Cornerback Brent Grimes, strong safety Chris Clemons and free safety Reshad Jones could have been chiseled onto stone tablets as Dolphins starters this season. That fourth position? Drawn into beach sand.
On Tuesday, the Dolphins put starting cornerback Dimitri Patterson on injured reserve because of a season-long groin problem along with backup cornerback R.J. Stanford, who broke a leg Sunday in Pittsburgh.
To fill their roster spots, the Dolphins signed safety Michael Thomas off San Franciscos practice squad and free agent cornerback Justin Rogers, who started the first five games for Buffalo, then got benched after a 37-24 loss to Cleveland. The Bills waived him Nov.19 and Houston claimed him the next day. The Texans cut him after one game.
Looking at position, Rogers experience and the fact that Jones sat out Tuesdays practice, its clear the Dolphins didnt just sign any available NFL-ready bodies to fill out the roster. Especially not with Sunday bringing 60 minutes against high-powered New England.
Yeah, we are going to have to accelerate their learning. I totally agree, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. Thats why our staff is kind of built that way.
Weve got coaches who are going to be in game plan meetings. [On Tuesday] we typically do third down and red zone as a staff game-planning, which is obviously a huge part of our plan. Weve got some younger guys, guys like [defensive backs assistant] Blue Adams, who can work with some of these guys and get them transitioned into the system while it doesnt slow down our staff in terms of the preparation we need to have in terms of our game plan. We certainly are going to utilize the personnel we have to do that.
In practical terms, although Patterson is listed as the starter on the depth chart and has been amazingly productive on a per-game basis, theres certainly no gold star next to his name for perfect attendance. His four interceptions, tying him with Grimes for the team lead, came in only six games (actually, Patterson gathered them in only his first four games).
Groin problems limited him. They pulled Stanford onto the field late Oct.31 in the win against Cincinnati. Mostly, Pattersons bad groin pulled Nolan Carroll up into a starters role. And Carroll responded with easily his best play during his four NFL seasons.
I think Ive grown, Ive made improvements as far as technique and having awareness, challenging receivers those things Ive done this year that I really havent done as well as in the past, Carroll said. Ive been doing it. Its about more just finishing. Thats the biggest thing from last year to this year as far as driving on routes, not really getting caught up when you come out of your breaks looking into the backfield, but driving to the receiver. Just trying to play the ball more when its in the air and having the mentality that its yours and not just be satisfied with trying to break it up.
Through the first 42 games and 14 starts from 2010 to 2012, Carroll intercepted two passes and broke up 11. In 13 games, with nine starts this season: two interceptions, 11 break-ups.
I think Nolan Carroll has really, really stepped up his game as of late, Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. I think we talked about it here recently. He to me was one of the most valuable players on the field [Sunday]. He defended the deep ball on the post earlier in the second half. He came back with two passes broken up on critical plays, one on third-and-14 where they were across midfield at the time and Nolan made a phenomenal play. [The secondary] was just real solid overall. Brent had some big plays in the game. Chris Clemons had 12 tackles in the game. Reshad made plays when we needed him to come up with plays. Jimmy Wilson has been playing real strong all year long at the nickel spot.
• According to ESPN and NFL Network, independent investigator Ted Wells canceled interviews with several Dolphins players and a follow-up interview with Dolphins guard Richie Incognito after a second meeting with Dolphins offensive tackle Jonathan Martin as part of his probe into locker-room bullying.
• Running back Lamar Miller was cleared to practice after possibly sustaining a concussion Sunday against Pittsburgh.