The Dolphins’ were a league-average pass defense last season finishing 15th in yards allowed although only seven other teams allowed more passing touchdowns. A big part of the problem was the cornerbacks and the rest of the secondary.
At cornerback, in 2016 the Dolphins leaned on veteran Byron Maxwell who was acquired via trade. Maxwell was adequate, which is not what most teams are looking for from a highly paid number one cornerback but that made him the best cornerback by far on the roster.
A pair of fifth-round draft picks in 2015, Bobby McCain and Tony Lippett were called on to start and contribute. Lippett showed off athleticism as a developmental cornerback but by the end of the season his flaws were exposed and offenses were targeting him in coverage at every opportunity. McCain is a decent nickel cornerback who struggles when forced to play outside.
Xavien Howard is another young cornerback who flashed talent but his technique needs a lot of work. Miami added Cordrea Tankersley from Clemson in the third round in the 2017 NFL Draft. Tankersley is long and lean with surprising speed. He dropped in the draft due to lack of instinct and ball tracking which led to holding penalties and pass interference. Tankersley needs a year to add muscle and improve his techniques. He is a potential diamond in the rough but needs time to be ready to contribute.
Miami was blessed with two excellent safeties last season with Reshad Jones and free agent find Isa Abdul-Quddus. Unfortunately, Jones lasted just six games before a rotator cuff injury shut him down for the season. Abdul-Quddus picked up the slack before a serious neck injury shut him down at the end of the season and eventually ended his career.
Jones should be back to full strength for 2017 and that is great news for Miami. Unfortunately, free agent Nate Allen and holdovers Michael Thomas and Walt Aikens are a big step back from Abdul-Quddus. The Dolphins signed the talented and big-hitting T.J. McDonald from the Rams, but he comes with a caveat: he is suspended the first eight games of the season.
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The Dolphins had a mediocre secondary in 2016 which was a big part of the defense being 29th in the NFL in yards allowed. The Dolphins are counting on the new defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo to get more from a group that is limited.