Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain. As Dolphins fans, we all know those names. Most of us would put those two as one of, if not the, best tandem of cornerbacks to play the game. In fact, bleacherreport.com ranks them as the fifth best tandem in NFL History. They are easily the best tandem the Miami Dolphins have ever fielded.
But, the two cornerbacks the Dolphins have now hope to surpass what was done in the past.
In an article posted today, the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson describes the development of corerbacks Sean Smith and Vontae Davis.
Smith, Jackson reports, was targeted only 44 times out of 661 snaps, the second lowest percentage in the NFL, only trailing Philadelphia’s Nnamdi Asomugha. Meanwhile, Davis was targeted the 10th-lowest rate (72 in 1,025).
In a similar article by South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist David Hyde, discusses what happened with Smith following his benching in Week 1 of last season. "I wasn't being a pro," Smith states. "It was a wake-up call. I needed it. I'd be lying if I said I took everything seriously to that point. I had to change something. This wasn't college anymore."
Suddenly, Smith began to care. He took things seriously. He stopped being late for meetings. And his play on the field reflected the change.
Jackson relates in his article, General Manager Jeff Ireland's reflections on Smith's 2010. "Fact is, Sean got his hands on a lot of balls. If he catches half of them, he probably leads the league in interceptions. He’s doing something right to be around the ball so much."
Smith agreed, "It’s looking the ball in and not having my eyes downfield getting ready to run. You can’t run without the ball. You can’t tell me I can’t catch. I wouldn’t have been drafted in the second round if I couldn’t catch."
Davis, Smith's best friend and roommate during the last two training camps (the two have their own rooms this year, reflecting their position on the team as veterans), continued, "Sean and I are trying to be better professionals."
He continued, "The scary part is where my game can go. Scary good."
As Hyde puts it in his piece, Davis looks to "improve everywhere." Meanwhile, Smith has a specific plan. "The first year was finding your way. The second year was making progress. Year Three, it's time for me to take over,'' he says. "Year Three is taking ownership of the position and becoming an elite corner."
Continuing, "You're up there with Nnamdi, Darrelle Revis, Asante Samuel,'' he said. "You can be put in that group. That's the goal. That's what I'm working toward."
With the performance of the past two years, it's not hard to imagine Smith and Davis developing into that group of elite cornerbacks. They are, arguably, the best two corners about whom no one outside of Miami has heard. Now, as the work to become the household names some of the other NFL cornerbacks are, the status of the Madison/Surtain tandem is in question.
"Everybody brings up Pat Surtain and Sam Madison," Smith. "This is our time to take over. We know how good we can be. It’s scary. All the rookie mistakes are out the window now."