Brent Grimes was the Band-Aid that covered up the Dolphins’ pesky wound at cornerback.
Because, at least in part, they had Grimes, the Dolphins haven’t selected a corner in the first round since 2009.
But they ripped off that bandage quickly (and relatively painlessly) by cutting Grimes in the first minutes of free agency.
Owner Stephen Ross last month acknowledged that Grimes’ combustible wife, Miko, was a major factor in his release.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
But so was this, the Miami Herald has learned: Coaches believed he was too small for the physical system that the Dolphins plan to run under new defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
They want big, pressing corners; Grimes, at 5-10 (generously), does not fit the bill.
Byron Maxwell, acquired in a trade from the Eagles, is more in the mold of what the Dolphins want. He’s taller than 6-feet.
League observers believe the odds are high the Dolphins land one of those two.
“Just my press-man cover skills,” Apple said, when asked which part of his game best translates to the next level. “That’s something in the NFL that’s really important, to be a physical guy at the line of scrimmage and be able to take receivers off their path. And that’s something I do better than anybody, in my opinion.
“My press technique is to me better than everybody out there. That’s the main thing I do. I’m a physical guy, and I get up on receivers and impact that.”
The tape backs that up. At Ohio State, Apple was “disruptive and use[d] his length to keep receivers uncomfortable,” writes NFL Draft Scout’s Dane Brugler, who did observe that Apple’s aggressiveness was “too hands-on downfield and [he] lacks savvy at the top of routes.”
As for Jackson, he’s more playmaker than mauler, intercepting five passes in his last season with the Cougars.
No one knows for sure which of the two will be taken first this week, but if it’s close, perhaps analytics will be the tiebreaker.
And Apple probably has the edge.
The SPARQ Rating is a Nike-developed, sport-specific assessment of athleticism measuring a prospect’s speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness. Those measurables are combined and then compared against the rest of the NFL.
What that rating tells us about Florida State’s dynamic defensive back Jalen Ramsey: He is a generational athlete and worthy of consideration at the very top of this draft.
If his SPARQ Rating is an accurate gauge of his ability, he would immediately be one of the two or three most athletic corners in all of the NFL, with his 4.41-second 40-yard dash and 41.5-inch vertical leap.
The Dolphins had no chance landing Ramsey even when they owned the eighth pick and have even less chance now that they have traded down to 13 for Maxwell and Kiko Alsono.
There’s an outside chance that University of Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves III will slide out of the top 10, and the Dolphins would surely have interest. While not quite as athletic as Ramsey, he’s still a freak, with a SPARQ score in the top three percentile.
There isn’t a complete rating for Apple because he didn’t jump at the NFL Scouting Combine, but his 40 time (4.4 seconds), short-shuttle time (4.08 seconds) and height (over six feet) are all strong.
All three are obvious first-round picks, based on their elite physical gifts.
Not so with Jackson, whose SPARQ score ranked 67th among all draft-eligible corners measured. He measurables were in the bottom third of NFL corners. Jackson ran well (sub-4.4 40), but he’s just 189 pounds and managed just 10 reps on the bench press.
Clearly, he would need to get bigger to handle the giant receivers in the AFC East — and fast, as the Dolphins plan to get an immediate starter in the first round.
Apple and Jackson were two of at least seven corners summoned to the Dolphins’ Davie headquarters for a visit. The others: Baylor’s Xavien Howard, Samford’s James Bradberry, LSU’s Rashard Robinson, Southern Cal’s Kevon Seymour and North Carolina Central’s Ryan Smith.
The Dolphins also have interest in the University of Miami’s Artie Burns, who drew an audience with Joseph, defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo and vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum during his pro day last month.
Burns’ tape is better than his SPARQ rating, which put him in the bottom 15 percent of NFL corners. But he is skilled enough to at least merit consideration at the bottom of the first round. He’d be a more likely fit with the Dolphins in Round 2.
But that’s only if they don’t take one in Round 1.
Miami Herald sportswriter Barry Jackson contributed to this report.
William Jackson III