Dimitri Patterson needed eight full seasons to reach 16 career regular-season starts, equal to one season worth of games. If his ninth season proceeds as planned, Patterson will double that career start total by year’s end and establish himself as the quality first-team cornerback that he fashions himself.
Barring a setback with his ankle, Patterson will begin his first full Dolphins season, coincidentally enough, against the team that most recently dumped him. Patterson is listed as questionable, but the Dolphins are hopeful he will play.
The Cleveland Browns, Sunday’s opponent, liked Patterson enough to give him a three-year, $16 million extension before last season. But they released him last December, and the Dolphins scooped him up off waivers, agreeing to take on a nonguaranteed contract worth $4.5 million this season and $5.3 million in 2014.
“No one wants the word ‘waived’ associated with their name,” Patterson said this week. “But when you go from one situation to a better situation, what is there to be upset about? I am so excited coming into this season. This is a first for me, to be starting at the beginning of the year. I know I’m a good player. I’ve shown I’m a good player.”
Everything he has done for the Dolphins so far supports that notion. In two regular-season games last December, Patterson allowed only three of the 11 passes thrown against him to be completed, for 27 yards. In the preseason, only two of the six passes thrown against him were completed, for 14 yards.
Richard Marshall lined up as the Dolphins’ first-team cornerback, opposite Brent Grimes, throughout the offseason program. But Patterson beat Marshall out in training camp, prompting the Dolphins to release Marshall in mid-August.
Patterson is “quick, competitive, instinctive, can play the ball well,” coach Joe Philbin said Friday.
Undrafted out of Tuskegee, Patterson made the Redskins in 2005, then bounced around the league, with stops in Minnesota, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Cleveland.
He started nine games for Philadelphia in 2010 and had four of his five career interceptions that season, then signed with Cleveland and played well in 2011. Pro Football Focus ranked him 42nd out of 199 cornerbacks that season, and quarterbacks generated only a 72.3 rating in his coverage area. That was enough for the Browns to give him the lucrative extension.
But he missed seven weeks with a sprained ankle last season, and 32 of the 48 passes thrown against him as a Brown last year were completed, for a 9.9-yard average. Quarterbacks had a 106 rating against him, and the Browns decided to cut him.
Patterson believes the Browns cutting him “had nothing to do with football” because “I was playing well,” and he added: “I wasn’t even given a reason.”
He declined to speculate further.
When the Dolphins claimed him off waivers, “they told me they were shocked to see my name available. They were already high on me in the free agent market” previously.
Patterson’s best skill?
“Being able to recognize formations,” he said. “That’s a skill because not everyone can do it. A lot of guys have speed and athleticism. I have that, too. I pride myself on being very smart.”
The Dolphins believe they have clearly upgraded at cornerback, with Grimes and Patterson replacing Sean Smith (now with Kansas City) and Marshall (San Diego) as starters.
“We feel like together, we can go and attack the ball when the ball is in the air,” Patterson said of himself and Grimes. “The ball is ours. That’s what we talk about. What we want to try to show on Sunday is that we’re not just out there trying to cover you. We’re out there to try to take the ball away from you.”
Of the six cornerbacks on the Dolphins’ roster, only Nolan Carroll and deep-on-the-depth-chart R.J. Stanford were with the team at the beginning of last December.
With rookie cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis ruled out of Sunday’s game because of injuries and Patterson limited in practice Friday, only three cornerbacks on the roster are fully healthy.
And Carroll will begin the season as the Dolphins’ No. 3 cornerback, as he did in 2012.
“The guys know each other better this year, and chemistry is better than before,” Carroll said of the defensive backs, which is somewhat surprising because several of the cornerbacks are new.
The Dolphins expect excellence from Grimes, a Pro Bowler in 2010. Patterson hopes his work also merits such praise.
“From the time I came in as a rookie, I looked at the guys around me — Shawn Springs, a couple other guys — and I knew I had what it takes,” Patterson said.
“It’s good to be somewhere where they acknowledge your talents and put you in a position where your talents can be displayed. I just want to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity I have.”
Besides Taylor (groin) and Davis (toe), third-string quarterback Pat Devlin (toe) also is out Sunday. No Dolphin is listed as doubtful, and Patterson is questionable. Defensive end Dion Jordan (shoulder), tight end Dion Sims (groin), safety Jimmy Wilson (hamstring), defensive lineman Vaughn Martin (ankle) and linebacker Jonathan Freeny (shoulder) are probable.
For the Browns, linebacker Barkevious Mingo (lung) and guard Shawn Lauvao (ankle) are out.