The Miami Dolphins’ top pick in 2023 was relegated mostly to special teams in his first season
By all statistical measures, the Miami Dolphins got very, very little out of their top 2023 draft pick, and the fact they really could have used his help on defense only made it worse.
But cornerback Cam Smith, while admitting he was frustrated at his lack of playing time, naturally wants to look at the positive aspects.
After what looked like a pretty good training camp showing, a major bite on a double move in the preseason finale against the Jacksonville Jaguars aside, Smith became almost persona non grata for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who would tell reporters almost on a weekly basis that Smith just wasn’t quite read to contribute in the secondary.
The time when he was ready never came.
Smith ended up being almost entirely relegated to special teams in 2023, getting defensive snaps in only four games with a total of only 19 for the season. Furthermore, he was a healthy scratch three times, including the playoff game at Kansas City.
“In the end I felt like it was a kind of a good thing for me just making sure that I stayed down and kind of learned from everybody that was around me,” Smith said during locker cleanout day. “I have some of the best vets in the world in front of me, so just kind of learning from them, picking their brain every day, it was just kind of best for me. But at the same time I was frustrated. I was not feeling the whole situation at first, but in the end, I feel like it worked out great for me.”
DOLPHINS REALLY COULD HAVE USED SMITH
But here’s the thing: Smith was being a good teammate when talking about having “some of the best vets in the world in front of me,” but the reality is the Dolphins could have used a productive cornerback this season, at first when Jalen Ramsey was working his way back from a knee injury and then late when Xavien Howard suffered a mid-foot sprain.
Without pointing the finger at anybody, let’s just say the cornerback play wasn’t entirely ideal, especially at the end of the season.
The proof might come in the fact the Dolphins allowed three 300-yard passers — Will Levis, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen — in the final five games of the regular season.
Naturally, Smith says he could have helped.
“Oh, definitely, yeah, I mean, I felt like that way from since Week 1, since training camp when Jalen got hurt. I felt like that was a big thing, like I was doing well and on the right path and all of that stuff, but I’m a rookie. So I can’t really say that I am ready. I mean, we got people that have been here 30 plus years and been in the league 30 plus years, been in this business 30 plus years. So it’s like I just gotta respect what they think.”
And what the Dolphins ultimately thought was that Smith deserved less playing time than any other rookie second-round pick this season.
Smith’s 19 defensive snaps by far was the lowest total, with the next-lowest total being the 83 for New Orleans Saints defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey. No other second-round pick played fewer than 300 snaps on offense or defense.
DOLPHINS’ SUCCESS WITH SECOND-ROUND CORNERBACKS
The Dolphins made Smith the seventh cornerback they’ve drafted in the second round, following Jeris White, Sam Madison, Patrick Surtain, Sean Smith, Jamar Taylor and Xavien Howard.While Madison, Surtain and Howard became stars for the Dolphins — they rank among the team’s best ever at the position — none of them became stars right away.