Can Miami Dolphins Upgrade FS Position In Free Agency?

Clemons

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

As the Miami Dolphins head into free agency on Tuesday and the negotiating period this weekend, it’s time to take a look at who can fill some of their needs during this time. Here, I’ll break down the FS position, where the Dolphins are looking to move on from Chris Clemons and upgrade the position.

According to Pro Football Focus, Clemons, who is 28, played in 1,158 snaps and had an overall grade of 4.1. He had a negative grade in five games. His run defense grade was -3.6 and his pass coverage grade was 7.2. He accumulated 93 total tackles and had one interception. He allowed 0.20 yards per coverage snap, the best in the league. He was targeted 21 times in passing situations, giving up 11 completions for 127 yards and two touchdowns. In the running game, he played in 455 snaps and was targeted seven times by a runner. His run stop percentage, which is his percentage of stops when he was the primary player responsible for stopping the run, was 1.5 percent.

We don’t know what the Dolphins’ philosophy is going to be heading into 2014. Will they make it a priority to strengthen their rushing defense, or will they want to continue the philosophy from last year where they have a smothering secondary? Due to the fact that the Dolphins are looking to upgrade from Clemons, it gives us a hint towards the direction they are heading.

With that in mind, let’s look at a few other players who would be an upgrade over Clemons. Such players include Jarius Byrd, TJ Ward and Donte Whitner. If the Dolphins are talking to anyone else besides those three, then it’s not really much of an upgrade over Clemons.

Byrd, 27, missed the first five weeks of the season and played in 646 snaps last year. He had an overall grade of 9.9 and had a negative grade in three games. His run defense grade was 2.3 and his pass coverage grade was 9.5. He had 37 total tackles and four interceptions. Byrd allowed 0.23 yards per coverage snap, ever so slightly above Clemons. However, he was targeted 22 times in passing situations, giving up 11 completions, but only for 87 yards and one touchdown. In the running game, he played in 231 snaps, but was only targeted three times by a runner. His run stop percentage was 1.3 percent.

Ward, 27, is interesting because he is a strong safety. If the Dolphins signed him, it would signal a shift in positions for either him or Reshad Jones. Make no mistake though, getting Ward in that secondary would be an upgrade. Ward played in 1,124 snaps last season and had an overall grade of 14.5. He had a negative grade in six games. His run defense grade was 8.1 and his pass coverage grade was 4.8. He had 75 total tackles and two interceptions. Byrd allowed 0.40 yards per coverage snap. He was targeted 50 times in passing situations, giving up 29 completions for 250 yards and one touchdown. In the running game, he played in 423 snaps and was targeted 29 times by a runner. His run stop percentage was 6.9 percent, third best in the league.

Whitner, 29, is someone who hasn’t been talked about much. Including playoffs, he played in 1,219 snaps last season and had an overall grade of 12.6. He had a negative grade in seven games. His run defense grade was 2.7 and his pass coverage grade was 12.7. He had 58 total tackles and two interceptions. He allowed 0.48 yards per coverage snap. He was targeted 48 times in passing situations, giving up 25 completions for 286 yards and two touchdowns. In the running game, he played in 360 snaps and was targeted six times by a runner. His run stop percentage was 1.7 percent.

So, what does all this mean? These three players are much more balanced and can provide a presence in both run and pass defense. While Clemons excelled in pass coverage, his run defense left much to be desired. The downside is that Ward and Whitner have the largest injury history, with Ward ending the season on IR in 2012. If the Dolphins cannot sign any of these three, they should re-sign Clemons because there really isn’t much available in the draft and because they know what they are getting with Clemons. While there are solid players to be taken, there isn’t a stud that would be worth drafting early to replace him.

Matthew Cannata covers the Miami Dolphins for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @PhinManiacs. Like him on Facebook, and add him to your Google Network.


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