By GEORGE RICHARDS — The Miami Herald
MIAMI — When the Dolphins cut veteran safety Yeremiah Bell in March, not only did Miami lose its defensive captain, but it also lost the player with the longest tenure on the team.
By letting go of Bell, the Dolphins trimmed a lot of money off the salary cap.
They also gave an opportunity to Reshad Jones. And he has taken advantage of it.
"It kind of sent the message that this was my time. This was going to be my year," Jones said after Friday's light workout in the team's practice bubble at Nova Southeastern. "I have just been taking advantage of the opportunity. I think I have been doing that."
Now in his second season as a starter, Jones' strong training camp has carried over through the first three games of the season.
According to Pro Football Focus, Jones is the fourth-best safety in the league through the first three weeks. Of the eight times quarterbacks have thrown Jones' way, only three passes have been completed.
'Making more plays'
"He's around the ball more, he's making more plays, making impactful plays," coach Joe Philbin said. "Obviously, you look for players at that position who show great range and awareness and ability to play the ball down the field. I think he's emerging and coming along in all those areas. Hopefully, he can keep getting better and better. I like what I see."
Said Jones: "That (ranking) makes you feel good, but you can't pay attention to that this early in the season. It's how you end up that matters."
Jones got plenty of good experience last season as he started in 12 of the 15 games in which he played, making 62 tackles with two sacks and an interception. As a rookie out of Georgia in 2010, Jones started in two games and his lone interception was a big one, as it helped clinch Miami's 29-17 victory over Tennessee.
In the first three games of this season, Jones has matched his career high with an interception against Oakland. In 31 career games, Jones has 80 solo tackles with 23 assists.
"Last year, I was a first-year starter and got 12 starts. But I was young," said Jones, who scored 15 touchdowns as a senior running back at Atlanta's Booker T. Washington High .
"Yeremiah really helped me, boosted my confidence. It was great to get some game experience, really feel the game. It was tremendous for me. It really helped me to come on strong. I just want to keep it going."
The confidence Jones got playing alongside Bell last season is evident, cornerback Richard Marshall said. Jones has been extremely vocal and is backing up his words with his play.
"Reshad is a good young player, an up-and-coming player," Marshall said. "He's a guy who really has a knack for the ball. He knows where the ball is and comes up with it. He knows his responsibilities and does his job out there.
"If he continues doing what he's doing, he can be one of the top safeties in the league. He's young. He's only going to get better as he learns the league a little more."
As for Bell, he signed a one-year deal with the rival New York Jets in May after being released by Miami. He had a big smile on his face in the visitors' locker room at Sun Life Stadium following the Jets' 23-20 overtime win last Sunday.
Bell gets 'revenge'
Like former coach Tony Sparano, Bell has moved on from Miami. Jones said although it was strange seeing Bell in Jets green, he told him how much he appreciated the help.
"When you play in one place for so long, you call that your home," Bell said when asked if it was strange coming onto the field Sunday as a member of the Jets.
"At the end of the day, football is football. We had a job to do, and we did it. I'm sure (Sparano) went through a lot more than I did. I don't think he was too happy on how he was done here. So I'm sure he was real happy to get some revenge. I'm real happy."