It has been a tremendous offseason for the Miami Dolphins. Mike McDaniel has injected life into a franchise that has been searching for their next Don Shula for two and a half decades. Tyreek Hill has brought an electric energy to South Florida - to go along with his blazing fast speed on the field. Terron Armstead and Connor Williams have bolstered a struggling offensive line. Tua Tagovailoa has improved his leadership - being named a captain for the first time in his career - while also improving his arm strength and decision making, according to nearly everyone who has watched him work this offseason. Everything seems to be coming up roses for the men adorned in the aqua and orange threads.
Well, almost everything.
Despite the overwhelmingly positive vibes coming out of Miami Gardens, there is one position group that leaves Dolphins’ fans feeling a bit queasy, to borrow a word from legendary Dolphins head coach, Joe Philbin.
C O R N E R B A C K
All offseason, we were told that Byron Jones’ recovery from his offseason ankle surgery was progressing well and that there was no cause for concern regarding his week one status. That was still the company line right up until Tuesday when the Dolphins made the decision to place Jones on the PUP list - costing the star cornerback the first four games of the Dolphins’ season.
In addition to Jones’ injury, Miami lost promising second-year player, Trill Williams, for the season to a torn ACL. After Williams went down, Miami signed veteran, Mackensie Alexander, to replace him. Alexander then immediately injured himself playing against the Las Vegas Raiders this preseason, and was placed on IR before reaching a settlement with Miami and being released.
If that wasn’t enough, Miami has endured a plethora of non-season-ending injuries to the defensive-back unit already, with Nik Needham nursing a finger injury and Keion Crossen, Eric Rowe and Xavien Howard each missing practice time following Miami’s preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Needham, Crossen and Howard seem to be okay, according to reports, however, Rowe’s injury has left his week one status in doubt at the time of this writing.
Neither of Miami’s first two opponents - the New England Patriots or the Baltimore Ravens - feature world-beaters at the wide-receiver position, so the Dolphins may be able to get by with some combination of Howard, Crossen, Needham, Jevon Holland, Kader Kohou, Elijah Campbell, Justin Bethel and - gulp - Noah Igbinoghene.
However, when the Buffalo Bills come to town, and then Miami travels to Cincinnati the following week, the Dolphins better hope they’ve figured out the secret formula to unlocking the potential of these unproven (outside of Howard, Holland and maybe Needham) players if they want to have a chance at defending stud receivers like Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and others.
Could the Dolphins turn to a potential free agent addition? Chris Harris Jr. remains in street clothes. So does Joe Haden. Each man has a proven track record of success at the cornerback position in the National Football League. If Miami’s youngsters struggle, don’t be surprised if the Dolphins scramble to place calls to the agents of these two men in order to right the ship.
With hopes so high for the Miami Dolphins this season, no expense should be spared nor should any stone be left unturned. If this is the year that the Dolphins finally make the playoffs - and make some noise when they get there - their pass defense must be up to the test. Let’s hope Chris Grier, Mike McDaniel and company feel the same way and are already devising a plan to bolster the unit... or the life that has been injected into this middling franchise this offseason will once again be placed on life-support.
How comfortable are you with Miami’s defensive back group right now? Do you think they have the right pieces to get by during Byron Jones’ absence? Would you like to see them sign someone to come in and replace him during his recovery time? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @MBrave13. Fins up!