One of the most unexpected moves of the Miami Dolphins offseason was the release of 5-time Pro Bowl, 3-time All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was ranked PFF's seventh best defensive tackle and made 29 tackles, 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2017.
But a recent quote from head coach Adam Gase - who appeared on the Joe Rose Show on Thursday morning - may shed some light on why Miami felt the best thing to do was move on from Suh; it's very possible that simply not fitting what the Dolphins want to do on defense played into the decision.
“We talked about this, how we want to play this thing." Gase said. "The way that Kris Kocurek is going to coach these guys, and the expectation level of how they're going play. He wants these guys to pursue the ball. An eight-man rotation is kind of what Philly did this year, to where, not just defensive ends but I'm talking about defensive tackles too. These guys are going to be pursuing the ball down the field. They're not going to be able to play 80 snaps a game, because that's how much effort they're going to be giving."
Suh, who turned 31 this past January, played 83.8 percent of the team's snaps on defense this past season, which makes sense given what a disruptive force he is on the defensive line, consistently drawing double teams and opening up lanes for other players to make plays.
But if the Miami Dolphins want to be more rotational on the defensive line, that would mean that the intention is for the players to remain fresh so they can consistently give their all when they're on the field, which Suh did, but there is more to it than that.
Gase uses the example of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, which showcased one of the best rotations in football last season; a quick glance at the snap count percentages for their defense indicates the difference between them and the Dolphins.
That sort of rotation is hard to beat, and it's no secret that losing Suh means that the Dolphins don't exactly have the prerequisite talent available to effectively pull off a strategy like this, despite the promise shown by DTs Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor.
However, considering that Suh was set to count for over $50 million against the cap over the next two years of the contract he initially signed with Miami, it seemed like a hard pill to swallow to have that much money tied into one player who they would be trying to give less snaps for the sake of the defensive plan.
With that in mind, it made sense from a more long-term standpoint to try and get out from under that financial obligation, while the team attempts to balance out the snap counts.
"If that means we need eight guys up every game and we're going to give the kind of effort that I've seen Kris Kocurek's guys have given over the years as defensive line coach, I'm all for it." Gase said. "I want to see the passion and the effort that I've seen out of his guys in the past. I want to see our guys doing that.”
As of now, the Dolphins have a stable of defensive linemen which includes DEs Cameron Wake, Robert Quinn, Andre Branch, Charles Harris, William Hayes, Davon Godchaux, Vincent Taylor, Jordan Phillips, Cameron Malveaux, Gabe Wright, and Jonathan Woodward.
In Hayes' case, he can play both defensive end and defensive tackle, which technically gives Miami a total of five defensive tackles on the roster. It is possible that the Dolphins will look to add another DT during this year's draft. University of Washington's Vita Vea is one potential option to fill the hole left by Suh's departure.
It sounds like a good idea to try and copy the formula used by the Super Bowl winning team, but losing a player of Suh's caliber does not seem like a good trade-off. Miami will need to draft wisely in order to mitigate the impact that not having Suh will have on the defense in 2018.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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