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Training Camp Primer: Burning Question #5 - The secondary

We'll now wrap up our "5 burning questions" segment by talking a little bit about our secondary.  Despite many fans feeling that the Dolphins needed to sure up the secondary this offseason, either through the draft or via free agency, the front office stood pat (for the most part).

At cornerback, Will Allen will be the team's unquestioned #1 cornerback.  Allen's 2007 success rate of 51.4% ranked him 8th in the NFL.  He doesn't come up with many interceptions, but his man is usually covered fairly well.

The battle for the starting cornerback job opposite Will Allen will be interesting to watch.  It figures to come down to Andre Goodman and Michael Lehan, who is expected to be ready for camp despite suffering an ankle injury during offseason practices.  Goodman did struggle a lot last year after playing surprisingly well in 2006.  But following a second shoulder surgery back in January, Goodman feels good and is looking forward to 2008.  He tells the Miami Herald:

I feel a lot better. I couldn't have gone through another year like last year. I wasn't effective whatsoever.

Travis Daniels will enter camp as the 4th cornerback, but could be pushed by Nate Jones, who has experience working with Paul Pasqualoni and Todd Bowles back in Dallas.  He represents the only veteran that this regime brought in a corner.

So why didn't Miami look to improve the cornerbacks even more?  The Miami Herald reports that the new regime liked what they saw of the current corners - at least liked them more than they thought they would.  Says Jeff Ireland:

''I'm very excited what we have in the secondary. Will Allen and all those guys looked really good."

So can the Dolphins' cornerbacks play effectively all year?  That's something we'll have to wait on to find out.

Safety will also be a position to watch in camp.  Yeremiah Bell figures to enter camp as a favorite to start at strong safety.  He's a fan favorite who, following a very good 2006 season, was expected to break out in 2007 - until he tore his Achilles' in week one.  But he's reportedly recovered and looking sharp in practice.  I'd expect him to be the week one starter.

The free safety position, though, will get a lot of attention.  This is likely the "make or break" season for 3rd year pro Jason Allen.  Allen has disappointed thus far.  But some Dolphin fans continue to demand that he's going to be a star, pointing to last season's play when he made some plays once he got his chance later in the season.  But I think many people fail to realize that, while he did make some plays, he gave up way too many big plays.  He still got lost in coverage too often.

But now with a simpler, "player-friendly" defense being installed by Pasqualoni, some think he'll be able to think less and let his natural athletic ability take over.  Remember: his physical tools have never been questioned.  He has what it takes - physically - to be an elite safety.  But will he finally play up to his talent level in 2008?  Training camp will go a long way towards determining that.

Allen will be pushed by Renaldo Hill (once he gets healthy) and newcomer Chris Crocker, who isn't as physically gifted as Allen but has a ton of experience and may be more reliable - mentally speaking.

Here's the way I see this situation in the secondary.  I'm confident in two players - Will Allen and Yeremiah Bell.  Outside of them two, the Dolphins have a lot of questions.

Who will step up?  Can Goodman or Lehan take the next step and grow into a reliable #2 corner?  Will Jason Allen finally shake the "bust" label and play up to his potential?  These are the "burning questions" that we will keep an eye on as camp gets underway in Davie.