Friday, August 28, 2009

Training Camp Roster Breakdown 2009: Safeties

Concluding my look at the team's defensive units, I'll be examining the safeties today.

Yeremiah Bell
Bell made an astounding number of plays last season, finishing second in the entire NFL with 130 plays (tackles, sacks, PDs, etc.). The player he came in second to? Gibril Wilson, the guy who Miami brought in to line up back there with Bell. The team is keeping Bell at his strong safety position and moving Wilson to free safety, so Bell's share of plays should remain about the same as he is asked to come up in the box to help defend against the run. Bell also deserves a lot of credit for leading Miami's pass defense in putting up a -14.2% DVOA vs. tight ends and a -24.8% DVOA vs. running backs, numbers good for 7th and 2nd best in the league respectively. As far as his individual metrics, he had a decent 54% success rate vs. the pass and an extremely good 6.0 adjusted yards per pass allowed, 8th beset in the league. Granted, some of that has to do with him playing so much in the box rather than deep down field, but it's impressive nonetheless. If he can continue last year's run of health, Bell should continue to be a strong presence in the back end of this defense.

Courtney Bryan
You've got to admire Bryan's tenacity in managing to stick around the Dolphins roster for so long. Cut by the team before the season began last year, he was later brought back into the fold in November in an effort to help the ailing special teams coverage units. In seven games, he recorded 3 special teams tackles. He's fine as a mid-season replacement, but I don't see the team keeping him on the roster to begin the year.

Chris Clemons
Chris Clemons from Clemson. Say that tongue-twister three times fast. I really liked this pick as Clemons was a good value in the fifth round. He's a really interesting prospect as a potential future starting free safety. He has excellent speed and his range in the backfield is superb. He's also very durable and experienced, having played 51 games in college, with three years as a starter. He's not a ballhawk, however, so his big-play potential is questionable. He's also not likely to make any huge hits and his tackling is suspect. He'll have time to work on those areas of his game as he spends his first season primarily as a special teams player, but he could see some opportunities as a dimeback if he progresses quickly.

Tyrone Culver
Culver turned out to be one of the team's best free agent additions last year, and he wasn't even added until September, right before the season began. Not only was he an ace special teams player (9 tackles), but he became a primary option in the defense's nickel and dime packages. In that limited playing time, he recorded 35 tackles, 3 passes defensed and one interception. He had a 52% success rate against the pass and trailed only Yeremiah Bell on the team with 8.0 adjusted yards allowed per pass. I listed Culver on my first annual Top 5 Prospects list this offseason, and the team obviously liked what they saw from him as well, signing him to a contract extension.

Gibril Wilson
Wilson was one of Miami's high-priced free agent additions this offseason, signed to take over Renaldo Hill's spot as the starting free safety. The biggest question surrounding Wilson is how well he'll be able to make the transition to free safety after playing SS for most of his career, save for one year with the Giants. You see, Wilson is one of the premier run-stuffing safeties in the entire NFL, but he will be asked to do a lot more pass coverage this year since Yeremiah Bell has the SS position locked up. As a run stopper he is second to none among this team's defensive backs, with a 55% success rate vs. the run last year. (Will Allen came in second at 46% and no one else was even above 40%). But he has also shown a tendency to make careless mistakes in deep coverage, and he gave up a whopping 10.4 adjusted yards per pass last year, one of the worst totals in the league. Granted, he had performed better in coverage the year before that in New York. It'll be imperative for Wilson to get past whatever was affecting his coverage abilities last year if this defense wants to be able to limit the amount of big pass plays it gives up.


Here's my predicted depth chart:
FS - Gibril Wilson
SS - Yeremiah Bell

1. Tyrone Culver
2. Chris Clemons

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