With no Dolphins starters — with the exception of John Jerry — participating in Thursday’s preseason game, coach Joe Philbin could focus specifically on the depth of his team.
The defensive backfield, arguably the deepest unit on the team at the start of training camp, is now an area of concern due to injuries and roster transactions. Thursday’s game revealed who might be called upon if the group sees anymore issues during the regular season.
Rookie Jamar Taylor took snaps as the team’s No. 1 boundary corner in the first half before sitting. Taylor, who missed the beginning of camp while recovering from hernia surgery, had an up and down game.
On the Saints’ first offensive series, Taylor struggled in coverage against veteran receiver Marques Colston, allowing an 18-yard reception. Taylor rebounded later in the game, making an 8-yard tackle for loss.
Taylor’s development will be key in the wake of rookie cornerback Will Davis’ undisclosed injury.
Davis, who has been spotty in coverage but an interception magnet in practice, was expected to replace the released Richard Marshall and compete for time in the Dolphins’ nickel package.
Miami cut Marshall mainly for salary reasons before the mandatory cut to 75 players, and quickly joined the San Diego Chargers after being let go.
Davis’ injury and Marshall’s release created some uncertainty after Miami’s top three cornerbacks. If Davis is not ready for Week 1, Taylor could find himself on the field in dime packages against Cleveland.
The top three cornerbacks are currently Brent Grimes, Dimitri Patterson and Nolan Carroll. Patterson moves into the slot while Carroll typically takes over the boundary when Miami brings on a third cornerback. Carroll, who had an average season replacing Vontae Davis last season, is expected to be pushed by Davis.
If Davis’ injury lingers into the regular season, safety Jimmy Wilson can act as a fifth cornerback. Wilson, who has played cornerback and safety in his career, saw time as the slot corner Thursday.
R.J. Stanford, named a team captain for Thursday’s game, also saw plenty of time at cornerback. Stanford, on bad footing to make the roster already, struggled in coverage. He was repeatedly beat by the Saints’ Nick Toon, at one point allowing a deep reception that was called back by a penalty.
At safety, the backups for starters Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones are Wilson and Kelcie McCray. McCray looks to be on good footing for roster because of his work on special teams.
Rookie safety Jordan Kovacs returned after missing time with a hamstring injury. Kovacs could potentially earn a spot on the practice squad.
Kovacs has apparently impressed coaches more than seventh-round pick Don Jones. Jones didn’t make any notable plays against the Saints, and his roster spot is certainly in jeopardy.
Others included on the depth chart in the backline of the defense include Julian Posey and De’Andre Presley at cornerback, and rookie Keelan Johnson at safety, none of whom are expected to make the club.