Third-year cornerbacks haven't cemented their positions
The Sports Xchange
Vontae Davis and Sean Smith talked a big game
about proving they are the best cornerback tandem in the NFL this
season, but the pair has come up short.
Problems in the secondary convinced the Dolphins
to use two high draft picks in 2009 on cornerbacks: Davis in the first
round, Smith in the second round.
However, the pair's inconsistent results might
convince management to readdress the position in free agency or the
Davis has been plagued by hamstring injuries for a
good portion of the season, and he has missed three games. He also
received a one-game suspension for failing to conduct himself like a
professional after he reportedly showed up to practice late, and with
liquor on his breathe.
When he's been healthy and focused, Davis has been
solid, contributing 28 tackles and two interceptions.
The same can't be said about Smith, who at one
time was viewed as the superior member of the duo.
Smith, who has contributed 46 tackles and one
interception this season, spent his first two seasons developed a
reputation as a technician, someone who locked down the opposition in
one-on-one coverage. In those two seasons, he only allowed three
touchdowns. But Smith has allowed five touchdowns in 2011, the last of
which came on Thanksgiving against the Cowboys.
It has become clear Smith is better-suited to
being a physical, press concern because of his size (6-foot-3, 214
pounds). He struggles finding the ball.
Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan admits the
Dolphins were forced to play plenty of zone defense when Davis was
While the secondary has been improving the past
month, the unit won't reach its potential until Smith and Davis start
to show some growth.
"Anybody can play a good down or two. It's like a
quarterback. If you throw a pick for a touchdown, if you can still come
back and get a touchdown and score a field goal, that's a great
quarterback," Nolan said. "The same goes for a corner. You might give
something up. Hopefully it's not a touchdown. But if you do you need to
come back and make up for it, that's what's important for us. ... We'll
have some bad downs out there, but you've got to be one better than you
Carey's Injury Concern
Vernon Carey has started 103 of the 117 games he's
played for the Dolphins.
It appears the team's starting right guard will
continue to build on those numbers despite suffering what initially
appeared to be possible season-ending ankle injury.
Carey, whose left leg was rolled up on Thursday
during a goal-line run late in the Dolphins' 20-19 loss to the Cowboys,
left Dallas on crutches. However, an MRI of the ankle showed there
wasn't a fracture, and the swelling subsided in less than 48 hours.
Carey's improvement has been so rapid that he's
walking without a boot, and the former University of Miami standout
should be able to start Sunday's home game against Oakland if he can
make it through this week's practices.
"I thought it was much worse, but it looked and
felt worse than it was," said Carey, the 19th overall pick in the 2004
Having Carey finish the season gives Miami's
offensive line a chance to continue developing. Despite allowing a
disappointing 34 sacks in 11 games, the unit has improved over the past
month from a pass-protection standout.
The line's continued growth will be critical this
week considering Oakland has produced 32 sacks. However, the Raiders
are fairly soft against the run. Counting the 172 rushing yards the
Bears gained in Sunday's 25-20 loss to Oakland, the Raiders' defense is
allowing 5.29 yards per carry this season.
The Cowboys held the Dolphins to 3.6 yards per
rush. The recent struggles have Miami's rushing average at 3.9, the
first time the average has dipped under 4.0 yards per attempt all
If Carey does suffer a setback, it's likely that
Nate Garner, who plays every position on the offensive line, would
serve as his replacement, starting his second game of the season and
the 10th overall of his four-year career.
Carey has started all but two games he's played
for the Dolphins the past seven seasons, but considering the Dolphins
tore up his old, lucrative contract and signed him to a one-year deal
this summer, 2011 might be his final season in Miami.
More at Dolphin Digest
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