DAVIE—One position that seemed logical for the Dolphins in last week’s draft was safety, but they didn’t take one with their seven picks. In fact, they doubled up at defensive tackle and went for a receiver in the seventh round.
When they brought in 14 undrafted free agents, the only safety in the group was Georgia’s Maurice Smith. While he certainly hoped to be selected in the draft, signing with Miami could prove prudent because it gives him a reasonable shot at making the roster.
“I’m not necessarily disappointed by going undrafted; I’m more motivated than anything else and I appreciate the coaching staff giving me an opportunity,” Smith said today. “I think I have an equal opportunity as the rest of the free agents to just make a play or make worth of myself on special teams.”
As it stands, safety is one of the more fluid positions on the depth chart. Reshad Jones is coming off a season-ending shoulder injury, and the other starting spot would appear earmarked for 29-year-old free agent signee Nate Allen. He hasn’t been a full-time starter since 2014.
Behind Jones and Allen, the Dolphins will wait for T.J. McDonald to serve an eight-game suspension. The other safeties are Michael Thomas (23 career starts), Walt Aikens (four) and A.J. Hendy (none).
That’s a much more enticing chance for Smith than what some of Miami’s other undrafted free agents are getting. The four receivers, for example, know the three starting jobs are locked down, plus 2016 third-round pick Leonte Carroo are in their way. Additionally, Rashawn Scott came on strong at the end of last season and Jakeem Grant is still battling for a role in the offense.
“I’m not too aware of it,” Smith said when asked about the depth at safety. “Right now I’m just working and focusing on getting the playbook down. I’m also working on special teams, and the coaches have told us we’ll get a chance to make an impact in either phase of the game.”
Another factor that works in Smith’s favor: He can play cornerback. He worked at both positions while playing Alabama and Georgia and said he’s equally comfortable.
The 21 rookies have been in town this week for initial meetings with the staff and have been tasked with learning the playbook well enough to be ready for the Organized Team Activities that begin May 23.
All of the draft picks and many of the undrafted free agents are from big college programs, which makes for an easier transition to the Dolphins’ overall operation. Places like Alabama and Georgia aspire to run their football programs as close to a professional level as possible.
The big difference Smith noticed already, though, is that there’s a different atmosphere in Davie in terms of coach-player interaction.
“It’s more of a business,” he said. “They don’t talk to you like a kid; it’s more grown up. You’ve gotta take care of your own business. They don’t tell you, ‘You’ve got this at this time.’ You’ve gotta be accountable.”
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