As we count down the days to training camp, Around the League will examine one player from every team set for a breakout campaign in 2012. Our trek through the AFC East heads to South Florida and the Miami Dolphins.
In the 2009 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins used their first and second-round picks on cornerbacks Vontae Davis (No. 25 overall) and Sean Smith (61). In addition to comprising the bread in general manager Jeff Ireland's ill-advised Pat White sandwich, the two rookie corners were pegged as future cornerstones of the team's secondary. Davis and Smith were instant starters, with Davis leading the team in interceptions (four) and Smith leading the team in passes defensed (12).
Smith took a step back in 2010, becoming a part-time starter behind Jason Allen for the first half of the season. Though Smith notched his first career interception midway through this second season, he frustrated coaches and fans with his propensity to drop potential game-changing turnovers. According to FootballOutsiders.com, Smith tied for the league lead in dropped interceptions with five in 2010, though he would rank in the top 10 among NFL cornerbacks in FO's "Success Rate" that season, the second straight year he outperformed Davis.
In more than 97 percent of the Dolphins' defensive snaps last season, Smith added a pair of interceptions. He now has three entering his all-important contract year.
At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Smith has the length to match up with the game's taller receivers. Smith appears to be a bit thicker and stronger after hitting the weights hard this offseason, which could be beneficial in defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle's press man-coverage scheme. Smith reportedly was the team's unofficial leader in interceptions during organized team activities and minicamp. If Smith is able to keep grabbing those when it counts, he could be in a position to do quite well on the free-agent market next offseason.