are entering this phase with only five safeties on the roster. This, and a few other factors, makes the safety position the most concerning area on the team.
Miami's roster currently consists of Reshad Jones, who has been a one-year wonder, slotted as the starting strong safety. Louis Delmas, an injury-prone safety who plays with a reckless abandon, is the starting free safety, and Jimmy Wilson, who is also the nickel cornerback, backs him up.
Michael Thomas, the hero of 2013, and Jordan Kovacs, the back-up strong safety who is a liability when on defense but is valuable on special teams, are two other back-ups who would represent big problems if they ever had to start.
Jones had a career year in 2012 which earned him a hefty new contract and the argument that he was among the top crop of safeties in the league.
Jones followed that up with an extremely disappointing 2013 season.
Jones, who had been a playmaker in 2012, had three less interceptions in 2013 and zero forced fumbles/ fumble recoveries after two of each the year before.
Whether Jones was complacent from his new contract or the new linebackers' lack of coverage ability forced him into more one-on-one coverage situations than he was comfortable with, Jones needs to step his play up in 2014.
Jones needs to be more consistent all around (most importantly in his angles and his tackling) if he wants to regain his 2012 form and be considered a top safety again. The addition of Delmas and the skill set that he brings could be a big help for Jones as it could allow him to have more free range and be forced to cover tight ends less.
If a guy's play doesn't match his pay for two straight years, it's likely that he won't remain on the team much longer. Unfortunately, as is the main focus of this article, there isn't much talent behind this struggling former standout safety.
Delmas has played a full 16-game season only once in his career due to recurring knee injuries. But I'm a glass-half-full type guy, that only full season was last year and it was the finest of his five-year career. Delmas showed his playmaking ability with three interceptions and two sacks from his safety spot.
However, if Delmas, who has proclaimed that his injury issues are behind him, suffers any type of aggravation of an old injury then the Dolphins may be in trouble.
The aforementioned Jimmy Wilson is the immediate back-up to Delmas at the free safety spot and I'd think that Wilson would also step in at strong safety if Jones suffered an injury. Wilson is the best back-up safety on the roster, but he is also the starting nickel cornerback.
(Keep in mind, positions are still up for grabs as training camp nears, but Wilson is the front runner for the nickel spot.)
The Dolphins now have quite a bit of depth at cornerback so it is possible that the warranted switch for Wilson would have no negative effects, but Wilson is a bit undersized for the safety position (5'11", 205 pounds) and could have injury risks himself.
The other two reserve safeties are Michael Thomas, who provided the most memorable play of 2013 when he intercepted a Tom Brady pass in the endzone to seal a Dolphins' victory against the New England Patriots while playing cornerback, and Jordan Kovacs, who went from practice squad to active roster when the Dolphins needed special teams help.
As i mentioned, either one of these two starting spells trouble for the Dolphins. While Thomas provided the highlight of 2013, he was only in the position due to an unfortunate and uncanny injury spree amongst the Dolphins' CB unit towards the end of the game. Even Brent Grimes missed a chunk of time in this key stretch.
Kovacs is simply a special teams player at this point.
The Dolphins currently have a one-year wonder coming off a disappointing 2013 campaign at strong safety and a (self-proclaimed former) injury-prone free safety. This tandem has potential to be one of the best in the NFL, but it's also a risky proposition to trust the two.
The Dolphins seem to be gambling at the safety position, banking that Reshad Jones will recover from his frustrating 2013 season and that Delmas will stay healthy for a full season again. The current depth at the spot proves just that. If the Dolphins investment turns out to be a bad one for whatever reason then opposing offenses are going to score a lot of touchdowns.
But hey, I'm a glass-half-full guy.... right?