Some Dolphins notes as we await Dolphins-Panthers on Monday night:
• The Dolphins did terrific work finding one very good starting safety, Reshad Jones, in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL draft.
Finding a longterm starter to pair with him has been more problematic, for reasons both within and beyond their control.
Jones and the Dolphins believe they might have finally found that permanent partner in T.J. McDonald, who makes his first appearance of the regular season on Monday against Carolina after serving an eight-game suspension.
That’s why the Dolphins gave McDonald a four-year, $24 million extension earlier this season, before he played a single regular season snap for Miami.
“He may be one of the best I’ve played with,” Jones said Friday, after rattling off most of the safeties he has started alongside. “He’s physical, gets to the ball. He's a versatile safety. We complement each other well.”
Adam Gase has high hopes for this duo: “I think we have a good chance for that to be a pretty good combination there,” Gase said. “They have a good feel for each other. I think when you’ve got two veteran players like that, it doesn’t take a long time for them to click, especially when you got two guys that are as selfless as they are where they will do whatever they need to do to win the football game. It’s fun to watch them practice. It has been fun to see T.J. get back out there. It has been a long eight weeks for him. I know it was tough for him. When it’s taken away from you for that long, when you get back, you can tell he’s enjoying every snap.”
If you’re counting, McDonald will be the ninth different safety to start alongside Jones. Yeremiah Bell, a fine player here, was on the downside of his career when Jones was drafted, and the Dolphins moved on after pairing them together for two years.
The Dolphins thought they found potential longterm partners for Jones in Louis Delmas and Isa Abdul Quddus, but injuries wrecked those plans. In fact, Abdul Quddus’ neck injury late last season is expected to end his career.
The others safeties who have started alongside Jones: Chris Clemons, Jimmy Wilson, Walt Aikens, Bacarri Rambo, Michael Thomas and Nate Allen. (Aikens, Wilson and Rambo were fill-ins.)
Allen was Miami’s starter for the first seven games this season before sustaining a calf injury that landed him on injured reserve.
Jones said starting alongside so many safeties hasn’t been a burden.
“Whoever is playing with me really doesn't matter,” he said. “I've been fortunate enough to play with a lot of good safeties throughout my career here but it doesn't really matter.”
The key, Jones said, is making sure that they communicate the signals correctly.
“We're the quarterback of the defense so we have to make sure we have to get everybody lined up and make sure we're on the same page,” Jones said. “[McDonald and I] played in minicamps and preseason so we bonded on and off the field.”
Jones, who rarely has a bad game, comes off a performance against Oakland where he allowed a deep touchdown catch and a completion on a third and long. He’s determined to be at his best on Monday.
“One or two plays I wish I had back,” he said of Sunday’s game. “I know I have to make those plays. I think I've been playing good.”
• The Dolphins hope they get the McDonald who allowed a spectacular 68.8 passer rating in his coverage area for the Rams last season, not the one who permitted a bloated 121.6 rating his first three years.
McDonald has to be very good to survive the full five years of his contract; he has a very palatable cap hit of $2.5 million next season but then it rises to $6.0 million, $7.6 million and $6.9 million the following three years.
• It’s surprising that Byron Maxwell hasn’t found a job since the Dolphins cut him; he worked out for Atlanta last week.
Cordrea Tankersley reached out to Maxwell, a fellow former Clemson Tiger, to thank him for helping him the past several months. Tankersley ultimately took his job.
Before Maxwell was cut, Tankersley thought replacing Maxwell “was going to be awkward. But it wasn’t. He knows I looked up to him and respect him. I know he loves me as much as I love him.”
• Alabama defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and Georgia coach Kirby Smart were among those who reached out to Dolphins safety Maurice Smith to congratulate him after watching his first 17 defensive snaps of the season last Sunday against Oakland.
Smith, an undrafted rookie free agent, played three years at Alabama and one at Georgia.
Smith successfully defended the two passes thrown in his coverage area.
“I play with a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if the guy in front of me is making $63 million or the minimum.”
• Mike Pouncey, on one reason why left guard Ted Larsen is going to help lift this offensive line: “He can pass block one-on-one by himself and to me, that’s what I think makes guards really, really good, whenever they can pass block one-on-one by themselves.”
Larsen debuts Monday after missing the first eight games in the wake of his torn biceps in August.
• Notable numbers: One thing that must change with the Dolphins’ pass defense: Miami has allowed the opposing quarterback to complete 69.9 percent of his passes on third and fourth downs, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s second worst in the league.... Jay Cutler has thrown nine touchdowns on 23 pass attempts in the red zone, a percentage that is third best in the league and behind only Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz.