Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins secondary bracing for trio of speedy Buffalo Bills wide receivers

Sammy Watkins wowed the scouts at the Combine in February, running an electric 4.4-second 40-yard dash.

But in Buffalo, he’s not even the fastest guy on his team. Not even close.

That title belongs to receiver Marquise Goodwin, an Olympic long-jumper who in 2013 ran the third-fastest 40 in NFL history: 4.27 seconds.

Throw in Robert Woods, who clocked a 4.5 coming out of college, and the Dolphins on Sunday could be covering the fastest group of wideouts they’ll face all season.

“It just might be,” said corner Will Davis, who will be on the field when the Dolphins go to their nickel package. “Not looking at the schedule, but they’re up there. If not, definitely a close second. We know that. Definitely have to be on your Ps and Qs.”

That’s assuming E.J. Manuel is actually permitted to throw the ball. In the Bills’ 23-20 Week 1 upset in Chicago, Buffalo passed just 22 times – compared to 33 Bills runs. No Buffalo receiver had more than four catches.

That figures to be the Bills’ strategy again Sunday, particularly with Miami’s banged up defense. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is lost for the season with a hip injury. Koa Misi, who hurt his ankle in the opener, won’t play either. Plus Buffalo totaled 293 yards on the ground in two games against Miami in 2013.

Granted, this isn’t the days of leather helmets. The Bills will have to throw at some point. When they do, their receivers hope to make it a track meet.

“You’ve just got to play your game,” said Dolphins corner Brent Grimes, a Pro Bowl selection in 2013. “If somebody’s really fast, you can’t make a lot of mistakes because they’ll be on top of you.”

Davis knows firsthand. He and Goodwin have a history. They were teammates at the 2013 Senior Bowl.

Davis had just finished his final season at Utah State. Goodwin, who starred at the University of Texas, was five months removed from placing 10th in the long jump at the London Olympics.

Their in-practice battles were a snapshot of what we could see Sunday, when Davis likely will cover Goodwin on the outside.

“Every time he was in there, you knew [the quarterback] was throwing something deep,” Davis said. “He’s fast. It’s one of those, you’ve got to get out earlier. You can’t stay in your back-pedal too long. Because once he’s gone, he’s gone.”

The same could be said for Watkins, the dynamic receiver out of Clemson who went fourth in May’s draft. The Bills gave up two first-round picks to move up five spots – an indication of just highly they regard him.

Watkins made an impression right away. His one-handed catches in training camp quickly went viral. A breakout game seems to be a matter of when – not if.

The Dolphins, who allowed just 39 passing yards in the second half against the Patriots, are determined to not let Sunday be that day.

“You see what he does,” Grimes said. “A fast receiver who can make a lot of plays. He did it in college. You see it flash on the film, too. He’s a good player.”

The Dolphins’ secondary can only do so much. They're not going to wake up Sunday any faster. An active pass-rush – such as the one that chased Tom Brady all over Sun Life Stadium – will certainly help the cause.

But at some point, their corners will find themselves alone with not just some of the speediest players in the league, but the world.

“There are fast players in this league almost every week,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “They are fast, we give them their due, but we’ve got to play football and play our style of defense, which we will, and see how we match up.”