The Miami Dolphins defense has been the backbone of this team’s success this season. With a perfect combination of savvy veterans and young players blossoming into starters, the Dolphins defense has proved to be one of the better units in the league at stopping the run. They are a tenacious, swarm to the ball group, that prides themselves on stuffing opposing running backs.
The big guys up front on the defensive line have been huge (no pun intended) in the Dolphins 3rd ranked run defense that gives up only 78.2 yards a game. The Dolphins fearsome duo of defensive tackles in Paul Soliai and Randy Starks have been about as good as any pair in the league. Soliai has been clogging up the middle all season, forcing running backs to jump outside into the waiting arms of other Miami defenders, while Starks has been playing at a Pro Bowl level, applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks ( 3.5 sacks, 2nd on the team), as well as halting runners in their tracks.
The ‘Phins defensive ends are the teams pass rushing specialists. Cameron Wake, arguably the best player on not just the defensive side of the ball, but the whole team, has been a menace to quarterbacks this season. He has 6.5 sacks overall (all coming in the team’s last three games) which is tied for 7th in the league, but he has only played 6 games this season, whereas everyone above him has played 7. Jared Odrick has been effective opposite of Wake, but the d-end I want to key on is Olivier Vernon.
Vernon, the 3rd round pick out of the University of Miami isn’t being praised as much as other rookie defensive ends like the Seattle Seahawks, Bruce Irvin or the New England Patriots, Chandler Jones (he is the brother of UFC fighter Jon “Bones” Jones for readers who follow MMA), but Dolphins fans take notice, this kid is a stud in the making. With his limited playing time he has 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. In a year or two the Dolphins could very well have a New York Giants like defensive line with play makers rotating on and off the field wreaking havoc on opposing qb’s.
The ‘Phins defense is anchored by veteran leaders Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett, both of whom are ranked first and second in total tackles on the team. Third year man Koa Misi, has elevated his level of play this season (to the surprise of many, including myself), ranking third on the team in tackles, forcing two fumbles, and chalking up 1.5 sacks. Without a doubt, the front seven of the Dolphins is one of the best in the league, but our secondary is an entirely different story.
To quote the infamous Bart Scott, “THEY CAN’T STOP A NOSEBLEED!” The ‘Phins defense is giving up 284.4 yards through the air, ranking them 28th in the league in pass defense. The secondary doesn’t lack talent, it lacks depth. Sean Smith proved he can be the shutdown corner for the team after he went toe to toe with Larry Fitzgerald in Week 4, but besides Smith the only other legitimate corner is Richard Marshall and he can’t seem to get healthy enough to play!
In the NFL you need three solid corner backs to even have a chance at stopping some of the high flying, spread offenses. The Dolphins have one and a half.
If it wasn’t for the starting safeties Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones this team could be a lot worse than 28th in the league. As a second year starter, Jones has been playing at a Pro Bowl level all season, stepping up and proving to be one of the better run stopping safeties in the game. Clemons is more of the conventional strong safety serving as the last line of defense, deep zone, pass defender. Jones and Clemons have shown this season that they have the ability to anchor the two safety positions for the foreseeable future.
The Dolphins defense can stop the run, but when quarterbacks step back to pass and don’t get sacked or hurried by our defensive line you almost have to expect a completion. The secondary has its flaws, but overall the Dolphins defense is a stout unit that will likely continue its high level of play the rest of the season.