It appears Reshad Jones is ready to turn the volume up on the NFL.
For two years I heard about this mythological playmaking Miami Dolphins safety, a ball-hawk who roamed the secondary of the practice field like Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu, making impact plays during practice.
But I sparingly SAW IT.
That practice reputation earned Jones the starting free safety spot last year, but he struggled early, eventually got hurt, and the Dolphins defense tightened when he got demoted and replaced by Tyrone Culver.
But Jones did gain a season's worth of experience, and flashed at times in 2011, a season where he contributed 67 tackles, two sacks and an interception in his 12 starts.
Turn the page to 2012, put Jones in the hands of defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, one of the NFL's most respected secondary coaches, and he flashed that type of game changing ability ALL offseason.
Jones said the biggest point of emphasis he made this summer was working on "taking better angles out of my breaks out of the backfield," which is what led to offensive big plays like the 99-yard Wes Welker touchdown the Patriot receiver scored in the 38-24 season-opening loss last year.
Jones took a horrendous angle on that late fourth-quarter play and left nickel cornerback Benny Sapp out to dry. Sapp was cut the next day, replaced by Will Allen.
Jones learned bad angles in the NFL cost teams games, and players their jobs.
"Now that I can do that I can be able to make more plays," said Jones, who pulled down 11 interceptions in his three collegiate with the Georgia Bulldogs. ""I can be on top of routes."
Jones showed that skill repeatedly during the Dolphins' OTA and minicamp sessions the media attended this offseason.
Jones' strong practices allowed him to lock up a starting spot in the Dolphins secondary, and at this point the competition during training camp is to determine which safety starts opposite this 6-foot-1, 215 pounder, who is entering his third NFL season.
Jones weighed in on the competition - and a couple other topics - during his chat with me on my WQAM (560AM) Saturday show, which you can listen to on this link.
"Chris Clemons started two years ago. He has game experience. Chris is a pretty good safety. He's doing a great job," Jones said of Clemons, the front-runner who is presently paired with Jones. "He's been more vocal too. Chris is complete opposite of me. He's versatile."
When evaluating Culver, who replaced him as a starter for four games last season, Jones praises the seven-year veteran's experience level, and knowledge of the game, which allowed the entire Dolphins defense to tighten significantly last season.
"He's been around and seen a lot, and knows how it should be done," Jones said. "He knows the defense and is very vocal when he's out on the field. He gets guys in the right position....He brings his knowledge to the [field] when he's in the game."
Jones acknowledged that Jimmy Wilson's game is the one that is most similar to his. Wilson's aggressive and a gambler.
"He's still young, and I think Jimmy has got some great playmaking ability," Jones said. "I see him running around trying to make plays."
Considering Coyle's vision is to put two interchangeable safeties on the field at the same time -which will prevent opposing offenses from knowing their roles on a given play - finding the right complement won't be easy.
Their talents have to blend with Jones' gambling nature, and the communication element is critical considering safeties are the defense's last line of defense, which means one bad call could result in a touchdown.
Jones admits improving the unit's communication is the biggest challenge the safeties and cornerbacks will face in 2012 without Yeremiah Bell and Allen, the outgoing veteran leaders who have signed with Miami's AFC East rivals.
The Dolphins need to "find someone to direct the traffic," Jones said. "Y.B. was that vocal guy. Now that I feel comfortable and know the defense I'm starting to be more of the guy who gets the guys going back there."
"I made a big jump. I feel a lot more comfortable now that I know the defense," Jones continued. "I got some game experience last year and now I can run around out there and not think, just be able to make plays."
Which Dolphins safety will start opposite Reshad Jones?
Reshad Jones (Sun Sentinel file photo / June 25, 2012)