Safety Concerns

With a new coaching staff taking over, that invariably means more battles for starting jobs. The Dolphins are no exception this year, even though at most spots there is a clear front-runner. But when it comes to the safety position, things couldn't be more muddled.

The one established veteran at the position last year was Yeremiah Bell, but he was released in the offseason and is now a member of the New York Jets.The other starter in 2011 was Reshad Jones, but it would be inaccurate to call him a lock to start again this fall.

The truth is the battle for the two starting jobs is wide open, with the list of candidates including Jones, 2010 starter Chris Clemons, veteran Tyrone Culver, free agent acquisition Tyrell Johnson and converted cornerback Jimmy Wilson.

Yet another possibility is free agent pick-up Richard Marshall, who saw action at safety for Arizona last year in an emergency role. But the reality is that Marshall is better suited to play cornerback.

A seventh-round pick in 2011, Wilson is perhaps the most intriguing of the players at the position. Wilson showed promise as a rookie last season even as he was battling the natural growing pains of learning the NFL game.

But Wilson's last position at the University of Montana was safety, and it's where he probably can have the biggest impact on defense.

"I like what he is doing," Coach Joe Philbin said this week after an OTA practice. "As I have said to some of the guys on the staff, he kind of moves like a football player. He has got pretty good acceleration, looks like he has relatively good instincts, so he shows up around the action quite a bit in pretty quick time, so I like that about him.

"To the degree that we can tell, obviously we can't sit here and say what kind of a tackler he is right now, hopefully it's a good one. But I like the progress he is making."

Johnson also has starting experience, having opened 15 games for Minnesota in 2009 — although he started only five games over the last two seasons combined.

While we don't know who will start, we do know it would be nice if someone could emerge as a playmaker at the position because that's something the Dolphins haven't had in many, many years.

"That is obviously a critical position," Philbin said. "Down the middle in almost every sport is huge. In baseball, you have your catcher and pitcher. On offense, you have your quarterback and center and on defense your middle linebacker typically and your safety all play an important role in your communication and the overall effectiveness in this particular case of the defense.

"I think we are seeing some signs. I know Kevin (Coyle) when he met with these guys on day number one talked about communication as one of the areas that we need to improve and want to get better as a unit. I think they are making progress there."

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