The Miami Dolphins went into the offseason looking to improve its defense and after several offseason acquisitions. The question is, did they do enough?
Miami owned the worst defense in the AFC East last season, permitting 30 or more points six times. Overall, the Dolphins ranked 19th in the NFL, surrendering 24.3 points a game. They also ranked 25th in yards given up (376.1), 21st passing yards permitted (250.0) and 28th in rushing (126.2).
Miami lost its top three defensive free agents, according to ESPN Insider Bill Polian, in defensive ends Olivier Vernon and Derrick Shelby as well as cornerback Brent Grimes. The Dolphins did sign defensive end Mario Williams, defensive end Andre Branch, defensive tackle Chris Jones, and defensive end Jason Jones to help solidify the front seven. They also traded for linebacker Kiko Alonso and will get defensive end Cameron Wake, who missed the final nine games of last season with an Achilles injury, is back. Plus, defensive end Dion Jordan could return to the team once he is reinstated by the NFL.
Cameron Wake is not your typical football player.https://t.co/RINbBHltLr— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) June 2, 2016
There are still concerns about the Dolphins’ young secondary, however. Last year, Miami’s passing defense ranked 24th in the NFL in opponent quarterback passer rating (97.4), 27th in yards per attempt (7.8), tied for 25th in touchdowns (31) and tied for 17th with 13 interceptions.
Miami did acquire cornerback Brent Maxwell, who came over in the Alonso trade from the Eagles, and signed safety Isa Abdul-Quddus to a multi-year deal. The Dolphins also drafted Xavien Howard, out of Baylor, in the second round of this past draft, and signed veteran Chimdi Chekwa.
Maxwell has been excellent during the ‘Phins offseason workouts, according to James Walker of ESPN. The 28-year-old, who struggled last year with the Eagles, is the most experienced cornerback on the team.
It's VERY early. But my standout players in two OTAs open to the media are CB Byron Maxwell and WR Kenny Stills. Both have been consistent.— James Walker (@JamesWalkerNFL) June 5, 2016
“I always feel like I have something to prove,” Maxwell said. “There are things on my list that I need to do; I feel like I need to do as an NFL player. It’s Year 6, so there is way more stuff to prove. I have a lot of years.”
Maxwell recorded 64 tackles, forced two fumbles, and picked off two passes last season in 14 games with the Eagles. He is expected to be the Dolphins No. 1 cornerback this season.
Veteran Reshad Jones and Abdul-Quddus are expected to start at strong and free safety, respectively, though Jones is not currently practicing with the team as he wants a new contract, the Sun-Sentinel reports. Jones led the Dolphins with 135 tackles and five interceptions. The 28-year-old is ranked as the 64th best player in the NFL, per the Dolphins’ team website.
With the Dolphins so young at cornerback, there have been rumors that the Dolphins may bring in a veteran or two such as Leon Hall and Antonio Cromartie. However, Barry Jackson of the Miami-Herald reports that is not the case, at least not at the present time.
“For those wondering about unsigned cornerbacks Leon Hall and Antonio Cromartie, the Dolphins aren’t pursuing either at this time. But both are on the Dolphins’ list should they have injuries or if their young corners don’t develop as the Dolphins hope and expect.”
Hall, Pro Football Rumors‘ second best defensive free agent still available, had 55 tackles and two interceptions in 14 games last year with the Cincinnati Bengals. The 31-year-old had offseason back surgery and has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. He has also drawn interest from the Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants, and Atlanta Falcons this offseason.
Cromartie, 32, recorded 29 tackles and 12 pass deflection but not intercept a pass in a limited role with the New York Jets. He ranked as the No. 86 cornerback by Pro Football Focus last year as he frequently struggled with getting burned by opposing receivers.
Earlier this offseason, Cromartie tweeted that he would like to play for the Carolina Panthers.
According to Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel, Howard and Tony Lippett are expected to battle for the other starting cornerback. Bobby McCain, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jordan Lucas, Chekwa, Tyler Patmon, along with Lafayette Pitts, will likely fill the final three roster spots.
[Photo by Darron Cummings/Associated Press]