As Red Auerbach once said, "You can’t teach height."
This could be a problem for Dolphins starting cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan in the matchups they’ll encounter this Sunday in Miami’s Week 7 road contest against the Bears.
That’s because they will both be giving five inches or more to Chicago’s top two wide receivers, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
Grimes (generously so) and Finnegan are listed at 5-foot-10, while Marshall is 6-foot-4 and Jeffery is 6-foot-3. Both receivers are having stellar seasons so far and will provide probably the toughest collective test for Miami’s secondary this season.
"It’s a formidable challenge," head coach Joe Philbin said. "We’re going to have to have multiple plans. You can’t go into the game with just one answer against those guys.
"They are fast, really confident when they go after the football. They have six or seven touchdowns between the two of them. Our defensive backfield is going to have to play extremely well in this game, without a doubt. These guys, they are not easy to defend."
Finnegan was in full agreement with Philbin.
"They’re big," he said earlier this week. "Unless we sign (Heat forward) Luol Deng, we’re 5-10, so we’ve just got to deal with that."
However, as anyone who watches sports knows, being tall doesn’t always mean a sure thing. One needs to know what one’s doing once getting on the field or court, otherwise one will be exposed.
Marshall is in full realization of this fact and praised Grimes specifically for his skills during Wednesday’s teleconference with the South Florida media.
"There’s not a mismatch out there," Marshall said. "If I was a general manager starting a team, the two corners I would start with would be Grimes and Kyle Fuller (his Bears teammate).
"This is probably going to be the best secondary we will face all year. Grimes is a technician who is super-duper focused. I don’t understand how he wasn’t drafted or why the Falcons let him go. Cortland is hyper-competitive and makes plays on the ball. Height means nothing when you have great technique."
While Marshall wouldn’t divulge any specific information on what kind of tricks a shorter cornerback can use to overcome a height differential, his head coach Marc Trestman, who was formerly on the staffs of both the Miami Hurricanes and the Dolphins, was willing to spill a very minor amount of beans on the subject.
"I think that playing the wide receiver or defensive back position is a lot about technique, even more than speed sometimes," Trestman said. "You can have great size, but if you don’t have technique it really isn’t going to help you against the kind of corners the Dolphins have. Size can be an advantage if you use your body properly. It has to be used to protect the ball from the defender."
And just as Trestman has respect for Grimes and Finnegan, Philbin also feels his guys will more than be able to hold their own on Sunday in their "Davids vs. Goliaths" battle.
"After watching these guys play, they play bigger than their height indicates and both guys have good ball skills," said Philbin. "Obviously we can’t do anything to necessarily elevate them in the next four days from a statue standpoint, but you know, they are going to have to play with good fundamentals, really. It’s going to be important without a doubt. These guys are good, they’re both good."