BY SEAN DONOVAN
Last season, the Miami Dolphins dropped a Week 2 decision to the Houston Texans by a score of 23-13. It was a good microcosm of the Dolphins' 2011 season; a defense admirably hanging in there while plodding offense struggled to finish a game.
The game was close throughout, with Houston holding just a three-point fourth quarter lead. The final dagger was an Andre Johnson touchdown catch in which he beat the coverage of Dolphins fourth-string cornerback Nolan Carroll (photo: photo-gator, Flickr).
On the play, Carroll was lined up over Johnson, which is a massive mismatch. But Miami fell back into zone coverage, and safety Reshad Jones failed to shade over to protect Carroll on the deep route. The result was one of the easiest touchdowns Johnson will ever get, clinching the game for Houston.
The blown assignment by Jones was one of the mental lapses and communication breakdowns that plagued the Dolphins secondary in the early part of 2011.
"I think it's a lot better," Carroll said about the secondary's communication so far this season, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
"I think we took it for granted last year that everybody knew what everybody was doing. We weren't communicating as much in practice and it showed up in the games. When we all thought we were on the same page, we were thinking two different things."
Whether or not it can resolve its communication problems, the Dolphins' secondary will have a tough time stopping Matt Schaub and the Texans again this year. Carroll has been promoted to nickel duties, and Miami shipped out its No. 1 coverage cornerback in Vontae Davis earlier this preseason.
Tremendous pressure will be on starters Sean Smith and Richard Marshall to slow down the Texans' passing attack.
Jones will remain back there, this time joined by Chris Clemons. Clemons replaces strong safety Yeremiah Bell in the defense, who left in free agency. Miami plans to use a dual-free safety scheme this season which should help them in the back end, if the duo plays well. Bell struggled in deep coverage last season.
Newcomer R.J. Stanford will see plenty of action as well, as the Texans are expected to operate in three- and four-receiver sets much of the time. Stanford was claimed off of waivers from the Panthers this past Saturday.
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