« Miami Dolphins scouting department gets a big endorsement | Main | It would be wise for Miami Dolphins to consider trading Cam Wake »

Numbers show Miami Dolphins must draft a starting CB

On the final day of the 2015 season (sorry to remind you, but last season did indeed happen), the Miami Dolphins went to the finale with six cornerbacks on their roster. And no one batted an eyelash about that because in today's NFL, teams are defending in sub packages an average of 65 percent of the time so cornerbacks are at a premium.

If you don't have at least three cornerbacks who can play you have a leaky defense.

And that assumes that you have at least one safety that is not a liability in coverage.

We all agreed on that?

Six corners on the roster not unusual. Three and sometimes four on the field way, way more than half the time.

Lacking talent among those numbers and you'll be selecting early in the annual NFL draft.

I establish all this because the Miami Dolphins currently have barely enough cornerbacks on their 90-man roster to go into the season. And you have to understand, they'll be going into the season with a 53-man roster.

The Dolphins have seven cornerbacks on the roster to date. Those are Jamar Taylor, Byron Maxwell, Bobby McCain, Tony Lippett, Tyler Patmon, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Chimdi Chekwa. If you want to get crazy, you can say the team has eight cornerbacks but then you'd be counting Damarr Aultman, who is not even listed as a corner on the team's official roster. He's listed as a defensive back.

And even counting Aultman as a defensive back is a faith exercise because he was a wide receiver in college and in training camp with the Dolphins last year.

Am I getting the point across to you that the Dolphins have serious cornerback issues as we sit here, nine days from the start of the NFL draft?

Am I getting the point across to you that the Dolphins definitely need to draft a cornerback and do it early enough that he might be a candidate to start right away? Am I getting the point across to you that the Dolphins might need to draft two cornerbacks?

Am I getting the point across to you that if they don't draft two cornerbacks, they'll probably have to sign another one in the back end of free agency -- someone such as unsigned slot cornerback Leon Hall, who last I heard was recovering from back surgery and was asking such a hefty contract, practically no teams have seemed interested this offseason?

If I've failed to draw that portrait allow me to grab more crayons (my favorite writing utensil) and continue:

Taylor should currently be the most obvious choice to vie for a starting job opposite veteran Byron Maxwell. Taylor, entering his fourth NFL season, has started in the past and has the draft pedigree to be a starter, having been picked in the second round of the 2013 draft.

Except that Taylor has been progressively worse the past two years. He showed some signs of becoming a player his second season after sitting out most of his rookie year. But last year he backslid. He was handed the starting job in training camp and lost it quite quickly. He was forced into the lineup by injuries and lack of performance by other players. Then he suffered his own lack of performance to the point coaches didn't even want him active on Sundays.

Taylor was a healthy scratch three of the final five games, and had another game in that stretch when he was active but did not play. So Taylor finished the season, sitting four of the final five games because nobody trusted him on the field.

And he's a candidate to start for this team right now.

By the way, I understand the coaching staff is brand new. I understand the Dolphins are going to play different techniques on defense this year. I get all that. I'm sure Lou Anarumo, the defensive backs coach last year and the defensive backs coach this year, has told the players in his room as much.

Anyway, the next best option to start right now is Tony Lippett. He was a receiver in college. He was basically redshirted much of last year until about the final month when he was pressed into service. And he served. He showed a spark, a potential, a possibility. We'll see. But can any coach on the Dolphins stand before us and say, "Tony Lippett is a sure-fire starting caliber NFL cornerback?"

I haven't heard it.

Bobby McCain is one of Miami's eight corners. He played a lot as a rookie. He was pressed into service as practically everyone else was. And he showed potential. He seems best fit at slot. But here's the thing: If the Dolphins are going to camp having awarded the starting job to McCain, it doesn't say much for their Plan B in case everything doesn't go absolutely, positively perfectly -- as it never does in the NFL.

Chimdi Chekwa is one of Miami's eight. He was out of football in 2015 after he was not tendered a contract by the Oakland Raiders, signed by the Patriots, cut by the Patriots two months later, signed by the Raiders, then cut by the Raiders. Checkwa, in his fifth season, has played 32 NFL games with three starts. He has four passes defensed and zero interceptions in his career.

Ekpre-Olomu had a couple of huge victories recently when the Dolphins claimed him off waivers from the Cleveland Browns. First, he just traded living in Cleveland for living in South Florida. Next, he is still on the team.

That's right, the fact Ekpre-Olomu is still around signals that he passed the Miami physical and the team felt comfortable enough with him that he remains on the roster. This is a big deal because the Browns gave up on Olomu-Ekpre, who tore his ACL in 2014 and apparently had failed to progress to the team's liking since.

About Ekpre-Olomu's injury: It was so significant that despite being a first- or second-round prospect, he dropped into the 241st pick of the 2015 draft. The drop to the seventh round was so precipitous, Olomu-Ekpre reportedly collected the entire sum of his $3 million injury insurance policy.

When the Browns gave up on the player, the Dolphins claimed him, as these things work, sight unseen.

That means they put him through his physical after having already claimed him. And as they kept him, it suggests they are hopeful something good can come of the claim.

But, again, this kid has not played a down in the NFL. And we have no idea if he is the player we last saw at Oregon in 2014, or merely a Cleveland Browns discard.

Tylor Patmon was a Dallas Cowboys' discard when the Dolphins added him to the practice squad on December 17 of last year. The former 2014 undrafted free agent had played 11 games for the Cowboys in '15 and, well, it hadn't gone great. The Dallas Morning News reported at the time that Patmon was cut because he wasn't "physical enough."

Things being what they were last year, Patmon was signed to Miami's active roster December 26 (Merry Christmas) and he passed Taylor on the depth chart about five minutes later. He played on special teams in two games.

That's it.

Byron Maxwell aside, the Dolphins have to find two cornerbacks that can play 65 percent of the snaps against Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Phillip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer and others.

Are those two guys among the seven not-named-Maxwell currently on the roster? There are logical reasons to have serious doubts.

And that leads me to this: The Dolphins better be drafting a starting cornerback, friends.

Comments