Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins secondary came under increased scrutiny this week after the team traded away star cornerback Vontae Davis. The team’s cover corners responded by wilting under the pressure of facing the Dallas Cowboys’ bench players.
Dallas never unleashed Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, or Jason Witten during Wednesday night’s debacle of a final preseason game for the Dolphins. Still, Miami couldn’t cover the Cowboys’ backup receivers without giving up big plays or getting flagged for major penalties.
Entering the game, Miami was allowing opposing passers to post a 99.9 quarterback rating against them, according to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald. While Miami held Dallas’ Stephen McGee to a 72.5 quarterback rating, he still led the Cowboys to 20 points and he may not even make Dallas’ team this year.
Needless to say, it’s not a great start for a secondary that came into the season with questions. Most of those questions surrounded the safety positions as Davis, Sean Smith, and Richard Marshall were expected to man the cornerback positions well.
Marshall, who ended up replacing Davis in the lineup, was beat on consecutive plays in the first quarter and spent most of the night on the bench. His replacement, Nolan Carroll, was not much better and combined with Quinton Lawrence to repeatedly get burned by McGee, according to the Herald.
Part of the problem Miami has is the chicken and egg argument over pass rushing and cornerbacks. Does a great pass rush make cornerbacks better or can great cornerbacks overcome a weak pass rush.
The Dolphins have essentially one major pass rusher in Cameron Wake. Jared Odrick hasn’t shown the ability to push the pocket thus far and Olivier Vernon is still learning the position in the NFL. Without a pass rush, opposing quarterbacks have been able to sit in the pocket and pick apart Miami’s secondary.
Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers did it to near perfection earlier in the preseason. He rarely, if ever, had any pressure on him and without the pressure, the average Dolphins cornerbacks weren’t able to stay with the opposing team’s starting receivers.
The Dolphins now have more than a week to prepare for their first regular season game against the Houston Texans. Houston likes to throw the ball around with quarterback Matt Schaub and receiver Andre Johnson. The Texans also rush the passer as well as anyone in the league.
Miami will have to correct the problems on the back end of the defense in a hurry if they want to compete with teams like the Patriots as the regular season gets underway.