Dolphins Defense Smothers Tight Ends
Sep 22, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (88) is tackled by Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Philip Wheeler (52) in the first quarter at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
The Dolphins have seemingly had more issues with defending Tight Ends than any other position over the past several years. The evolution of the tight end position has contributed to this fact, but it also still speaks to the fact that they haven’t been able to scheme effectively or cover the tight ends with their talent they’ve had on the roster – or some combination there-in. If you listened to the announcers on Sunday, or only watched the initial Falcons drive of the game, you’d be inclined to agree. Tony Gonzalez looked to possibly be on pace for a career day against the Dolphins, as he started the first series with 4 catches and 24 yards. Make no mistake, Tony Gonzalez is still one of the best tight ends in football even at his age (37) suggests he should be ready for an NFL retirement home here in his 17th NFL season.
Lost amid the shuffle after Sunday’s game, the Dolphins nearly shut down the tight end position from there on out, even with the numerous injuries on defense. Watching the game and listening to the announcers, they spoke several times in the second half about how Tony Gonzalez dominated in the first half. What were his final first half stats? He still sat at 4 catches for 24 yards. Levine Toilolo added 1 reception from the tight end position, with a 2 yard touchdown in the 3rd quarter. Outside of that single catch by Toilolo, the tight end position was shut out after the first Falcons series of the game, leaving the final stat line for Tony & Co at tight end on the day at 5 catches, 26 yards, 1 Touchdown. That’s it.
Looking at the stat lines, here are a few Dolphins players that also must have dominated when compared to the “dominant” performance by Tony Gonzalez:
- Brian Hartline – 4 catches, 56 yards, 1 TD
- Brandon Gibson – 6 catches, 49 yards
- Charles Clay – 4 catches, 40 yards
- Rishard Matthews – 4 catches, 42 yards
In addition to this, Mike Wallace only needed to catch two passes to nearly pass the level of dominance that Tony Gonzalez showed, as his two catches went for 22 yards.
I may be a little facetious here, but it’s only because the Dolphins quietly did something they have struggled with for a while – shutting down the tight end. Not only did they shut down the tight end, but they did it by making adjustments while not at full strength, against one of the best in the game. They’ll need to step their game up on this front with the seemingly unstoppable Jimmy Graham coming to town, but this performance indicates a strong step forward for this defense. Graham will most likely put up better stat lines on the national stage, but amid that we shouldn’t lose the fact that Miami took a strong step forward in an area they’ve been lacking in this past weekend. Strong play from Reshad Jones and our remade linebacker corps will be needed on Jimmy Graham to keep New Orleans offense in some form of check.