By: Hussam Patel
Defense wins championships and it is widely known to any coach, player and fan. Certainly, last year’s dolphins defense was not primed in any way to compete for a championship and was a disaster. This year is a whole new defensive team with an infusion of rookies’ vets and leftovers from previous seasons. Now look I'm not rushing to say the dolphins have a championship defense, after 6 weeks they look pretty good with their pass rush. Hanging around playoff teams, New England Buffalo and Seattle in one score games, compared to last year is a massive improvement.
Let us take a deep dive into the Dolphins Defensive Line:
The defensive line has been much of an improvement solidifying its pass rush coming in ranked 6th in sacks through signings of Shaq Lawson, Zach Sieler and Emmanuel Ogbah and the selection of Raekwon Davis in the draft. One staple of the Dolphins' success was how effectively they maximize the defensive line rotation.
The signing of Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah was a great signing by Flores and Co. He is the one of the difference-maker the Dolphins have in the pass rush, more they any had last season, especially better than Charles Harris. Tell me, how many sacks does Charles Harris have this season? How many does he have in his career? Ogbah's 10 quarterback pressures led the team and ranked 12th among edge rushers in run stops. Signing Shaq Lawson has given Miami an edge (pun not intended) as his versatility allows Miami to use him in all 3 down against the pass and the runs enabling him to close the run gaps against the ball carrier and pursue opposing quarterbacks in the EDGE and LB role.
Last year’s first round Pick Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler have been pleasant surprises at the defensive tackle position and Raekwon Davis is seeing extended playing time due to Davon Godchaux’s injury and the DL rotation has been a successful factor since no one on the Defensive line plays more than 60% of snaps. Christian Wilkins' 13 run stops are penciled in for 7th among Defensive Lineman this season tall within 2 yards of the LOS, per PFF; and has impacted the line of scrimmage batting down balls impacting opposing teams drives and helping the defense get off the field. Sieler, the Dolphins’ waiver-wire pickup last December, has a one-of-a-kind story which NFL longshots dream to keep them believing. He has been a force tailing 10 tackles (including two for a loss), a sack and a half and four pressures in 121 snaps this year — and has earned a bigger role every week showing impacts on the line.
With Godchaux on IR and Raekwon Davis on the injury report the rotation has shifted a little bit with Wilkins and Sieler playing more, The rotation will be solidified once both come back, Davis after the bye and Godchaux later in the season.
While the Dolphins run defense ranks 19th per PFF, they still get gashed by opposing running backs and offensive line because the defensive line struggles to maintain the point of attack. The pass rush masks the run defense an issue, and the pass rush success comes from the front four generating pressure and forcing errant throws from a philosophy of Bill Belichick coming from Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer and Brian Flores maximizing each player's skill set and keeping the defense's front fresh in a way that never lets offenses settle in against particular looks. Kudos to the coaching staff in putting its players in position to win its matchups.
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