A couple of days ago, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson wrote a story about how the Miami Dolphins are going to shake up their defense, using multiple defensive backs, fewer defensive linemen, and rotate linebackers. It came just as I was preparing to write this article. I waited to put this together, in part so it did not seem as though I was simply copying what he had published and in part to see if what he wrote changed what I was thinking.
It really did not. The simple fact remains - the Dolphins love safeties. They cannot seem to get enough of them. Just when you think they have enough, they create another.
During the offseason training program, the Dolphins moved cornerback Bobby McCain back to free safety, using him to free up Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald as strong safeties, supporting the run defense and providing heavy hitters in the middle of the defense along with the linebackers. Jackson wrote in his article, “The Dolphins were pleased with how Bobby McCain fared in his move from cornerback to free safety and are now comfortable leaving him there, barring a sudden need for him at cornerback.”
So, that is three safeties for two positions.
Then add in last year’s first-round draft choice Minkah Fiztpatrick, who played boundary and slot cornerback last year as well as safety, and the Dolphins are up to four safeties for two starting positions.
Add in depth safeties like Maurice Smith and special teams ace Walt Aikens, and there are a lot of safeties on the 90-man preseason roster - and all of them could make the 53-man regular-season roster.
The Dolphins have plans, and they are going to find ways to use all of these safeties. Fitzpatrick will likely see playing time at cornerback again this year, especially in the slot. The Dolphins can then use either McCain or Fitzpatrick as the slot corner or at free safety on any play. Miami could take a linebacker off the field, bringing in an extra strong safety - Jones and McDonald - to play a big nickel style. They can keep players fresh, they can mix-up coverages, and they can keep up with whatever opposing offenses throw at them with a myriad of safeties and cornerbacks.
Creating safeties also gives the team flexibility as they work to find the right boundary cornerback to play opposite Xavien Howard. If Eric Rowe, Torry McTyer, Cornell Armstrong, Jalen Davis, or the oft-forgotten (and probably still rehabbing from an ACL tear) Cordrea Takersley cannot lock down that position, Miami can play Fitzpatrick or McCain out there or in the slot if needed, while still having the ability to get the defense a free safety to play deep center-field.
The Dolphins love their safeties. They cannot seem to have enough of them. It could lead to exotic looks when the regular season begins. It could create flexibility for the defense. And, it could prove to be a strength for head coach Brian Flores and the rest of the coaching staff.
The Dolphins love safeties.