Steve Smith’s battle with Aqib Talib was the best drama on television Monday, complete with big plays, hints of violence and perhaps the best post-game trash talk of the season.
“Ice up, son. Ice up,” Smith instructed Talib after his Panthers beat the Patriots, both on the scoreboard and physically, in a 12-round, knockdown bout.
Fast-forward a week, and if Smith snarled the same junk to his likely opponent this coming Sunday — Brent Grimes — he’d probably get a laugh in response.
For while Talib tries to cover with swagger and intimidation, that’s simply not Grimes’ style.
“I really don’t get into it like that,” Grimes said with a chuckle. “[Smith is] known for getting into stuff. He’s high-strung, obviously. He’s competitive. He gets excited, extremely excited, when he makes plays.”
Through 11 weeks of the NFL season, Grimes has shown that happy-go-lucky can work just as well — if not better — than fire-and-brimstone.
Simply put, he just might be the lockdown corner the Dolphins have searched for since the days of Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison.
The scouting website Pro Football Focus ranks Grimes as the third-best corner in the league. He has three interceptions. He hasn’t allowed a touchdown all season. Quarterbacks have a rating of just 62.4 when throwing to his coverage area.
And he has done it without a lot of help. Fellow Dolphins corner Dimitri Patterson estimates the coaches ask Grimes to play man-to-man between 80 and 90 percent of the time — a figure Grimes didn’t dispute.
“He goes after the ball, aggressive at the point of attack, real athletic,” Patterson said.
Added Grimes: “We play a lot of coverages where we’re just out there playing.”
A perfect example: Grimes’ game-altering interception in last Sunday’s victory against San Diego.
Chargers receiver Vincent Brown tried to fool Grimes with a double-move. It didn’t work.
“I just reacted, flipped my hips and ran,” Grimes explained. “I was tracking the ball and made a play. It wasn’t anything, really.”
That’s the kind of humility that makes Grimes a refreshing change of pace in a league where many defensive backs talk as much (if not more) as they cover.
Take, for instance, Seattle’s demonstrative Richard Sherman, who is also having a great season. He leads the Pro Bowl voting at his position with more than 250,000 votes.
But if Sherman had Grimes’ low-key personality, he wouldn’t be nearly as popular.
Grimes, meanwhile, isn’t among the the top-two vote-getters at his position despite playing at an empirically high level.
When asked about that incongruity this week, he simply shrugged.
“That’s the story of my whole thing,” Grimes said. “I'm not a first-round pick or anything like that. I’m not a name. I didn’t go to a big school. I’m not known that well.”
Grimes continued: “Even if I’m playing well, I’m not that big of a name. I’m not mad about it. It’s just how it goes. ... I’ve just got to work that much harder. As long as my team knows I’m playing well, and people I really care about know I’m playing well, that’s all that really matters to me.”
No doubt, the Dolphins know he’s playing well. That’s why defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle continues to put him on an island — and if recent history holds, will assign him to Smith when the Panthers come to town Sunday.
Grimes is two-thirds the way through the one-year deal he signed in the spring. Now that the Dolphins have a player of his caliber in the defensive backfield, they can ill-afford to let him go.
He wants to be here long-term, he said this week, but Miami’s front office has yet to approach him with a contract offer.
Grimes doesn’t expect talks to get serious until after the season, which — considering the uncertainty surrounding the current front office — is probably a good bet. He is also a prime candidate for the franchise tag.
“I like it here,” Grimes said. “I say that a lot in the media, to anybody who asks me. I like the coaches, I like the players, I like the locker room. It’s a cool place, I like it a lot.”