Camp preview: Defensive backs

The Dolphins will open their 40th training camp when they hold the first practice on Monday, July 25 at the team's training facility in Davie. We preview what should be an interesting camp under new head coach Nick Saban with a position-by-position analysis of the team heading into camp. In this installment, we look at the secondary.

Defensive back on the roster: S Chris Akins (7th season), S Yeremiah Bell (2nd season), S Atari Bigby (rookie), CB Travis Daniels (rookie), CB Mario Edwards (6th season), S Deandre Eiland (1st season), S Abram Elam (rookie), CB/S Brandon Haw (1st season), CB Reggie Howard (6th season), S Jack Hunt (1st season), S Tebucky Jones (8th season), CB Sam Madison (9th season), CB Shirdonya Mitchell (rookie), S Billy Parker (1st season), CB Will Poole (2nd season), CB Alphonso Roundtree (1st season), S Travares Tillman (5th season).

Summary: There is no spot on the roster that should be of more concern heading into training camp than the secondary, which has to replace three starters and also will be without cornerback Will Poole, who was considered a leading candidate to replace Patrick Surtain in the starting lineup. Dolphins fans can take solace in the fact that Nick Saban has a tremendous reputation when it comes to working with defensive backs, and he will need every ounce of his knowledge to mold a group that is severely lacking in proven commodities.

The battles: Just about the only sure thing in the secondary is that Sam Madison will start at one cornerback spot. Beyond that, you have question after question. We'll start with the cornerback spot opposite Madison. It's possible the Dolphins could still add a veteran currently out of work, such as Ty Law or Bobby Taylor, and either immediately would figure to jump into the starting lineup if healthy. If no addition is made, then the candidates for the job would appear to be 2004 free agent acquisition Reggie Howard, offseason pick-up Mario Edwards and fourth-round pick Travis Daniels. Breaking down this battle, Howard was mediocre as a nickel back last year, Edwards is coming off a couple of so-so seasons in Dallas, while Daniels is a rookie who lacks ideal speed but is very comfortable with Nick Saban's system, having played for him at LSU. At safety, offseason pick-up Tebucky Jones would appear a strong bet to start at strong safety, partly because there's nobody else on the roster who looks like starting material. At free safety, it was expected free agent acquisition Travares Tillman would start, but he might face a challenge from promising but oft-injured youngster Yeremiah Bell. When it comes to roster spots, the battle appears wide open once you get past those who should compete for a starting job.

Projected starters: Sam Madison (CB), Travis Daniels (CB), Tebucky Jones (SS), Travares Tillman (FS).

Projected on the 53-man roster: Madison, Daniels, Jones, Tillman, Reggie Howard, Mario Edwards, Alphonso Roundtree, Yeremiah Bell, Tony Bua, Chris Akins


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