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jim1
12-02-2009, 09:10 AM
The last time the Dolphins played New England, Randy Moss sought out Vontae Davis -- who made an impressive interception -- and Sean Smith to praise the rookie cornerbacks, even after catching six passes for 147 yards. ``He told me we'll be a great tandem for years,'' Smith said. ``That meant a lot. He was my favorite player coming up.''
With Moss and the Patriots on tap, Davis must be sharper than last Sunday, when he allowed completions on all five passes thrown against him, including Terrell Owens' 51-yard score. Davis and Smith show promise, but there also have been expected growing pains.
KC Joyner of ESPN.com's Insider tells us that of 51 passes thrown with Davis in coverage, he has been successful (incompletion or offensive penalty) on only 18 -- a 35.3 percent success rate -- and allowed 10.4 yards per attempt. ``Bad numbers,'' Joyner said. Davis does have two interceptions and is good in run support.
Smith has a 52.4 percent success rate (22 of 42), with 8.3 yards per attempt.

How does that compare to Miami's 2008 starters? Last season, now-injured Will Allen was at 51.3 percent and 7.2 yards, and Andre' Goodman 52.4 percent and 6.8.
Smith said he and Davis have been in single coverage more than he expected, but ``it's a challenge you should love.'' New Orleans flummoxed the Patriots by mixing defenses, including some zones and double coverage. The question is whether the Dolphins will try that instead of having Davis, 5-11, again cover Moss mostly one-on-one. Smith, 6-3, said he defended Moss only a few plays Nov. 8 because Moss, 6-4, mostly was on Davis' side and Miami doesn't flip-flop cornerbacks.
Smith mostly defended Sam Aiken, with Nate Jones primarily on Wes Welker. Jones has had a good year (50 percent success rate, allowing 4.2 yards per attempt).
When Davis has been beaten, ``some of it has been technique,'' secondary coach Todd Bowles said. ``He needs to be more consistent.''
Smith's self-assessment? ``Going into the year, I said, `Stay off SportsCenter' and I've been good at that. I haven't given up too many big plays.''
But Smith has no interceptions and ``that's a downer because I've had plenty of chances.''

Former All-Pro cornerback Rod Woodson of NFL Network expects the combination of Smith and Davis eventually will be among the NFL's top tandems: ``What made Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain good -- Davis and Smith have it. I like that they don't back down from anybody and they compliment each other well.''

CHATTER

Patriots coach Bill Belichick raved about rookie safety Chris Clemons' speed last month and predicted he would play more. But Clemons said he hasn't played on defense the past two games; the staff prefers heavy doses of Gibril Wilson. . . . An official who spoke to the Dolphins said finding an outside linebacker to develop will be an offseason priority. Cameron Wake still hasn't convinced the staff he's an every-down player. ``Ability isn't the issue -- it's fundamentals,'' Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said.

http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/columnists/barry-jackson/story/1360972.html