The Dolphins haven’t faced uncertainty about the strong safety position in six years or three head coaches, depending on how you mark NFL time. Dolphins coaches penciled in Yeremiah Bell, made sure during training camp that he could still play, put Bell’s name in pen, then moved on to something else.
(Excepting 2007 when Bell suffered a season-ending injury in the first game, setting a tone for the position. A parade from safety to injured reserve resulted in the Dolphins starting special teamer Cameron Worrell for seven games, then pulling veterans such as Lance Schulters and Donovin Darius off the street.)
Now, after Bell responded to a cold, just-business cut from the Dolphins by coolly signing with the Jets, the question returns in addition to the annual question about free safety. And Reshad Jones might be the answer to either.
“I’m interchangeable,” Jones said. “I can play either one.”
Jones started 12 games at free safety last season, but a new staff and new defense could mean a new position.
“The safeties are just more active now. There’s a bigger role for the safety in this defense. More area to cover,” Jones said.
Said Dolphins coach Joe Philbin: “That is obviously a critical position. Down the middle in almost every sport is huge. In baseball, you have your catcher and pitcher. On offense, you have your quarterback and center. On defense, your middle linebacker, typically and your safety all play an important role in your communication and the overall effectiveness in this particular case of the defense.
“I know [defensive coordinator] Kevin [Coyle] when he met with these guys on day No. 1 talked about communication as one of the areas that we need to improve and want to get better as a unit, not Reshad Jones or anyone in particular.”
Jones and fellow safety Chris Clemons share not only being fifth-round draft picks from Southern schools, Jones from Georgia in 2010 and Clemons from Clemson in 2010, but also a taciturn nature. In addition to perhaps more vocalization, the Dolphins would like to see more turnovers caused by Clemons and Jones.
Jones had only one interception each of his first two seasons. Safeties, Bell and Tyrone Culver, accounted for two of the Dolphins paltry three fumble recoveries last year.
“I know I’m capable of making plays as far as turnovers and stuff like that,” Jones said. “I want to continue to work my butt off and just, kind of, let it happen. Just doing your assignment, knowing where you’re supposed to be and being in the right place is how you generate turnovers.”
They also shared the free safety spot in 2010, Clemons for 14 games and Jones starting two.
“I think I’m progressing each year,” Jones said. “Last year, I got my feet wet as far as being on the field and getting game reps. Now, I think I’m ready to take off and be one of the elite safeties in the game.”