Two rookie corners a bad sign for Fins

October, 29, 2009
10/29/09
8:39
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

It's not unheard of for a team to start rookies at both cornerback spots.

But it's usually not a harbinger of success.

Miami Dolphins rookies Vontae Davis and Sean Smith are expected to start at cornerback Sunday when they play the New York Jets at the Meadowlands.
 Davis
 Smith


The Dolphins aren't inserting rookies at such critical defensive positions by choice. Top cornerback Will Allen went down with a knee injury in Sunday's loss to the New Orleans Saints and is done for the season.

Miami coach Tony Sparano was asked Wednesday if he could recall ever going into a game with two first-year starting cornerbacks.

"I can't recall," Sparano replied. "I really can't. Thanks. You just cost me a couple of hours of sleep."

Miami, however, isn't turning over the jobs to a couple of greenhorns. Both are top draft choices with bright futures. Smith, a second-round pick, has started all year. Davis, a first-rounder, has seen considerable action in sub packages and special teams.

"I don't recall being in this situation with two young corners," Sparano said, "but I will say this: I really like their makeup, what they are all about and what they bring to the table for our team.

"I have said all along that there would be growing pains and bumps in the road. We have been putting them right out there. So this isn't new. ... I wouldn't expect that they would be big eyed or any of those things."

It's difficult to compile a definitive list of teams that have started rookies at both cornerback positions for an extended period. As Elias Sports Bureau points out, records aren't always detailed enough to be sure. For instance, a player might be listed vaguely as a defensive back in the starting lineup as opposed to a safety, cornerback or nickel back.

But I have put together a quick list of rookie cornerback tandems. To jog my memory, I used a subscription service that searches archives of major newspapers and magazines.

I didn't include duos such as Jason McCourty and Ryan Mouton, who've started two games together for the Tennessee Titans this year, including that 59-0 loss to the New England Patriots. I looked for combos that lasted a little longer.

You'll notice the records aren't always disastrous, but it helps to have Joe Montana.

2008 Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): left corner Brandon Carr, 16 starts; right corner Brandon Flowers, 13 starts.

2005 Tennessee Titans (4-12): left corner Reynaldo Hill, 10 starts; right corner Pacman Jones, 13 starts.

2002 Detroit Lions (3-13): left corner Andre Goodman, six starts; right corner Chris Cash, 12 starts.

2001 New York Giants (7-9): left corner Will Allen, 12 starts; right cornerback Will Peterson, five starts.

2000 San Francisco 49ers (6-10): left corner Ahmed Plummer, 14 starts; right corner Jason Webster, 10 starts.

1997 Lions (9-7, wild card): left corner Bryant Westbrook, 14 starts; right corner Kevin Abrams, four starts. A quote from Lions coach Bobby Ross before Westbrook and Abrams started against Dan Marino: "I could sit and think about it and not sleep at night, but I'm not going to do that. I've got to sleep."

1986 49ers (10-5-1, first in NFC West): left corner Tim McKyer, 16 starts; right corner Don Griffin, 15 starts.

1981 49ers (13-3, Super Bowl champs): left corner Ronnie Lott, 16 starts; right corner Eric Wright, 16 starts.

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