Camp Preview: Can Corners Make the Jump?

With the first training camp practice scheduled for July 27, we examine some of the situations and positions we'll be watching throughout the summer. This installment takes a look at cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Sean Smith and the high expectations surrounding them as they enter their fourth season in the NFL.

The Dolphins selected Davis and Smith in the first and second rounds of the 2009 draft, sandwiched around the horrible decision to pick quarterback Pat White.

We have seen enough of the two cornerbacks the last three years to come to the conclusion that both of them possess a great deal of physical ability, yet neither has been able to put it all together for a full season.

Last year was a perfect example, especially when it comes to Davis.

He ended up leading the team with four interceptions, but was a non-factor early in the season as he dealt with minor injuries.

Davis clearly has ball skills and he's perhaps the most physical cornerback the Dolphins have ever had, so there's no reason he can't attain the same level as his brother, 49ers Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis.

Of course, it won't help that Davis now is dealing with the distraction of his younger brother being charged with first-degree murder this spring.

When it comes to Smith, his greatest gift is tremendous length and the ability to move quickly despite being 6 feet 3.

Smith is a former wide receiver, so the most baffling element of his NFL career so far has been the number of dropped interceptions on his resume.

Another issue, right or wrong, has been a perceived lack of maturity.

That is one reason, Smith said in the offseason, why he cut off his trademark dreadlocks.

"Everybody said it was time for me to grow up," Smith said. "I cut the braids off and I look more mature and older, so I guess that's what it was."

Almost in the same breath, though, Smith gives reason to wonder whether he indeed has matured.

"I'm always going to be myself," he said. "But I do understand I have younger players at the corner position who look up to me, so l try and help them out as far as the playbook and how to play certain techniques and things like that."

Smith also says he's the one who will be the leader in the secondary now that veteran strong safety Yeremiah Bell is playing for the Jets.

It's a big year indeed for Smith, whose contract expires at the end of the 2012 season.

All the elements are in place for him to take the next step and become a star. The same goes for Davis.

It's up to them to do what it takes, and all it starts with training camp.

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