The talk of the Dolphins secondary is the need of a free safety to play over top, since Jones and McDonald are better when playing in the box or underneath. People see how Earl Thomas is used and think that’s what the Dolphins are missing. That’s not really how it works.
Reshad Jones had two interceptions while playing coverage over top. His interceptions were text book overtop coverage, as rookie corner, Cordrea Tankersley tipped the ball to him. Jones and McDonald are more than capable of playing over the top and making a play on the ball.
What the Dolphins lack, is the ability of their safeties to cover one on one with running backs or tight ends. Often times, Miami’s defense was picked apart by matching up linebackers against running backs and tight ends. Teams like the Panthers, Raiders, and Ravens just picked the Dolphins defense apart with those mismatches.
Kiko Alonso suffered the most scrutiny over his play in these situations. Against the Raiders, Kiko was lined up one on one with Jared Cook on the OUTSIDE! That’s a mismatch for most linebackers. A lot of fans want the Dolphins to draft a linebacker to cover tight ends and runningbacks, however, those guys are difficult to find. KJ Wright of the Seahawks is a guy that can lock up with tight ends and running backs, but even he struggled against Rob Gronkowski in the Super Bowl.
So what do I suggest? A hybrid safety/linebacker that can play a little bit of everything. The Dolphins need a safety that can be a chess piece and matchup against different play makers. There are guys in the draft that have versatility to play deep safety, slot corner, in box safety, linebacker, and even blitz the quarterback.
Derwin James FSU
Derwin James has a combination of skills that are not easy to find in one player. He can cover man to man from the linebacker position, outside corner, slot, and deep safety. He can even rush the passer. he does so many things well.
On the first play, James is covering the slot receiver one on one and makes the play. Fantastic coverage that we don’t see from Jones, McDonald or the linebackers.
The next play shows James covering the runningback out of the backfield and comes down with the interception. This same kind of play hurts the Dolphins defense.
What about his ability to cover over the top? On this play, he plays the ball and drifts back to make the play. He couldn’t quite hang on for the INT. This play shows his feel for the ball.
Minkah Fitzpatrick Alabama
The first play shows him covering man to man in the slot and running with the receiver and taking him out of the play. Look how he gains inside leverage.
This next play, Fitzpatrick covers the TE and gives the quarterback nowhere to go with the ball. The quarterback forces the ball anyway.
One of the biggest attributes of Fitzpatrick, is his ability to cover in the red zone. Look how he boxes out the receiver and high points the football to break it up. He can be left one on one with tight ends and receivers in the red zone.
Justin Reid Stanford
(Jersey number 8)
Justin Reid (brother of NFL Safety Eric Reid) is creating a name for himself as the PAC-12 leader in interceptions in 2017. Reid is not as polished in coverage as James or Fitpatrick, however, he has all of the tools to be a good coverage safety.
The first play, he shows fantastic coverage. He flips his hips and turns to run with a fast receiver. Very good for a longer safety. He does end up allowing he reciever to get behind him when he turns to find the ball. That’s a very coachable issue to fix.
The next play shows his awareness and his ability to get off of a block. Watch how he gets hands on the receiver first, sees the ball and sheds the block to recover the ball. He’s a very heads up player.
Kyzir White WVU
Kyzir White also has good blood lines as he played with his brothers, wide receivers Kevin White and Ka’raun White. Kyzir isn’t as explosive of an athlete as those two, but he fits that hybrid style of safety the Dolphins are likely to go to. White is the biggest of the safeties I listed, at 6’2 219 and he looks to play safety and linebacker with the ability to play in coverage.
White diagnoses plays quickly and gets down hill in a hurry. He hits with power and collects his feet. He drives through and makes the tackle here. This shows his ability to play close to the line of scrimmage and make the play.
Speaking of hitting with power, BOOM! For the Dolphin fans looking for an aggressive hard hitting safety, look no further than White.
Not to fear, he can cover the tight end as I mentioned earlier. He stayed with the tight end the entire way and made the play on the ball here.
He times his blitzes perfectly quite often. On this play, he waits for the left guard to assist the center and then he explodes through the gap. That’s an athletic quarterback that he got to in a hurry. He didn’t even give him a chance to run.
Other Safeties in the Draft:
Terrell Edmunds: Virginia Tech
Ronnie Harrison: Alabama
Godwin Igwebuike: North Western