The Dolphins are taking it slow with Reshad Jones -- at least so far this week.
During Monday's practice in preparation for Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers, Jones was back on the field and getting a full complement of repetitions. But those repetitions did not come with the first-team defense.
The first-team safeties remained Jimmy Wilson and Louis Delmas.
This despite the fact Jones was the starter before he was suspended for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing drugs. This despite the fact Jones came back from the four week suspension in great shape.
“Very, very pleased with the condition that Reshad has come back in," defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. "He’s only had a few practices, so we’re still trying to get him up to speed in a lot of areas. But his conditioning has been very good and his play speed has been excellent.
"Sometimes guys give each other a hard time about having fresh legs when somebody comes back from either being injured or what have you, but he’s noticeably fast out on the field right now and covering a lot of ground and doing a good job."
So what's the issue? Why not put Jones right back where he belongs?
Well, the Miami defense has developed some since Jones went away. And Jones needs to catch up to the developments.
And while that can conceivably happen within a week or 10 days for some players, it can take coaches some time to believe the process is complete. They must be convinced Jones has the new material nailed down particularly with the fact the defense is about to face one of the NFL's most explosive offenses and Coyle says the Dolphins cannot afford to give up any cheap points.
"This is the type of team that you cannot give them any plays," Coyle said. "In other words, I guess that sounds simple, but you have to make them earn every yard. They’re going to earn some yards. But you’ve got to keep them putting the ball back in play. You saw the couple of bombs that went off in the (Minnesota) Vikings game early on, the post-play to (Jordy) Nelson. Against Chicago, they had a couple of guys running wide open down the field that he hit. You can’t do that. They’re too good.
"They’re going to move the ball, get some first downs. You’ve got to be able to make them earn every yard. You’ve got to be able to slow down, contain their run game and then get [Aaron Rodgers] into situations where you have a chance to try to mix it up against them and do some things against the passing game. The scary thing is that when they’re hitting on all cylinders, they’re an up-tempo team that gets a group out on the field. They’re not overly fast, but yet their tempo is very good and, when he gets in rhythm, he’s scary.”
It might just be that to prevent what he fears are breakdowns, Coyle and the Miami defensive staff defer to the status quo, keeping the lineup as it has been for four weeks.
On the other hand, Jones is unquestionably an upgrade over Wilson at safety. So eventually, he will get his job back.
My fear? That the coaching staff tries to split the baby.
In other words, I fear that enticed by Jones being in such good shape and being a physical presence, the coaching staff might try to play him part-time and play Wilson part-time. That sounds like an invitation to have miscommunication in the secondary.
Miscommunication in the secondary leads to blown coverages.
And isn't that what Coyle just said he's trying to avoid?
The next two days will be important for Jones if is about to take his job back. He's already gone a long way toward convincing the coaching staff he's physically able to play. If he can convince them he's up to speed on the scheme and game plan, he'll be back to his job.
Otherwise, it'll be Jimmy Wilson at safety again.