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Changing of the Guard at Safety

Jevon Holland and Brandon Jones taking over for veterans in the secondary

When the Miami Dolphins opened the 2021 regular season, the strength of the team pretty unanimously was viewed as being the secondary.

That included the team's two highly paid cornerbacks, Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, of course, but it also included a pair of established veteran safeties in Eric Rowe and Jason McCourty.

But now, about a third of the way into the season, the two veterans have given way to two young players, and it's second-year player Brandon Jones and rookie second-round pick Jevon Holland who are getting the majority of the work at safety.

The numbers of the past two games illustrate that pretty vividly.

Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars, Rowe and McCourty each played a total of 41 snaps compared to 138 for Holland and 103 for Jones.

You could call it a changing of the guard at safety.

“I think for me, it’s just you focus on whatever plays you do have," McCourty said this week. "Obviously every single guy in that locker room would love to be out there every play of the game and we all feel like we can make an impact to help win. But the one thing I’ve learned throughout my course in the NFL is control what you can control. I think my defensive coordinator used to say that all the time my rookie year. Throughout my career, I had a DB coach that said, ‘Don’t count the plays, make the plays count.’ I’m trying to control what I can control and trying to make the plays count that I do have.

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"(Brandon Jones), Jevon (Holland), those guys and some of our younger players are doing a good job and playing well. Although I haven’t been in as much, it’s been fun to see the evolution of Jevon from when he first got here to being out there, making plays, communicating well, the passion and emotion that he plays with, his ability to line guys up and just seeing the growth from him as a player. When you’re 34, you know if there’s a young guy behind you that’s behind you that’s a good player, at some point he’s going to get on the field. I’ve just tried to be super supportive of him and Brandon on the sideline looking at the (Microsoft) Surface if there’s things that I can help them with or reminders of yelling out on the field. I’ve just tried to do my best just to help the team get a win whether I’m out there for 90 percent of the plays or whether it’s 30 percent of the plays.”

While Holland has made progress — he broke up a pass with a nicely timed hit against Jacksonville — the big plays we saw throughout training camp haven't been there.

Holland's advanced stats in pass coverage also are not good. When targeted, opposing QBs have a perfect passer rating of 158.3, according to pro-football-reference.com.

As for Jones, he had a big game against the Raiders in Week 3 when he had two sacks on blitzes, but he's also had his issues in coverage.

While we're all for giving the young guys a chance, the switch is kind of strange considering how well Rowe played last season.

Now, his coverage hasn't been as good so far in 2021, but he's far from the only defensive player who has regressed this season.

Regardless, it sure looks as though the Dolphins have made the commitment to the young guys at safety.