DAVIE — Few teams were easier to pass against than the Dolphins last year, and their defensive backs are insistent on changing that.
Looking around that corner of the locker room, there seems like there should be enough talent to turn things around. Miami has three promising options at safety, plus a host of good cornerbacks bent on becoming great.
The problem is that most of those players were here last year when the Dolphins finished bottom-10 in the NFL in opponent passer rating (94.8) and completion percentage (64.2). The total damage, 225 yards per game, was 16th in the league, but that number likely would’ve been worse had the team not spent most of the year trailing.
“I think we gave up too many big plays last year,” safety T.J. McDonald said. “That’s the biggest thing you don’t want to do is let the ball get over your head. Going into this season, that’s a big emphasis for us.
“We’re just working. We want to be the best that we can be. We want to be the best in the league. We’re putting the time in right now.”
It didn’t help the secondary that the defensive line was unable to put much pressure on opposing quarterbacks and finished 26th in the league with 30 sacks. The defensive backs’ jobs will become significantly easier if Miami’s redesign up front, mainly the addition of Robert Quinn.
In coverage, the Dolphins have McDonald and Reshad Jones returning as the starting safeties along with first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick. They also have Xavien Howard angling to become a true No. 1 cornerback, plus Cordrea Tankersley, Tony Lippett and Bobby McCain.
They’re guided by new leadership, too, with the arrival of defensive backs coach Tony Oden and assistant Renaldo Hill.
McDonald has already seen strides from the defense in the first two weeks of Organized Team Activities.
“We’re just hungry,” he said. “Our camaraderie as a group is better, I feel like. I feel like we’re growing week by week. We’re working harder than we did last year. All the guys can feel the upping the momentum through practice. We’re setting the standard right now. That can only pay off in the future.”
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