Miami Dolphins defensive line a weakness
By Brian Miller
The Miami Dolphins have played bad. That wasn’t expected. The Dolphins receivers are playing just o.k. That too wasn’t expected. The Oline, secondary, and linebackers, all playing bad and while not completely expected understandable. The Dolphins defensive line is playing bad too and that is a major unexpected turn of events.
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Considering the fact that we understood there might be linebacker and corner issues we all expected the defensive line play to help hide some of those shortcomings. The fact that the line has played so poorly has left the other weaker spots exposed for what they really are. Weak.
The Dolphins believed as did their fans that the best part of their team was the defensive line. A top five unit in the making but thus far they have come up flat and that is concerning. Trips around the Miami Dolphins fan boards are seeing fans calling Ndamukong Suh a major free agency bust. While it’s way too early to say that three tackles in two games is hardly what we anticipated.
Suh however isn’t the only one having problems. Earl Mitchell is playing good but he isn’t a player who is going to change a game. Cameron Wake, albeit hurt, hasn’t looked like Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon is struggling in pass protection, run stopping, and pass rush. All in all all four of the defensive line positions are clearly in need of improvement.
That is where the defensive struggles begin.
Prior to the start of the season, in fact going back to the start of training camp the talk was who do you block? Do you double team Suh and leave Wake one on one on the outside? Do you pair Suh next to Vernon and create another mismatch. Suh, Suh, Suh. If Suh is double teamed does that not free a linebacker to blitz the gap created by a two on one blocking scheme? If you keep a running back in to help the lineman, that running back is supposed to help against the edge rush.
Last week versus the Jaguars, the offensive lineman didn’t need to block Suh with two lineman. They handled him well enough one on one. There is one of the problems. The Dolphins are getting no upfield push. Very little at the most. This was supposed to be the Dolphins bread and butter. Collapsing pockets and folding the line on top of the running game forcing the runners outside where the linebackers could make a play.
Instead what we are seeing is guard/center and guard/tackle runs with little to no penetration. When the runners do bounce to the outside, the ends haven’t collapsed the running lane or didn’t stay at home and the linebackers are out of position. The Dolphins are running a lot of confusing plays on defense but the confusion is on their part.
Miami’s defense can’t sustain an offensive attack without big play from the lineman. A lot of money is tied up into Wake and Suh and Olivier Vernon is going to want a bigger contract when the season ends and he heads into free agency. Earl Mitchell will also be a free agent as well.
It’s not just the starters though. Terrence Fede is looking o.k. but he isn’t in the game enough to get a rhythm and Jordan Phillips isn’t being played enough either.
The big picture shows a team that is in slight disarray right now. Without the defensive line there is little that the weaker corners and linebackers can do because they are not good enough right now to be game changing playmakers. In fact the line play is causing problems for the players that can make plays.
Jelani Jenkins had a very good year last year and while he has looked good, the best linebacker we have right now, he can’t do it all when offensive players are either able to extend pass patterns because of a lack in pass rush or openly run up lanes that are created along the interior. The cornerbacks, including Brent Grimes will be exposed because receivers are given time to run their routes and find holes in the coverage.
All of this starts up front and up front is where nothing is getting done.
Until the top unit on the Dolphins starts to play like they are capable of the Dolphins simply are not going to be able to stop anyone and that is very unexpected.
Aug 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) is tackled by Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) during the first quarter in a preseason NFL football game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports