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Training Camp Positional Preview: Cornerbacks

Outside of the offensive line, the cornerback position is probably what worries Dolphin fans the most. With talented #1 receivers in this division like Laveraneus Coles, Lee Evans, and now Randy Moss, it's imperative now more than ever that this group come together and play well if the Dolphins want to contend for a playoff spot this year. And once again, this article ran a little long so you'll have to make the jump and click "read more." I hate to keep doing this, but there was no way around it yet again.

Will Allen: 5'10, 196, 7th year
Last season, Allen came over from the Giants to replace Sam Madison as the team's #1 corner. Though he isn't a true #1 corner, he played fairly well, making 56 tackles, picking 1 pass, picking up 1 sack, and totalling 11 passes defensed. Allen has great speed. In fact, that may be underestimating his speed. In fact, I think that Allen has the ability to run with any player in the NFL. He's also very, very good in run support, as he's physical and not afraid to make a tackle.

So why isn't he a true #1 corner? It's simple. He simply struggles mightily when the balls in the air and doesn't have the best ball instincts nor hands. This is why, according to KC Joyner, 49 out of 80 balls thrown Allen's way last season were completed. That's 61.2% of the passes thrown in his direction, ranking him 73rd among 93 cornerbacks. Clearly, he needs to improve on this if the Dolphins are to be competitive against the elite passing teams in the NFL.

Andre Goodman: 5'10, 185, 6th year
Goodman was a pleasant surprise last year coming over from the Lions. Originally, it was thought he'd provide depth to the cornerback position. Then Travis Daniels suffered an ankle injury and in stepped Goodman into a starting role. And he did not disappoint. Despite having no interceptions, he still had a relatively big impact on this secondary. In fact, according to KC Joyner, Goodman placed 9th in the NFL in completion percentage against, with just 27 of 58 passes being completed against him. That's a 46.5% success rate and shows how Goodman could very well grow into a very good cover corner.

Goodman has good speed and adjusts well to the ball as it's in air. He also can get physical at the line, something that the Dolphins will need when they play a team like the Pats with so many good receivers. However, Goodman is still out since his 2nd shoulder surgery. He was placed on the preseason PUP list recently and is likely to miss most, if not all, of training camp. His status for week 1 is very much in question, meaning others in the secondary must really step it up.

Travis Daniels: 6'1, 191, 3rd year
I'm very excited to see what Daniels can do this year now that this ankle injury seems to be behind him. He'll be asked to step up and be the unquestioned starter now that his top competition, Goodman, is still hurt. Daniels showed some signed of being a VERY good NFL corner 2 years ago in his rookie season. Then last year, he was visibly slowed by the injured ankle.

No, Daniels isn't the fastest corner. But he has very good size, is very physical, knows how to adjust to an in-flight ball. He's also a smart kid with good recognition and instincts. Personally, I got a good feeling about 2007 for Travis. Hopefully, he doesn't let me know. In camp, just watch to see how he is running so we can see if there are any ill-effects of the ankle injury. If there are not, I'm very confident that Daniels has a good year.

Michael Lehan: 6'0, 190, 5th year
Lehan is one of the guys who is likely to see more playing time in camp because of the injury to Goodman. In fact, should Goodman miss some regular season games, Lehan is one of the guys who will be battling to not only make the team but to also be the team's nickel back. He's good, but not great, speed and good size and has some experience. He also is a very good special teamer, tallying 11 special teams tackles last year.

Of course, he isn't without his issues. He has some trouble covering the deep ball due to his lack of that "extra gear" that people always speak of. He also has a tendency of committing stupid, untimely penalties (see week 1 at Pitt last year). In camp, it'll be interesting to see what team Lehan is working with and how they are lining him up (on the line or off the line).

Jason Allen: 6'1, 213, 2nd year
Allen, the team's 2006 #1 pick, was a bit of a disappointment in his rookie year (to put it nicely) at the safety position. Some of that can be due to his holdout while others claim it was Nick Saban's complicated defense. Either way, he struggled and was therefore moved to cornerback this offseason. In light of his poor season and position change, Allen continues to say and do ann the right things, working his tail off to become the player that some thought he could be coming out of Tennessee. He possesses very good speed and can really hit when the opportunity arises. He's got good size and will be able to support against the run coming off the edges.

However, his technique and awareness need work. In mini-camps, Allen was consistently lost and burnt too many times. He has a tendency of being out of position when the ball comes and needs to quickly fix that problem. Otherwise, the label "bust" that is being thrown around him already will be even more suitable. I haven't given up on Allen yet, but this camp will go a long way in to telling if Allen wil lever develop into a legitimate NFL player.

Shirdonya Mitchell: 5'11, 183, 2nd year
Mitchell is a very intriguing prospect. Coming out of college in 2005, he was one of the top rated cornerbacks in the country. Then at his pro-day workout, he ran a 4.34 40 yard dash and benched 225 pounds 17 times. A few minutes later, he tore two knee ligaments while doing the "cone drill" and didn't play another regular season game until last year's season finale against the Colts, where he picked up just 1 tackle.

Mitchell is coming off of being allocated to NFL Europa this past offseason, where he helped lead the Frankfurt Galaxy to a World Bowl berth. He was named to the first team All-NFL Europa team after picking up 31 tackles, 2 picks, and 9 passes defensed in 10 games. This year's training camp is sure to be a very important one in Mitchell's career and his play in it bears watching, as he has the potential to make an impact on this team this very year.

Derrick Johnson: 5'10, 186, 3rd year
Johnson was acquired off waivers from Atlanta in May. Originally, he was a 2005 draft pick of the 49ers. That year, he appeared in 14 games, starting 5 of them. That year, he ended up with 36 tackles, a sack, seven passes defensed and a fumble recovery. The fumble recovery he returned for a touchdown. He was then waived prior to the start of the 2006 season. In 2006, he spent some time with Houston and Atlanta before breaking his arm.

He isn't the fastest player, but he isn't slow either. He doesn't possess great size but he has a knack for being able to cover in short space. Of course, his lack of great speed means that he will tend to get burned. In all likelihood, he'll need a good showing to make the squad.

Tuff Harris: 6'0, 198, rookie
Harris was signed as a undrafted free agent out of Montana, where he had 6 career interceptions. He hs pretty good speed, as shown by his good punt return average while in college. However, I'd say he's more than likely just a camp body and really doesn't even bear watching.

Geoffrey Pope: 6'0, 186, rookie
Now if there is an undrafted free agent worth watching closely, it's this kid. Pope is out of Howard, where in 2 seasons, totaled 79 tackles and 4 picks. So why is he worth watching? How about the fact that he's 6 feet tall and ran a 4.29 40 at the combine. Got your attention yet?

The best thing is that he plays as fast as he times, which means he isn't a workout wonder. He has great closing ability and will rarely ever get burnt. He's a gifted natural athlete with as much quickness as speed and great timing when defending a pass. Where his problems start is that he isn't very tough or physical and may need to put a little bit more muscle on. He also needs to work on his technique and his recognition. He's very raw but certainly commands some attention once he hits the field in camp. He's a likely candidate to land on the practice squad to develop.

My Take
I think this is going to be the postition that bears the most watching, as competition will be very fierce. Because of the injury to Goodman, there will be opportunities for some of the more inexperienced players to battle for a spot. Below I've made my prediction, but it is based on the assumption that Goodman will be ready by week 1. If not, I think it would be Shirdonya Mitchell taking the extra roster spot until Goodman is back.

Predicted Depth Chart

1st Team 2nd Team 3rd Team
CB Will Allen Andre Goodman Michael Lehan
CB Travis Daniels Jason Allen