Photo: Graham Coreil-Allen, Flickr
Before the 2011 season, Davis had established himself as one of the more consistent corners in the NFL, and Smith was coming off a great season that seemed to assure that the Dolphins were set at the position for many years.
But after that Week 1 debacle, it took both players a while to bounce back, and Smith never really did. The promise shown in 2010 was all but erased by the inconsistency and mental lapses that plagued him this past season.
Pro Football Focus rated Smith the fifth-worst CB to step on the field in 2011, out of 199 players. Opposing quarterbacks had a 90.7 rating when throwing in his direction and he was burned for five touchdowns.
Smith is a physical freak, with a long 6-foot-4 stature and is as athletic as any CB in the league. He possesses all of the physical tools and talent to be elite, but he had a tendency to make mistakes and give up big plays in 2011.
Smith is now in need of a good year. He will be an unrestricted free agent after this season and his performance will not only determine his future with the Dolphins, but in the NFL. A good showing should solidify his spot opposite Davis for the long term, and a poor one could leave him searching for a new team.
Miami went out and signed a quality cornerback this offseason, former Cardinal Richard Marshall, to serve as Will Allen's replacement at nickel cornerback, but he could also step into Smith's starting spot next year if he isn't retained.
It appears that the Dolphins are prepared to move on if Smith can't right the ship.
Until he does, he and Davis will have to hold off on putting themselves in the upper echelon of CB tandems. In fact, with Darrelle Revis still playing at the highest level across from a highly-skilled Antonio Cromartie, and the early reports from Bills camp on Stephon Gilmore, the Dolphins' duo could end up being the third best in their division.
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