Byron Jones is out for at least the first four weeks of the Miami Dolphins’ season after failing to rehab his surgically-repaired Achilles before the regular season commenced. Jones has been placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
Dolphins CB Byron Jones heading to PUP list
Jones, a former Cowboy, made the Dolphins’ cornerback duo the richest in the NFL when he signed his five-year, $82 million deal in 2020. Last season, Miami managed the seventh-best defensive dropback EPA and the sixth-best dropback success rate. While Jones hasn’t been the lockdown cornerback he was in Dallas, he makes the Dolphins’ defensive backfield formidable.
Having Xavien Howard on one side and Jevon Holland patrolling the middle of the field doesn’t hurt, either. It’s fair to expect some growth from Holland, who played like a seasoned veteran in his rookie campaign even though he hadn’t played a true free safety role for a few seasons. Holland, one of Miami’s two second-round picks in 2021, played mostly in the slot during his later years at Oregon.
But how will Jones’ direct replacement(s) fare?
While things may seem grim given that the Dolphins are staring down the barrel of either Keion Crossen or Noah Igbinoghene being their third cornerback, those two players are not the only options at CB. However, one of the two is likely to take a bulk of the snaps as Miami’s third cornerback against 11 personnel looks.
That said, the Dolphins go a bit unconventional and throw Eric Rowe at cornerback. Rowe was originally drafted as a cornerback and has only recently (2019) transitioned to safety. But the veteran defensive back has played over 500 snaps as an outside cornerback over the past three seasons.
So while the preseason and camp struggles from Igbinoghene are concerning, there’s a chance he doesn’t have to see the field at all. Crossen played well on the outside during preseason action, allowing Nik Needham to remain on the inside covering the slot. (Neither Crossen nor Needham practiced on Tuesday, per PFN’s Adam Beasley).
While Igbinoghene was a former first-round pick, Miami’s current coaching staff didn’t make that selection. So while the front office must swallow a bit of its pride, the staff can go into this situation with a clear heart and mind.
Crossen isn’t the biggest cornerback in the world at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds. Defensive coordinator Josh Boyer could take a situational approach to Jones’ outside cornerback spot. Rowe is 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, which could be a better or worse matchup depending on the opponent’s rostered receivers.
While losing Jones for the first few weeks is a blow to the Dolphins’ passing defense, they’re built well enough to sustain that loss for a short time.