Ndamukong Suh begins his 2nd season as a Miami Dolphin, and is now the undisputed leader of the defense; as he goes, so will the team – big things are expected out of him this year.
Defensive tackle: Ndamukong Suh
You may have heard of Ndamukong Suh. Perhaps you are aware that he is the highest paid player on the Dolphins, having signed a record-setting $114 million contract, highest ever for a non-quarterback, as a free agent on 2015. Maybe you have heard that he is huge, standing 6’4” tall, weighing 320 pounds, with incredible speed, quickness and hand skills. If you watch a lot of ESPN, you probably know that he stepped on a few heads, hands and legs a few years ago, and is considered a dirty player by a lot of fans and opponents; and that he is friends with billionaire Warren Buffett. He is probably the first player (and often only player) who comes to mind when non-Dolphins fans name our players. Suh makes the team relevant.
Those things are all true, or at least verifiable on the internet. What you may not know, but will find out this season, is that Suh will lead this Dolphins team. After Cameron Wake’s achilles injury last year, the release of Brent Grimes, the team’s failure to re-sign Olivier Vernon, and the reunion with defensive coach Jim Washburn, it is clear that Suh is the best player on the defense, and that the defense is being tailored to fit his strengths. Washburn, working under defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, is expected to implement the attacking Wide-9 style of defense that he employed in Detroit while coaching Suh, under which Suh consistently racked up numerous sacks and tackles that led to his record contract. Suh has to bring it this year for the Dolphins to make the playoffs, and dethrone the Patriots in the AFC East.
Suh is the team’s leading defensive tackle. With the Wide-9 attacking defense that the Dolphins intend to run this season, Suh will be expected to consistently destroy the pocket in passing downs, and command the double and triple teams that keep blockers off of the team’s linebackers. Nothing less than an all-pro season is expected from Suh. He has a ton of pressure on his shoulders, but if anyone can handle it, it is him. Suh wants to be great, and he wants to lead the team, so he will not shrink from the expectations.
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After a strong preseason last year, when Suh and the rest of the starting defensive line looked like they would terrorize opposing quarterbacks, and amidst the expectations that came from signing a record-setting contract, Suh had a pretty good individual season, but he was unable to lead the defense to overall success in the regular season. At one point last year, he was so frustrated that he allegedly called out a number of his teammates in the locker room, telling them that they were not good enough to play with him. Other reports from anonymous sources accused Suh of freelancing on defense, and not following his assignments. That sort of frustration should be expected following the weekly horrendous performances that the defense put forth, as they got run on every week, with only the slightest hint of improvement after the mid-season firings of defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle and head coach Joe Philbin.
According to NFL.com, Suh tallied 61 combined tackles, including 38 solo tackles, and had 6 sacks last season. He also deflected 5 passes. His best game, and probably the team’s best game, took place in the week 7 beatdown of the playoff bound Houston Texans, when Suh outshone rival defensive lineman J.J. Watt by tallying 5 solo tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 pass deflections in a 44-26 romp. In a difficult season, that game was a bright spot, as the Dolphins beat the Texans for the first time in their history.
Before joining the Dolphins, Suh played 5 seasons for the Detroit Lions, after being drafted with the 2nd overall pick of the 2010 draft.
This year, Suh will put his stamp on Dolphins history, and should dominate under his preferred Wide-9 defense. I expect that, playing with Wake and Mario Williams, he will have 40 tackles and 8-12 sacks while leading the Dolphins to the playoffs. If he can do that, and bring success to the team, he will be remembered as a Reggie White type figure, who resuscitated a once-proud franchise and returned it to relevance.