Today is the first official day of the Dolphins’ 2011 Training Camp and while the team will be restricted to classrooms and meeting rooms (thanks to the new CBA), there’s still plenty to discuss on both sides of the ball.
Continuing our series of training camp previews, I’m going to focus on the defensive backfield. There are some big names in the Fins’ secondary, but also a role or two potentially up for grabs.
In the interest of full disclosure: I have HUGE expectations for Sean Smith this season. Like Pro Bowl, double-digit interception type expectations. Last season, the defense’s biggest flaw, by far, was their inability to create turnovers, and Smith was one of the reasons why. While he had nine passes defensed in 2010, he had just one interception and dropped several more. The main point, though, is that he was in position and so this year I expect him to be able to take the next step and not leave all that cheddar on the field. So with Smith on one side, and the almost-superstar Vontae Davis on the other, this unit is set up nicely. Of course, you have to add Will Allen to the mix (back from injured reserve), who may push Smith for a starting spot and at the very least will provide depth and flexibility (see safeties section below). Benny Sapp and Nolan Carroll round out the meat of the group and both are significant players in the unit.
As far as I’m concerned, you’re all set at strong safety. Yeremiah Bell is as solid as they come and can still provide everything you need. Free safety, on the other hand, is the training camp battle I am most looking forward to. The incumbent, Chris Clemons, is solid, but will be challenged by Reshad Jones, the second year man out of Georgia. The wildcard is Jonathon Amaya, who is well respected by head coach Tony Sparano.
As for the aforementioned flexibility, don’t forget that defensive coordinator Mike Nolan used Sean Smith at safety a little bit last year. If Will Allen stays healthy, there’s no reason the 6’3 Smith can’t be moved back to that position to show opposing offenses something a little different. The Fins experimented some with a three-safety look last year and I imagine that Nolan’s only scratched the surface when it comes to all of that.
Key Battles to Watch
Free Safety: Will Chris Clemons keep his job? Will Reshad Jones unseat him? Will someone else be brought in?
Cornerback: If Sean Smith has a slow start to camp, does Will Allen move into the starting spot opposite Vontae Davis?
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