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My two cents on the cornerback debate

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One of the hot topics right now among Dolphin fans is what the Dolphins should do with that 25th overall pick.  Some want a pass-rushing outside linebacker.  Others, including myself, want a cornerback.  Of course, it all depends on how the first 24 picks unfold and who remains on the board when the Dolphins are on the clock.  But this debate is picking up steam.  So I figured today would be a good day for me to just convey my thoughts on the topic and then leave it open to you guys to debate on as we close out the work week.

What comes first - a consistent pass rush or solid cornerback play?

This seems to be the matter at the heart of the "OLB vs CB" debate.  A lot of people want to claim that you do not need great corners if you have a terrific pass rush and can get to the quarterback consistently.  Those who believe in that theory will point to the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers as a great example.  And those people can make a very solid argument in their favor.

On the other hand, those who feel it's more important to have great cornerbacks will point to the 2007 Tampa Bay Bucs - the team that ranked first in the NFL in pass defense.  That Bucs defense only tallied 33 sacks - which was 16th in the NFL.  Clearly, a great pass rush wasn't needed for Tampa to defend the pass successfully.  In 2006, the Oakland Raiders led the NFL in pass defense - and only ranked 19th in sacks, with just 34.  Yet again, an example that you don't need a great pass rush to successfully defend the pass.

I'd also like to point out that the Cowboys led the NFL in sacks in 2008 - with 59 - but failed to even reach the playoffs.  Meanwhile, the Cardinals were 14th in the NFL in sacks and made it tothe Super Bowl.

What does all this mean?  Not much - to be honest.

And here's why.  You need your defense to have a solid balance of pass rush ability and coverage ability.  A great pass rush isn't good enough if you're cornerbacks can't stay with their man for two seconds or so to give the pass rush time to get to the quarterback.  Conversely, if you give the opposing QB all day to throw, it will not matter how good your cornerbacks are - they can only cover for so long.

So why am I pulling for a cornerback to be drafted with the 25th overall pick?

Well that's simple for me to answer - pending, of course, on which players are still on the board at #25.  It's because I feel that the Dolphins'  don't need as much help rushing the passer as they do defending receivers.  After all, the Dolphins did finish 8th in the NFL in sacks last season - with 40.  Sure - I'm aware that there were times when Miami's pass rush seemed non-existent.  But I'm just not convinced that spending the first round pick on a pass-rusher improves this defense enough.  What good will a pass rush be if our secondary is unable to cover for at least a second or two?  How will getting after Tom Brady help the Dolphins when the Pats go 4 or 5 wide in the shotgun formation and have man-to-man coverage on the outside with their talented receivers?  All Brady would need is one second to take the snap and throw.

But there are two more reasons why I think CB is the right move at #25.  First - I think that there are a number of solid 3-4 edge rushers who will be available in rounds 2 through 5.  And secondly - the Dolphins have at least added Cameron Wake to the mix at OLB.  If nothing else, Wake will make a solid 3rd down pass-rushing specialist right off the bat.  Meanwhile, the Dolphins have a hole at cornerback following Andre Goodman's departure to Denver.  There's no way I'm comfortable with Jason Allen, Nathan Jones, and the recently signed Eric Green as the three cornerbacks competing for the starting job opposite Will Allen.

But there's no "shutdown corner" in this draft, according to Mel Kiper.

Yes, I saw this article about how Kiper doesn't believe there to be an elite cornerback in this draft class.  To that I say two things.

First - opinions are like a-holes; everybody has one and most of them stink.  So I'm not going to care what just one so-called "expert" believes.

And two - I'm not looking for a "shutdown corner."  You don't need a "shutdown corner" to win.  And there are only 2 or 3 true "shutdown corners" in the entire league.  What the Dolphins need is a solid corner.  Those are the kinds of corners you win championships with.  And there are a number of cornerbacks that I'm confident will be very solid corners in this league for years to come.

And that, my friends, is why I'll be pulling for a cornerback to be drafted with that 25th overall pick.

Remember to join us on Monday for our live chat with WR Brandon London.