The Miami Dolphins invested heavily on defense this offseason, using their trove of salary-cap space to upgrade a unit in desperate need of a talent infusion in coach Brian Flores’ second season.
The biggest fish to land in Miami was cornerback Byron Jones, who signed a five-year, $82 million contract with $54.5 million guaranteed.
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The 27-year-old joins Xavien Howard as the Dolphins starting corners, and Jones believes they could be the top pairing in the NFL in 2020.
"The most important part is just really having no weak links, and that’s what we’re trying to create in our defensive secondary and really the entire team, is to build a team where there are no weaknesses, where we can just guard up," Jones said last week, via ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe. "We can create matchups that are difficult for receivers and quarterbacks."
Jones, who played both corner and safety during his five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, brings length and lock-down ability opposite Howard. Howard is coming off a season in which he struggled but could be in for a bounce-back campaign alongside Jones.
With Jones and Howard as starting corners, Eric Rowe is expected to be used as a strong safety who can cover tight ends. Bobby McCain currently projects as the free safety role. Second-year corner Nik Needham showed promise as a slot corner as a rookie. The biggest need is a playmaking deep safety, which Miami could look to fill in the draft.
With the Dolphins expected to play man coverage heavily once again under Flores, the play of Jones and Howard will be a big key in how improved Miami’s secondary is in 2020.
Jones knows the knock on him is the lack of interceptions, having only two in five years, and zero the past two seasons. Counting stats are overrated, as Jones remains a sticky player who can get his hands on passes, even if it hasn’t turned into a bunch of INTs.
"It’s a joke, the fact that I haven’t had an interception in two years. It’s bizarre," Jones said. "In 2018, I had a ball hit in the back of the head and that was kind of embarrassing. That didn’t happen in 2019, so I am getting better. … Surprisingly, I do have good ball skills, but it just needs to show up on game days."
If Jones turns that joke on its head, the Dolphins secondary could go from a liability to an asset in one offseason.
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