Dolphins

‘Speedy’ recovery helps Miami Dolphins cornerback Jamar Taylor challenge for starting spot

 

Cornerback Jamar Taylor has recovered from injuries that hindered his rookie season and is working with the first team defense as Cortland Finnegan is sidelined.

abeasley@MiamiHerald.com

The tape, as they say, does not lie. And Jamar Taylor’s tape tells the truth about his much-improved health.

Taylor has a prized clip of practice footage. It shows the Dolphins’ young cornerback in coverage, running stride-for-stride with Mike Wallace — one of the fastest receivers in the game.

The video has to be from this spring. It could not have existed this time last year.

Taylor’s rookie season was largely a lost one, sidelined by a sports hernia and torn abductor. A kidney condition prevents him from taking anti-inflammatory medication, so the pain was intense. His performance suffered.

“When I was coming off of injury, I was getting beat by the slowest people,” Taylor said Wednesday. “I can honestly admit that. Dudes were running past me. I couldn’t move.”

Now, he’s hanging with the fastest. With Cortland Finnegan shelved this week with what is believed to be a knee issue, Taylor is running with the starters. And he’s more than holding his own.

On Tuesday, he intercepted Ryan Tannehill. On Wednesday, he broke up a deep pass down the left side. For the offense to complete a pass against him, it took a Randy Moss-like leaping effort out of Armon Binns.

Taylor’s play hasn’t gone unnoticed. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin has singled him out as one of two players to make a big leap forward this spring (guard Dallas Thomas was the other).

“We’re just giving him opportunities to get on the field and compete for playing time,” Philbin said. “... See how he plays press man, see how he plays cloud corner, see how he plays off, see how he plays the fire zones. And get a look on tape, and see how he moves and is competing.”

He’s competing, most specifically, against Finnegan. The former All-Pro is trying to revitalize his career after what even he acknowledges was a down 2013 in St. Louis. Finnegan brushed off a question about his health Wednesday, jumping up and down to show that his knees are fine.

Some veterans would see an ascending young talent as a threat. Finnegan sees it as an opportunity.

“Anything that I can tell him or help him [I’ll do], because I tell him he’s the future,” Finnegan said. “He has to be that guy that’s going to step up. ... Any time we can push one another for a starting job, it makes our team better. It makes each other better. I think he’s gotten that aspect of it.”

Considering the Dolphins’ schedule this fall, they’ll probably both need the best out of both. Miami faces a murderer’s row of quarterbacks: Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco and Tom Brady (twice).

So even if Taylor does not beat out Finnegan, he can expect to be on the field plenty. That has him excited — a nice change from an utterly frustrating rookie year.

The sharp pain last year made it difficult to simply to get out of bed. Imagine trying to hang with receivers who run a 4.3 40-yard dash.

Taylor finally saw real improvement late in the season. But his real breakthrough didn’t come until a few months back. He was working out with old Boise State teammates when it just clicked.

Which brings us back to that practice footage of him challenging one of the league’s true deep threats.

“He’s fast as all fast,” Taylor said of Wallace. “But I know I’m fast, too, and I know I can run with the best. ... It brings that confidence, that, ‘OK, if I can run with him, I can run with anybody.’ 

• Defensive end Derrick Shelby has bulked up some five pounds since last season, and every indication is he’ll be a significant part of the Dolphins’ defensive-line rotation.

Shelby and the improved Dion Jordan give Miami four options at the position (starters Cam Wake and Olivier Vernon are the others). Philbin hinted that he plans to use all four.

“You want guys to have fresh legs,” Philbin said. “We’re not at the stage to divvy up snaps quite yet. The more good players you have at a certain position, the better.”

• Defensive tackle Jared Odrick, limited the last few weeks with an undisclosed injury, did the most work in some time Wednesday. He was on the field for full-team drills, as was center Mike Pouncey, who sat out parts of Tuesday’s practice.

• Running back Knowshon Moreno (undisclosed) was again held out of most of Wednesday’s practice. Philbin said the competition at that position will begin in earnest during training camp.

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