We know that starting safety Reshad Jones, who has started 44 of the past 47 games for the Dolphins, is going to be no where in the team's vicinity the first four games of 2014 because he must serve an NFL mandated four-game suspension for violating the league policy on performance enhancing drugs.
And so eventually the Dolphins have to prepare for not having their starter in the lineup.
Well, the preparation started today as Jones was bounced to second-team safety throughout practice while Jimmy Wilson took all his repetitions with the first team in Jones's former spot.
"We lose an experience player but we feel we have capable backups. Every team in the NFL is going to deal with situations that arise, whether it be injuries whether it be off the field issues. And the teams that deal with them the best are the teams that end up competing at the end of the season for the playoffs and for championships. We don't treat this any different than knowing we're going to be without a player for a couple of games. You have to adjust, move forward, and that's what we plan to do. That's why I'm glad we still have three more preseason games to continue to assess the entire group both at the safety position and the nickel."
Coyle is very confident about Wilson as his safety. The defensive coordinator believes Wilson has plenty of experience and will play hard and rally to the football. (I have my reservations and believe this is a step backward for the defense but that's for another day).
"He's one of the best communicators on the team," Coyle said. "When he's been in big situations, he's come up big for us."
The problem is the Dolphins aren't just replacing one "starter" back there. They're replacing a player in Wilson who has been the starting nickel for two seasons and done the job well.
So the Dolphins must identify a replacement for Wilson as the nickely from among the goup of Cortland Finnegan, Jamar Taylor or Will Davis, or Michael Thomas. Taylor and Davis both worked at nickel today. Finnegan was absent for the second consecutive day after posting on Instagram that there had been a death in his family.
"We have options," Coyle said.
The question is whether those options will be good enough to defend the New England Patriots passing game which has in the past has been very good at picking out weak links in the Miami defense and attacking them.
"It's a work in progress," Coyle saidl, "but when we line up against New England I'm going to be confident we have a group out there that's going to give us the best chance to win."