The Miami Dolphins have owned one of the league’s better defenses defending the run over the past five to six seasons. But the defense struggled mightily to defend the run last season, ranking in the lower half of the league against opposing offenses running the football. Many key defenders struggled last season with offseason acquisitions Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler alongside others who struggled to stay healthy in Cameron Wake, Paul Soliai, Dimitri Patterson, etc. But no player struggled nearly as much as S Reshad Jones.
Jones, coming fresh off a 2012 season in which he broke out for 94 total tackles (73 solo), one sack, two forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered, four interceptions and nine passes defensed, struggled in all areas of his game and most specifically in coverage. Jones was picked apart last season while caught in coverage and was seen as the weak link in the secondary while S Chris Clemons, now of the Houston Texans, was actually seen as the stronger of the two safeties. If you were to tell me such a thing back in 2012 I would have laughed that right off.
Miami’s defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle loves to play around with different looks to get the offense thinking, which can be a good thing, but Coyle tends to use too much movement and not enough “just get it done”. Coyle seemed to use Jones in a bit of a different way last season by using him more as a coverage safety rather than just a box safety who covers short and across the middle, while also playing a key role in defending the run.
But Jones struggled to defend the run last season as well. Countless times I can recall watching a Miami game and seeing Jones missing a tackle or taking a poor angle on a ball carrier, which I did not see during the 2012 season. Ironically, I saw those qualities from Clemons in 2012.
Miami replaced Clemons with a bit of an upgrade on paper in former Detroit Lion Louis Delmas, who can play both in the box and as a “center field” style. But the team may be missing Clemons due to his understanding of Coyle’s scheme, which allowed him to be the true quarterback of the defense.
That being said, I think Jones and Delmas complement each other quite well. Coyle, similar to former Miami DC Mike Nolan, has wanted two safeties who could play both positions so they can be interchangeable, and he now has that opportunity. If — and that’s a very big if — Delmas can stay healthy for a full 16 game season, Miami may have set themselves up with quite a young safety tandem that can cover while also lay the wood down on backs and receivers crossing into their zone.
One thing is for certain; Jones will certainly prove Miami made the correct decision signing him to a four-year, $30 million deal last offseason. Look for Jones to return to his dominant 2012 Pro Bowl form and become a marquee name as one of the NFL‘s top safeties at the ripe age of 26.