Reshad Jones is one of the few remaining proven Pro Bowl-caliber players that remains on the Miami Dolphins’ roster.
And Jones, still in his prime at 30 years old, feels like he has yet to play his best football.
“For a long time I feel like I’ve proven myself as one of the best safeties in this league,” Jones said. “I feel like I still haven’t reached my peak yet and have a lot of good football left in me.”
The Dolphins sure hope so.
Jones earned his second Pro Bowl nod in 2017 a year after having his prior season cut short due to a shoulder injury that required two surgeries.
Jones recorded 122 tackles (94 solo), two interceptions and three fumble recoveries, also becoming the only player in the league to return two of them for touchdowns.
Jones, who has 18 career interceptions, proved he could still play at the high level that made him one of the highest-paid and most effective safeties in the NFL.
Before the injury, Jones had five interceptions, finishing sixth overall in the NFL and returned a league-best two for TDs in 2015. The Dolphins signed him to a five-year, $60 million extension before last season.
“For me to come off two shoulder surgeries, it felt great to come back and play at a high level,” Jones said. “It showed that all the hard work we put in the offseason paid off.”
Jones’ 96 NFL starts entering the 2018 campaign almost match the 102 combined starts made by the Dolphins’ other three projected starters in their secondary – free safety T.J. McDonald and cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain.
None of the Dolphins’ projected top reserve defensive backs - safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick and Maurice Smith and corners Torry McTyer and Cordrea Tankersley - have ever started an NFL game.
The Dolphins are counting on Jones’ experience and adaptability to opposing offenses more than ever in 2018.
“He’s seen a lot of football,” Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said. “He’s been in multiple defensive schemes. I think the longer he’s played, you make it sound like it’s easier for him, but it becomes easier because you can react more and you’re not thinking as much. I think he’s seen a lot of ball over time and it allows him to be more aggressive, it allows him to take chances because he has an idea of what’s going on sometimes just before some guys understand it. He’ll see a route concept developing, he’s able to maybe take a better angle and get his hands on the ball.”
Jones participated in 560 rushing snaps last season and 408 passing snaps last year according to Pro Football Focus. While his 68.3 percent grade on coverage was his lowest since 2013, Jones was graded as the fourth-best safety in the league in terms of run defense.
Gase said Jones, who has recorded at least 70 solo tackles in five of the past six seasons, has a unique tackling ability that’s allowed him to be consistently effective over his eight-year career.
“He really has a knack for the ball,” Gase said. “Thinking back to before we even got here, some of the interceptions that he’s made in the past have been very impressive. And some of the ones I’ve seen in practice, his ball skills are way above normal for that position.”
Gase said Jones’ skill both near the line of scrimmage and in pass coverage sometimes creates a bit of a dilemma as to how to best utilize his skill set on defense.
“He can do some good stuff with the ball in his hands,” Gase said. “You’re in a Catch-22 with him because you want him near the line of scrimmage; but at the same time, you’d love for him to get kind of caught in a zone where he has a chance to pick a ball off.”
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