Our player to watch this week is veteran cornerback Brent Grimes. The eighth-year player is on pace for a career year in his second season with the Miami Dolphins. Grimes joined the Dolphins in 2013 after six years with the Atlanta Falcons. Grimes entered the league in 2006 as an undrafted free agent and appeared in only two games during his rookie year while spending most of his time with the Hamburg Sea Devils of NFL Europa (R.I.P.).
Grimes received increased playing time in 2007 after shining in Europe and secured a full-time position that lasted until an Achilles injury cut his 2012 season down to a single game. Grimes' career with the Falcons peaked when he made the Pro Bowl in 2010, after which he worked through two injury-plagued seasons. As a free agent in 2013, the Dolphins made the risky bet of paying the corner a $5.5 million contract for one year. It paid off, as Grimes recovered well from his injury, re-signed for four more years and is playing at the highest level of his career over his 24-game tenure with the Dolphins. Grimes already made the Pro Bowl in 2013 and is on pace for another trip this year.
Although he had a rough start to his season, Grimes has settled in at the midpoint of 2014. Grimes is second in the league with four interceptions, leads his team in pass defenses with nine and is second on his team in tackles with 36. For good measure, Grimes has also forced one fumble and returned one of his interceptions for a touchdown. In all, Grimes anchors a defense that is second in the league in terms of passing yards allowed per game with 201.1.
Grimes and the Dolphins secondary will face a tough test against the Detroit Lions. Detroit is the second-most prolific passing offense the Dolphins will have faced this season (the Lions are ranked ninth in the league in terms of passing yards per game, while the New England Patriots are ranked eighth). While, as stated, the Dolphins are ranked second in the league in passing yards allowed per game, they have not exactly faced a tough slate of passing offenses. Four of their eight opponents rank worse than 20th in the league in terms of passing yards.
Most encouraging for the Lions, Matthew Stafford and the passing attack have proven competent enough to carry the offense in the absence of Calvin Johnson and the disappearance of the rushing attack. While the Lions offense has left a lot to be desired in the past few weeks, this was due as much to injuries as any performance-related reasons. Golden Tate has emerged as an every-down threat, and the Lions should restock on their offensive weapons this week after taking the bye to rest and recuperate.
An area of concern this week against the Dolphins lays in the play of Stafford. His struggles in the second half of seasons, both in terms of turnovers and accuracy, have been well-documented. Grimes is somewhat of a ball hawk and is more than capable of cashing in on off-target Stafford throws. This will be particularly troubling if Stafford focuses too heavily on Calvin in his first game back from injury. While this would have been likely in past years, the emergence of Tate and his chemistry with Stafford should help alleviate some of the pressure to force-feed Calvin the ball.
The bottom line is that Grimes is a more than capable cornerback who can force turnovers and limit aerial production. He is not, however, a shutdown corner. I do not see his matchup deterring Stafford from looking Calvin's way as long as Megatron truly is back in form.