Maxwell: Dolphins’ secondary can be Legion of Boom

The last time we saw the Miami Dolphins, their secondary was chasing after Antonio Brown in a debilitating wild-card round loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Miami’s defensive backs watched the Steelers wide receiver run roughshod over them in the first quarter, allowing the most receiving yards in a first quarter (119) since 1969. Pittsburgh’s hot start persisted and sent the Dolphins into the offseason with a number of questions on the back end.

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This week, Byron Maxwell answered them. When asked at the Dolphins Cancer Challenge on Friday night what the future held for a Miami secondary that was publicly undressed in Pittsburgh, the former Seahawks cornerback was optimistic.

“We can be talked about how they talked about us in Seattle,” Maxwell said, per the Palm Beach Post. “We’ve just got to find a nickname.

“We’ve got to run with it. But we’ve got to put it on the field first. We definitely have the making of something — we can be something great.”

Suggesting the Dolphins could replicate the dominance of the Seahawks’ legendary Legion of Boom is a tall task from Maxwell. After all, outside of the veteran cornerback, who joined the Dolphins in the offseason via trade from Philadelphia, Miami’s secondary is still an unknown entity.

The Dolphins’ defensive backs suffered numerous injuries last season, contributing to the breakdown in the Steel City. Maxwell missed the Dolphins’ final three games with an ankle injury; promising safety Isa Abdul-Quddus missed the final two with a neck injury; and fellow safety Reshad Jones was sidelined for half the season with a shoulder injury.

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Nike Dolphins Men's Ugly SweaterIn place of the injured, Miami saw inspiring play from young cornerbacks in Xavien Howard, Tony Lippett and Bobby McCain, players who will provide necessary depth for the Dolphins in 2017.

“I’m not enamored with any of the quarterbacks in this draft, that’s No. 1,” said Casserly, the former GM of the Houston Texans and Washington Redskins. “No. 2, Garappolo today is better than any quarterback in this draft. Now, he’s had three years of experience. You look at him coming out (of college), the guy had a quick release, he’s smart, he knows where to go with the ball. The guy is accurate, and he can make some plays on the move. You see all (those things) in the NFL. His deep-ball accuracy, you’d like that (to be) a little bit better.”

Garoppolo indeed has been in the NFL for three seasons, but his playing experience doesn’t amount to much. He’s made two career starts, both of them to begin the 2016 season while Tom Brady served a four-game suspension. Garoppolo led the Patriots to a 2-0 start before suffering an injury, completing 42 of 59 passes for 496 yards, four TDs and no interceptions in wins over the Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins.

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That’s not much of a body of work after three pro seasons, but then again, it’s more than what a rookie would bring.

“Garoppolo to me is not a special guy who will just raise the level of everybody around him. Like for example, an (Andrew) Luck. That’s a rare guy,” Casserly said. “But yet I do think all the characteristics I talked about, the ability to be accurate, get the ball out on time, I think he’ll do a great job there.”

There is certainly a building consensus that this isn’t the draft to find a franchise quarterback. NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock said last week that he would be “scared to death” to take one in the first 10 picks of the draft, and Kizer — at No. 18 — is the highest-ranked QB on NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s list of the draft’s top 50 prospects.

If NFL clubs see things the same way, the trade market for Garoppolo could be all the stronger for it.

Taylor Gabriel: I want to stay with Falcons ‘forever’

Might Falcons wideout Taylor Gabriel follow in Patriots postseason hero Chris Hogan’s 2016 footsteps as a restricted free agent who sought greener pastures?

As far as Gabriel is concerned, he is content to stay in Atlanta.

“Of course, I want to be a Falcon forever,” Gabriel recently told ESPN.com. “Just the camaraderie and the group, from Dan Quinn to the owner. And everyone has bought into what we have here. Yes, I want to be a Falcon forever.”

Although an extension for cornerback Desmond Trufant is the team’s top priority, general manager Thomas Dimitroff said last week that Gabriel is another player deserving of a new contract.

“It’s going to be positive for him,” Dimitroff said of Gabriel. “Yes, we want him back as well.”

Atlanta has until March 9 to extend a contract tender designed to discourage the other 31 teams from signing Gabriel to an offer sheet.

The most likely tender is the second-round level worth just under $3 million. Under that scenario, any team planning to sign Gabriel would have to surrender a second-round pick to the Falcons.

Gabriel was the waiver pickup of the year, recording a league-best 139.9 passer rating when targeted last season. The speedster broke free for a game-breaking play of 40 or more yards in eight of 13 regular-season games.

“I feel like I have something that a lot of people don’t have,” Gabriel explained during Super Bowl week, “and that’s the ability to change directions while running full speed.”

Gabriel is certainly talented enough to lure potential poachers next month. Between the likely second-round price tag and the organization’s commitment to maintaining the offensive nucleus, though, he’s unlikely to leave Atlanta.