By: Hussam Patel
This Miami Dolphins defense is anything unlike we’ve ever seen since the days of the No-Name Defense. Frankly, I wasn't even alive during the Dan Marino years and was a wee child when he retired. The only comparison I can draw is the 2008 and 2014 team or maybe even the 2012 Seattle Team. These teams weren't heavy hitters predicating on an explosive offense. it was all about the Defense baby
The past few games have been all about the defense and special teams. Certainly, against the 49ers, Rams, and Cardinals; holding their own against Denver, even in a loss, and dominating the Jets while making Sam Darnold see ghosts. The “Tropical Swarm” defense gets its contribution from an unlikely group- not the D-Line or the LB’s but a trio of islands and a pair of enforcers that can hold their own and make way for the rest of the defensive unit.
Make way for DPOY Xavien Howard, who has 19 interceptions in 51 games, with 7 picks this year. A 37% pick rate is elite in the likes of Hall of Fame DB’s such as Rod Woodson, Ronnie Lott, Deion Sanders and future HOF'er Darrell Revis. Coming in as THE best CB in the game right now, per PFF, opposing QBs have a minuscule 50.3 passer rating throwing X’s way this season. He’s already cemented himself to be a legendary Dolphin DB with Sam Madison, Jake Scott, Dick Anderson and Patrick Surtain.
Nik Needham is proving to be one of the best slot corners in this league, finally getting his first pick this season over his San Clemente bud Sam Darnold, taking away opposing slot WRs, we didn't hear much from Jamison Crowder, or Keenan Allen, or Jerry Jeudy, or Larry Fitzgerald. I’m still waiting to hear apologies from most of you fans. Give Needham the respect he deserves.
I admit Byron Jones has been burned a couple times, it's only been a few times- and he’s done well in all games except maybe a play or two. He’s the reason why X is playing so well. While he doesn’t have the stat sheet to show picks or passes defended, locking up WRs in man coverage is his strong suit. He’s doing what he was brought here to do and he’s doing his job. He can also tackle really well in the run game too, which is something to keep an eye on.
One thing that pops out against the Jets game last Sunday was the amount of snaps the defense played. Only 55 snaps, which is a season low for them, and yes, I know it is the Jets. Take that analysis of only 55 snaps, it allows the defense to rest and stay fresh. The offense did its job to convert on 3rd down (8/16) and keep the drives going. A recipe for success, milking the clock and gaining points for your defense to stay healthy and shut down the opponent. In the Rams game, the defensive unit played 95, YES 95, snaps. The Defense was tired and wearing down, key players were cramping and taken out of the game. The offense was not moving the ball efficiently, yet the defense remained tight, creating turnovers to win the game.
In creating turnovers, Emmanuel Ogbah does just that, stripping the ball free and having 8 sacks on the season, pressuring the QB to throw the ball early leading to picks, fumbles, and loss of downs. Andrew Van Ginkel is having a breakout sophomore season, making plays left and right. Using his versatile body to play special teams and bulldoze his way against bigger linemen.
Elandon Roberts has stepped up his play within the recent weeks. In the beginning of the seasonm he was burned in coverage by pass-catching RB’s and slot WRs in zone coverage, but Brian Flores and Josh Boyer have taken him out on obvious passing downs and allowing him to lay the hammer in run support. Driving through the gaps and laying the hit stick on Frank Gore on a crucial 4th and 1 stop.
The Dolphins have amassed 17 straight games with a turnover and bailing out the Dolphins stagnant offense.
Per Brain Flores, DC Josh Boyer has been lights out, in the Jets game “Josh (Boyer) called a great game, mixing the coverages," Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores said. "We got some red zone stops, a big stop on fourth-and-1, turnovers, and Josh called a great game … Oftentimes people give me too much credit, but I think Josh has done a great job the entire year.”
Flores and Boyer have built this Defense from scratch since last year and have entrusted discipline. It takes no talent to be disciplined, its eschewed and ingrained in the scheme and player philosophy. They have committed the 3rd fewest penalties (49) and 3rd fewest penalty yards (410). 2nd in the PPG allowed (18.9), League leading in 3rd down conversion rate (32.8%), 12th in sacks (25) and 3rd in takeaways (19). A definitive recipe for success, Chef Flo and Sous Chef Boyer are cooking up ways to get players in the right position
The Amoeba and Base defense have been working until Denver seemed to have found a small flaw. With the pin pull scheme, by pulling guards and attacking LBs at the point of attack, the free blitzers have to work their way across the field to catch up to the RBs leaving vertical space and gain chunk yards.
Having Christian Wilkins out against the Denver game did not help, but him coming back against the Jets softened the blow a little bit, even giving Gore 74 yards rushing. Raekwon Davis does his Job very well grading out as an astute run blocker and being an immovable statue- he is looking like a steal in the 2nd round of last April's Draft.
We saw Darnold lob some passes on these blitzes but still confusing him and coming down with picks. It will be interesting to see how teams such as the Chiefs, Pats, Raiders and Bills scheme against it and if it is effective against MVP’s Mahomes and Newton and solid QBs in Carr and Allen.
The writing on the wall clearly states, no matter who mans the QB position, whether it be Tua or Fitz, it will be the consistency of the defense that determines if Miami can make a successful playoff push. The run defense needs to be better, the offense needs to do its part in scoring and milking the clock to get into the playoffs and make a long shot at the Lombardi.
On to the Joe Burrow-less Bengals this Sunday.
Please welcome Hussam Patel to PhinManiacs and please give him a follow on Twitter @AirXAlpha1721