DOLPHINS AT COLTS | 1 P.M. SUNDAY (CBS)

Improved Andrew Luck a bad thing for Miami Dolphins’ corners

 

Almost the same group of Miami cover men Andrew Luck torched last season will be back in Indianapolis on Sunday to face an improved Luck.

 
Cornerback Dimitri Patterson (24) holds up the football after his interception in the first quarter in the game with the Miami Dolphins and the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland on September 8th, 2013.
Cornerback Dimitri Patterson (24) holds up the football after his interception in the first quarter in the game with the Miami Dolphins and the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland on September 8th, 2013.
Joe Rimkus Jr. / Staff Photo

abeasley@MiamiHerald.com

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck went bonkers against the Dolphins in 2012, roasting the injury depleted secondary for 433 yards, an NFL rookie record.

In that 23-20 Dolphins loss, Sean Smith and Nolan Carroll started at corner, and Jimmy Wilson was the nickel.

Not good enough, the Dolphins said through their actions. They have since spent big free agent money and high draft picks to upgrade the position.

But despite Jeff Ireland’s all-out effort, the Dolphins might return to Indianapolis on Sunday with essentially the same group of cover corners — other than swapping Brent Grimes for Smith.

Injuries and puzzling personnel decision have turned what just six weeks ago was one of the Dolphins’ deepest positions into one of their thinnest.

And now for the really bad news: Luck is probably better than the last time the Dolphins saw him.

“No doubt about it, you want as many healthy guys as possible, because you just never know in the NFL,” corner Dimitri Patterson said. “Things happen.”

Things have already happened to Patterson, and it is only the second week of the season. After picking off Brandon Weeden twice in the opener, the starting cornerback aggravated a groin injury and was lost for the rest of the game. He’s listed as questionable for Sunday’s game, although he vows to play.

But if Patterson can’t go — or exacerbates the injury during the game — Carroll would play with the starters alongside Grimes, and Wilson probably would be the nickel.

Why? The two players the Dolphins targeted early in the NFL Draft have lingering issues of their own.

In April, the Dolphins were ecstatic that Jamar Taylor fell to them in the second round. But he had surgery for a sports hernia in the spring, and hasn’t been right since.

Making matters worse, Taylor can’t take anti-inflammatories because of a kidney condition. The Dolphins have privately mulled putting Taylor on injured reserve if he doesn’t improve soon.

Will Davis, a fellow rookie selected a round later, also has been ruled out. He practiced on a limited basis last week, but a toe injury will cost him a second consecutive game.

In one sense, the Dolphins’ current plight is a self-inflicted wound.

They cut Richard Marshall during training camp despite having no compelling football reason to do so.

Marshall was competing with Patterson for the starting job, but lost in the eyes of the coaching staff. Instead of keeping him as a backup, they simply released Marshall and his $4.6 million base salary.

From a business standpoint, it makes sense; the Dolphins said in April they expect to operate at a $14 million loss this season.

But from a salary-cap perspective, money should have been no object; the Dolphins entered the season roughly $22 million under the cap.

“It makes you wonder if they are second-guessing that decision,” a league source said.

Others believe the Dolphins cut Marshall because they still weren’t convinced his surgically repaired back would hold up through the course of a 16-game schedule.

Had Marshall been on the roster for the season opener, his entire salary would have been guaranteed, a risk the Dolphins apparently weren’t willing to take.

Marshall signed with the Chargers shortly after the Dolphins cut him, and played in San Diego’s season opener against Houston.

Even without Marshall, Davis and Taylor, the Dolphins covered well in Cleveland — albeit against a severely limited quarterback. That won’t be the case this weekend. Luck has the league’s third-best quarterback rating (127.9) and will be throwing to stars in Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton.

“Yeah, they definitely have weapons on the receiving corps,” Grimes said. “You want to have some DBs out there. … It’ll come along eventually.

“We’ve just got to fight through this tough part right now.”

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