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Dolphins Safeties: Better, worse, or same in 2016?

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NFL: Miami Dolphins at New York Jets Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

We are getting closer and closer to the start of training camp for the 2016 Miami Dolphins, meaning we are almost out of the one month without football. It means we will finally start seeing this edition of the Dolphins in full practices, to include pads, and be able to get a better idea of exactly what the team will be this year, a season while will feature changes to the coaches and all over the roster.

Over the last few weeks, we have been publishing a series of articles taking a look at that 2016 Dolphins roster in an effort to determine if the names on the roster this year are better, worse, or the same as the names on the roster last year. This ignores the coaching, or schemes, or any of those types of concepts. This is simply a look at the roster and trying to measure between the two versions of the Dolphins.

We continue that series today, having already covered the quarterback position,the running backs group, the wide receivers, the tight ends, the offensive line,the defensive ends, the defensive tackles, the linebackers, and the cornerbacks. Today we finish the defense with a look at the safeties..

Safeties

Reshad Jones
Isa Abdul-Quddus
Michael Thomas
Walt Aikens
Shamiel Gary
A.J. Hendy

Analysis

Safety is obviously headlined by Jones, who made the Pro Bowl for the first time last year and is looking to establish himself among the elite safeties in the league. Abdul-Quddus is the newcomer, being added to replace Louis Delmas, who is a free agent after two years with Miami. Unfortunately for Delmas, during both of his seasons in Miami he landed on Injured Reserve, playing 13 games in 2014 and missing all of the 2015 season.

Abdul-Quddus joins Miami after two years with the Detroit Lions. He took over as a starting safety last season after spending his first year, and the first half of his second year, primarily as a special teams player. SB Nation’s Pride of Detroit described Abdul-Quddus’s 2016 season in their free agent review, writing, “After the Lions eventually decided to bench James Ihedigbo halfway through the season, Abdul-Quddus stepped in and proved he could manage as a starting safety. His season wasn't phenomenal but he was a reliable run-stopper and an adequate coverage man.”

Thomas has been with the Dolphins since they signed him off the San Francisco 49ers’ practice squad in 2013 - and then he immediately thrust into the lineup due to injuries, where he played cornerback against the New England Patriots and picked off Tom Brady with two seconds remaining in the game in the endzone to seal a victory for Miami. Thomas only played three games that year, then eight games in 2014, and finally appeared in all 16 games last year with 12 starts - critical experience for him as he looks to battle Abdul-Quddus for the starting spot next to Jones.

Aikens has played in all-but-one game in his two years since the Dolphins selected him with a fourth-round pick in 2014, primarily working as a special teams player, but recording five starts last year at safety as well.

Gary also picked up a start at safety last year, though he and Hendy will be looking to prove they have a role on special teams to make sure they can make the roster.

Better, Worse, Same

Better. There are question marks at the safety position, mostly because there is a lack of experience next to Jones, but the position should be improved mostly because of the Bills Parcells axiom “the greatest ability is availability.” Delmas was basically unavailable for most of his time in Miami, which hurt the safety position. Abdul-Quddus has to prove that he can man the position full-time as a starter. Thomas could challenge for the role, and he has the ability to slide over to play a big-nickel role similar to how Jimmy Wilson a few years ago played cornerback as a safety. That is a good versatility to have, and should be seen as an asset for the position, especially after gaining starting experience last year.