Will Davis has been making a strong impression early on in training camp for a Miami Dolphins team that is emphasizing the importance of creating turnovers.
On Monday night during a team scrimmage, Davis ended the day by intercepting third-string quarterback Pat Devlin in the back of the end zone.
That came one day after the rookie out of Utah State, a third-round NFL Draft pick by the Dolphins this year, intercepted two passes during practice.
Last week, Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post called Davis "a wide-eyed rookie, yet he has made some eye-catching plays the first few days of camp."
"The main thing is to just get hands on the balls," Davis told the Florida Sun-Sentinel of the importance of creating turnovers. "Always make sure we're stripping the ball. You just got to get the feel of it. When the ball is on the ground, whether it is a fumble or not or a deflection. Ball is on the ground, go straight to the ball and scoop and score."
This emphasis by the Dolphins on creating turnovers comes after Miami finished the 2012 season minus-10 in that category, intercepting just 10 passes and recovering six fumbles. Worse yet, the Dolphins' defense dropped 17 potential interceptions.
“We catch those,” defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo told Finsiders.com, “and we would have led the NFL. When the quarterback throws the ball to a defensive player, we have to catch it, no ifs, ands or buts.”
Davis could be the first of 19 NFL rookies with ties to the state of Utah to hit the field in preseason play, when Miami plays Dallas in the Hall of Fame Game on Sunday. Fellow rookie Sam Brenner, a center from the University of Utah, is also on the Dolphins' roster that includes seven players with Utah ties. Twenty rookies with Utah ties started NFL fall camps, though BYU's Braden Brown was released on Tuesday.
It's unsure how much Davis will get to play this Sunday, as he is listed at fourth string at cornerback on the Dolphins' first depth chart of fall camp. Also fourth on the depth chart at cornerback is Jamar Taylor, a Boise State product and fellow 2013 draft pick.
Davis assessed his first few days of practice, saying it went well and he's learning the little things to take care of.
"It started out good, the GM, defensive coach told me that, too. I was making strides forward, starting to get a little action with the ones and twos," Davis told miamidolphins.com. "I was happy how the first days were going, making plays, and I was up there with the top DBs on our team. I just got to keep at that high standard. Coach A (Anarumo) told me straight, 'You're a rook but you can't play like one.' So I gotta keep that in my state of mind."
Miami has opened its competition at the cornerback positions after Sean Smith, a fifth-year corner out of Utah, signed with the Kansas City Chiefs during the offseason. Smith had started all 16 games in three of the past four seasons for the Dolphins. Nolan Carroll, who started 10 games opposite Smith, missed the final two games of 2012 due to a knee injury, and he is currently listed second on the depth chart.
The players currently occupying the starting spots for Miami are Richard Marshall, who started the first four games for the Dolphins last year, and Brent Grimes, a former Atlanta Falcons starter who missed last year with an Achilles tendon injury.
Other Miami cornerbacks vying for playing time are Dimitri Patterson, who started two games last year, Julian Posey and R.J. Stanford, a third-year corner out of Utah.
"I think it's a competitive group," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said during his post-practice media session Sunday. "I like the number of guys that we have we feel can compete for a job there."
After playing at three different colleges, culminating in a senior season at Utah State in which he had five interceptions, Davis is continuing to learn in hopes of furthering his playing career.
"In college, you felt like you made good breaks and you made plays on the ball. Here, you feel the same way, but this time you don't make the play on the ball," Davis told miamidolphins. "It's the little things that you don't realize. Coming here is a huge change in sense of technique and being sharper."
Playing alongside and lining up against veteran players, like Dolphins wide receivers Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, has also been an adventure for the first-year pro.
"We're rookies and we hear about these guys. In the locker room, it's cool," Davis said. "Once we get out there, you realize it's really them and you're really guarding them now. They're your idols and now you're teammates. It's an adjustment, but it's exciting."
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @brandonljudd
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