Come November, the Dolphins will have a decision to make.
Depending on when the NFL schedules Miami’s bye, T.J. McDonald will return from suspension in either Week 9 or 10.
When he does, the Dolphins will have three (or possibly four, depending on the draft) starting-caliber safeties.
One is Reshad Jones, who, assuming he is indeed fully recovered from the significant shoulder injury that spoiled his 2016 season, will be on the field every single play.
So that leaves 65 or so snaps per game to divvy up between McDonald and Nate Allen, two new Dolphins signed in the past month.
So what’s Matt Burke’s plan? That needs to play out during the offseason and training camp. It’s a safe bet that whoever practices better will play more.
Plus, if McDonald — who’s suspended the season’s first eight games for violating the league’s substance abuse police — messes up again, the point will be moot. The Dolphins have a zero tolerance policy with him.
But for the sake of argument (it’s April, the time for conjecture), let’s posit that both players stay healthy and out of trouble.
If so, both players will bring their own strengths to the defense, as these highlights, ably compiled by Dolphins blogger extraordinaire Max Himmelrich, demonstrate.
Tale of the tape
▪ T.J. McDonald. Age: 26. Height: 6-2. Weight: 217. Games played: 53. Games started: 53. Tackles: 218. Interceptions: 4. Passes defensed: 17.
▪ Nate Allen. Age: 29. Height: 6-0. Weight: 210. Games played: 93. Games started: 76. Tackles: 368. Interceptions: 13. Passes defensed: 34.
Max’s take: “McDonald is the much better player. Nate Allen will get beat once a game for a terrible play, but can be solid outside of that. Best situation is to have Allen and McDonald rotating, but it seems like the best use for McDonald is to enhance the run D and shallow coverages, then occasionally drop into deep coverage.”