Reshad Jones scans the list of safeties who were selected to the Pro Bowl last year and shakes his head.
Seattle’s Kam Chancellor.
Denver’s T.J. Ward.
Detroit’s Glover Quin.
Seattle’s Earl Thomas.
San Diego’s Eric Weddle.
Cleveland’s Tashaun Gipson.
“Nothing against those guys,” the Dolphins safety said. “That’s a great list of safeties. But I think my name should be at the top of that list or somewhere close to the top. My name should be somewhere at the top of that list.
“I know I’m playing great football. You look at those guys’ numbers and my numbers, and you tell me what’s the difference. You turn on the tape of when those guys are playing and you turn on my tape and tell me what’s the difference. I think winning is the key. It’s about getting this team to win games and getting to the playoffs, and then everything else will come along with it.”
Reshad Jones is perhaps the best safety in the NFL who not enough people have heard about. He’s big. He’s fast. He covers deep and plays in the tackle box.
And yet … Tashaun Gipson and the other guys.
You know what that makes Jones? I mean, aside from kind of angry inside?
A member of a large group of Miami Dolphins players who have not quite yet arrived but have the potential to accomplish that feat in 2015.
This team this season is on the cusp of something very good. Many people around the organization think it, whisper about it, expect it.
The problem is that’s how it has seemingly been the past couple of years. And despite all that preseason optimism, all hopes and aspirations crashed headlong into a couple of late-season collapses.
Maybe this year’s finish will be different, better. For that to happen, the handful of players who have been climbing but haven’t yet arrived at their career summit must get close to that peak.
I’m not talking about Ndamukong Suh or Cameron Wake here.
I’m calling out the players who have to stop being about grand potential and be about grand performances. The Dolphins cannot supplant the New England Patriots as the beasts of the AFC East with guys who are perpetually on the way.
Those players have got to arrive in 2015.
So who am I talking about?
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill leads the group on offense.
He has never been to the playoffs. He has never lifted his team to so much as a winning record. But his talent has been worthy of notice and a big contract. Remember, he threw 27 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions last season.
You know what other quarterback had the exact same numbers? Baltimore’s Joe Flacco.
Matt Stafford, considered elite by some, threw 22 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. Cam Newton went to the playoffs with 18 and 12.
Tannehill is already Miami’s franchise quarterback. The team made a $96 million commitment to him in the offseason. But he hasn’t made that crossing from being a good player to being elite. Now would be a good time for that.
Lamar Miller? Nice running back. Big at 225 pounds. Fast as the wind. Last time he played a game, he rushed for a career-high 178 yards. That got him over 1,000 yards for the first time in his three NFL seasons.
He has the tools to be outstanding. He’s in a contract year and is hoping for a good payday. He needs to make a leap.
Olivier Vernon? The Dolphins and his agent have both declined to work a new contract even though Vernon’s rookie deal is also in its final season. Why?
The team wants to see what he will do before making a big commitment. Vernon, who has 21.5 sacks in three seasons, is betting on himself and expecting big things.
It is his time to perform.
There are other Miami players who have been good but not yet great.
Mike Pouncey, Jordan Cameron, Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry in addition to Jones, Tannehill and Miller.
It is your time to take the next step, gentlemen. Good has been good enough to get this team to 8-8 the past two seasons. In other words, good by you hasn’t been good enough.
This team needs more.
Jones, prominent on the list because he truly played very well after missing the first four games of 2014 while on suspension, cannot speak for everyone else. But he echoes the sentiment of his teammates who are looking toward the next few months and seeing big things.
“I feel like each year I’ve gotten better and closer to my prime,” Jones said. “I feel a lot more confident in this defense, I know where everyone is supposed to be, I know where I’m supposed to be. There’s always room for improvement. But I think each and every year I try to go out and show growth.
“Last year, I played with more of a chip on my shoulder because of the situation I was in. This year, it’s that time again. Every time I step on the field, it’s an opportunity to show my family, friends and people around the league that I should be noticed as one of the top and best safeties in this game.”
Reshad Jones is making a reach at greatness. Other Dolphins players must do the same.