Written by Matthew Cannata at 8:00 AM EST | Twitter: @PhinManiacs
The Miami Dolphins defense has taken away the ball 18 times this season with nine fumble recoveries and nine interceptions. However, is this the way the defense was built or is it because of luck and just being in the right place at the right time?
“To a degree, but I think, if you watch some of them, you can see there are attempts by our players to rip the ball loose,” Kevin Coyle said. “Cortland (Finnegan) had the one in Chicago where he actually had his helmet and his hand as he was going to make a play. He got the ball off of him. Cam (Wake) on the sack, we’ve gotten a lot of sacks the first couple of years we’ve been here, but we haven’t generated a lot of sack-fumbles. Cam had the sack-fumble against Chicago. He had a couple against New England. We had the one last week by OV (Olivier Vernon).”
“Those are all fumbles caused when you are very cognizant of where the ball is in the quarterback’s hand, you can not only get the sack but get the ball off of him. That’s big. Sometimes creating fumbles out on a regular running play do happen somewhat randomly by putting your shoulder, helmet or sometimes being able to punch it out. A lot of times it does kind of just happen. If we had a better bounce a couple of weeks ago, we would have another win right now. That’s the way the ball bounces, as they say.”
Finnegan also somewhat echoed those words but said he didn’t have the magic formula as to why the defense has been forcing so many turnovers in the recent weeks.
“I wish I knew. I think you work it in practice and once it happens it just starts to pile up. I really don’t know what’s the ‘X’ factor to it all, but I know hustling to the football and doing those little things and being around the football helps your chances.”
Jared Odrick said that every defense in the league is built to force turnovers but when it’s all said and done, it all comes down to execution and the players doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
“I think every coordinator across the league wants to say that their defense is built for turnovers. It’s just a matter of execution and doing it, putting yourself in the right position. I really do think that the drills we’ve been doing and how much we emphasize ripping the ball out, going up and grabbing the ball at the highest point, the returns and the way we’ve been practicing our blocking for the returns has really been stellar as of late, just because of how much emphasis we’ve put on it in the past couple of months. One turnover is definitely flammable and two is even more flammable, three is flammable, it keeps igniting more and more. The more you see it on film and them more you see yourself and other teammates doing it, it reminds you to do it every time you’re on the field.”
The Dolphins have had ten total takeaways in the last three games and Finnegan said that it’s huge for them because they’re able to put the offense in good field position after a turnover. In addition, he said that forcing turnovers gives a huge lift to the team but when a member of the defense, such as Brent Grimes and Louis Delmas, scores a touchdown, it gets the entire team even more excited and ready to go.
Odrick said that the ten turnovers in the past three games hasn’t been by accident and instead, has been a focused and centralized effort to make these types of things happen.
“A concerted effort to turn the ball over. Specific drills on stripping the ball. Specific drills on interception returns. Specific drills on putting yourself in position to grab a loose ball. The thing is, last year we were creating a lot of fumbled balls, but not recovering them and putting ourselves in position for interceptions but not intercepting it or returning it. We really put an emphasis on it all offseason, all season, and by doing that, it becomes second nature.”
Coyle has been preaching the fact that the more the defense turns the ball over, the better off they’re going to be and the more games they are going to win.
“I think it’s well-documented that, when you win the turnover battle, your percentages go up significantly. If you win it by more than one, it just keeps going up on and on. It’s been a battle. We haven’t generated certainly as many fumble recoveries as we have wanted to. I think we are sitting at nine right now, which is halfway through the season. In the first two years, we only had six both of those first two years. That’s an improvement, but we have to stay on track. We have to continue it here in the second half of the season. When you can protect the ball, as we are doing a great job on offense of not turning it over and make people play on long fields, we have a chance defensively to keep them from scoring points. You are always going to be in the game at the end of the game with opportunities to win.”
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