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Dolphins’ Jones awaits word, addresses odd usage. And a Kiper surprise, Berrios oddity

Safety Brandon Jones has now managed to win over two defensive coordinators, with a torn ACL recovery in between.

Whether he will get a chance to win over a third defensive coordinator remains to be seen. Just two weeks before Jones becomes an unrestricted free agent, the Dolphins face an interesting decision on whether to retain one of their own third-round success stories.

Credit Jones for filling in capably for injured Jevon Holland over much of the final seven weeks of last season.

Jones did “a good job,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said before leaving the Dolphins and joining the Philadelphia Eagles. “The season has worked out well for him. Playing time has come in intermittent pieces because he had no training camp. I think he’s done well.”

Pro Football Focus rated Jones 16th among 99 qualifying safeties this past season. That’s impressive considering he played just 84 defensive snaps in the first seven weeks of the season.

Jones closed the season with a sterling 62.2 passer rating in his coverage area, with 10 completions in 14 throws but only 55 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown allowed.

He ended up starting six games and appearing in 16 after being limited in training camp after last October’s ACL injury.

Here’s what’s most stunning about his season: Jones, one of the best blitzing safeties in football, blitzed only three times all season. That’s a unique skill that Fangio opted not to use, for the most part.

If Jones is offered a new contract, the hope is that new coordinator Anthony Weaver will do a better job utilizing that special skill.

“I truly do love blitzing obviously,” he said. “I love getting after the quarterback; it’s something I do well. One thing I have been super grateful for is the opportunity to show is you get out of that box of just being a blitzing safety.

“With Vic’s defense, I was able to showcase that I could play in the middle of the field, I could play in two high safety [schemes], I could do a lot of good things if given the opportunity to do so. Blitzing is something, to my core, that I always love and always will love. It’s something I have a knack for.

“It’s something that came super natural, that I didn’t have to do a lot of thinking. If I’m here I would love to keep blitzing if given the chance. I’m super grateful I was able to showcase everything.”

Jones ended up having the best passer rating against among the Dolphins’ top three safeties.

Starter DeShon Elliott, who will also be a free agent, had a 112.2 passer rating in his coverage area. Jevon Holland was at 108.9.

“I would love to be back,” Jones said. “I was able to show I can be a starting safety in the league.”

Like Jones, Elliott also will be an unrestricted free agent.

KIPER SURPRISE

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has a new name tied to Miami in his newest mock draft this week. He projects the Dolphins to select Duke center/left tackle Graham Barton with the 21st overall pick.

“I noted in my debut mock that the Dolphins have decisions to make with free agent offensive linemen Connor Williams and Robert Hunt,” Kiper said. “The organization might get priced out of bringing them back.

“With Barton, the Dolphins would get a veteran lineman who spent the past three seasons as the Blue Devils’ starting left tackle. He started five games at center as a true freshman in 2020, though, and that’s where I think he could be a rookie starter.

“At 6-5, Barton is extremely consistent on a snap-to-snap basis. He’s technically sound as a run- and pass- blocker. I debated between Barton and Jackson Powers-Johnson (Oregon), my other top-ranked center, but Barton would be getting more first-round buzz if he hadn’t missed a few games to lower-body injuries.”

BERRIOS SITUATION

▪ This was one offensive oddity of last season: After catching 13 passes on 16 targets for 146 yards during the first four games, receiver Braxton Berrios caught just 14 passes on 17 targets for 92 yards over the remainder of the season.

It was mystifying that the targets dropped appreciably after the first month.

Jets QBs connected with Berrios on just 18 of his 32 targets in the 2022 season - a function of New York’s poor quarterback play.

But in 2023, he caught 27 of 33 thrown to him by Tua Tagovailoa, a very good percentage. There probably should have been more targets down the stretch last season.

Berrios said receivers coach Wes Welker helped him “a lot. It’s one thing for a coach to talk about it and to correct it on film. It’s another to talk about, correct it on film, then pull up clips of himself doing it on film. That’s something that not many coaches around the league can do at their respective position.

“He made so many plays and did so many great things in his career and played for so long that literally he has a clip of him doing just about everything and every which way against every coverage. So it’s really cool. And it’s helped me see the game a little bit slower. And I think as you gain that knowledge and the game slows down, you can play a little bit faster.”

Berrios will become a free agent in two weeks, and he has perhaps the best chance of any of the backup veteran receivers of being asked to return because of his return skills. He ranked 13th in punt return average at 10.2. Also set for free agency at receiver: Cedrick Wilson Jr., Robbie Chosen, River Cracraft and Chase Claypool.