By Jeremiah Thermidor
Dolphins safety Chris Clemons is no Ed Reed, and although Reshad Jones is a dynamic pure athlete, he’s still refining his skills in the defensive backfield. But both Clemons and Jones are doing what needs to be done and they’re both an important part of what makes Miami’s defense one of the most feared in the league this season.
The Dolphins have, of course, done an incredible job at stopping the run this year, limiting opponents to just 78.2 rushing yards per game. With Clemons and Jones being the last line of defense, their efforts in disrupting the run game sort of goes under the radar. So, they’re kind of like the unsung heroes of the defense, especially this season with great showings from standout players in Miami’s front seven like Cameron Wake, Randy Starks and Karlos Dansby.
But the performances of Clemons and Jones haven’t gone unnoticed by Miami head coach Joe Philbin, who has certainly proven that he has an eye for great talent.
“I think they’re developing. I think they’re playing well,” Philbin said Wednesday when asked how he feels about what those guys have done so far. “They’re making a good contribution. I think Chris’ tackling has been improved since early in the season. I think he’s done a nice job there.”
Clemons, 27, has 32 combined tackles, two pass deflections and one interception this year. The strong safety nabbed his only pick this season and the just the second of his career in Miami’s matchup against the Jets in Week 3. His first interception came two years ago when he picked off former Raiders quarterback Bruce Gradkowski in a Miami win. Clemons, however, needs to make more impact plays, specifically in the defending the pass. He studies film well but being able to anticipate a quarterback’s next move and finding the football at the point of attack are areas which could help make him a household name.
Jones, 24, has two interceptions on the year, in addition to his 32 combined tackles. Jones picked off Carson Palmer in Miami’s Week 2 victory over the Raiders and got a game-saving interception in the team’s win against the Bengals on October 7th. The free safety has displayed the ability to break on the throw and read quarterbacks well. He always seems to know where the ball is headed, yet he’s still a young guy with a high ceiling, and that’s a good thing.
The Dolphins gave up their best safety in Yeremiah Bell during the off-season, which speaks volumes about the way the team felt about what Jones would be able to do in his absence. Bell, now with the Jets, was the team’s leading tackler in 2011, so it was definitely a shock when the Dolphins parted ways with their longest-tenured player at the time. But Jones has certainly stepped up and shown he has the range and coverage skills to fill the role left by Bell.
“It kind of sent the message that this was my time. This was going to be my year,” Jones said concerning the team believing in him via the Miami Herald. “I have just been taking advantage of the opportunity.”
Both Jones and Clemons have taken advantage of their opportunities, but they definitely can do a lot more. They both have the physical style, toughness and the football I.Q. required to attaining great success at their respective positions. “They still have a long way to go,” said Philbin. “But I think they’ve both shown some progress.”
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Dolphins news, see CBS Sports Miami.
Jeremiah Thermidor is a freelance writer covering all things Miami Dolphins. His work can be found on Examiner.com.