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Brent Grimes not the same, but still pretty good

I've heard the whispers on social media from the amateur scouts and from pundits in the media and from fans who tweet at me or email me: Brent Grimes is diminished. He's playing his final year for the Miami Dolphins.

And that sentiment became more than a whisper after Sunday's game at New Jersey in which Grimes struggled to cover Brandon Marshall in multiple one-on-one and other situations.

And you know what I think?

Maybe Grimes isn't playing at his best. Maybe he isn't producing like he did his first two seasons with the Dolphins in 2013 and '14. But Grimes is not a big part of the problem. He's not the reason this team is 4-7.

Grimes has been asked to do things for three seasons that no team should ask a 5-10 cornerback to do.

Go out and cover the 6-4 Marshall one-on-one for about 50 percent of the game to cover up the other defensive deficiencies in the secondary. Go out and match up with Sammy Watkins practically every play. Last year the Dolphins asked him to go out and cover 6-5 Calvin Johnson.

And Grimes, being a competitor and not one to complain, nods his head and goes out and tries.

He succeeded against Houston's DeAndre Hopkins (averages 98 yards per game, had 50 against Miami). He succeeded against Dez Bryant.

Except that no matter how athletic he is and how technique sound he might play, he's still 5-10.

And he's going to lose a good percentage of those matchups against those premier big wide receivers simply because they are excellent also and, well, they're bigger. That is just the law of physics (or maybe gravity or something). A great big man is better than a great smaller man.

If you are worried about Grimes losing it, think more about this:

Why are the Dolphins asking him to do these things?

Last Sunday, after it was clear to everyone in the stadium Marshall was winning, why didn't the Dolphins change things a bit. I mean, that 3-yard TD in which Marshall basically boxed out Grimes in the end zone in one-on-one coverage was predictable to everyone in the stadium the second the offense and defense lined up.

It is a coach's job to put a player in a position to succeed. Grimes was not put in a position to succeed there.

And I get it, when you pay a cornerback $10 million (Grimes' cap hit this season) you need him to be very good. Well, Grimes is pretty good. He's just had a couple of stinkers this year is all.

Compare that to Jamar Taylor who has given up touchdown after touchdown, completion after completion, to the point he's been benched. That should be and is a bigger concern because while Grimes wins much of the time, Taylor wins very infrequently.

Compare that to safety Walt Aikens who has blown more coverages and given up more plays than anyone else in the Dolphins secondary this season. He's benched now, too.

And that happens. Players that don't perform get benched.

Except Taylor and Aikens are supposed to be the future. They're supposed to be stepping up.

We know Grimes is 32 and cornerbacks don't get better this side of 32 unless they are named Darrell Green. So the Grimes arc is not surprising.

But young players not improving is surprising. And frustrating. And unacceptable.

The Dolphins cannot continue to rely on signing free agent corners to play slot for $5.5 million over two years like they did Brice McCain and have those guys beat out your No. 2 cornerback Taylor. Yet that happened this year.

The Dolphins cannot continue to give Louis Delmas one-year deals hoping he can stay healthy so he can start just so they don't have to put Aikens in the game.

(By the way, the thing with Aikens is strange because he's athletic. He's long. He should be able to play the position. But he doesn't read and react well. He seems to forget what the team practiced during the week and finds himself out of position as a result).

That is the bigger concern than a 5-10 guy predictably losing to a 6-4 guy. One-half of the secondary is simply not good enough to even be on the field. And that half is supposed to be the future.

The Dolphins this week are thrusting rookie Bobby McCain to a starting role opposite Grimes. And McCain is an interesting guy who you've read about on this blog. I personally would have started him a couple of weeks ago.

But even the move to McCain puts a player in a tough spot. Let's face it, McCain is a rookie, no matter how tough and confident and willing he is. And he's more suited to being a slot cornerback than playing on the boundary. Yet because Taylor is not good enough, McCain is going to be asked to do something he is not ideally suited to do.

He's a slot cornerback, folks.

On Sunday McCain is going to be outside because the Dolphins have decided Taylor is too much of a liability to be there.

We'll see how it goes.

And where does that leave Brent Grimes?

He's still Miami's best cornerback. He's getting big bucks this year although he hasn't played up to the level of past years. He's scheduled to cost $9.5 million against the cap next year and, it says here the Dolphins may pay it because they don't have other options on the roster and creating another cornerback hole to go with the one created by Taylor's poor play is not wise.

Seems to me Brent Grimes is going to be here no matter what the pundits say, if the current performance level continues.

Maybe instead of worrying about replacing him, everyone might want to think about putting him in better positions to succeed.