Heading into New York to play the Jets, the Dolphins’ defense hopes to build on last week’s success while avoiding the problems that have haunted them in the past.
Consider for a moment that last week’s defensive performance against the Chargers was a fluke.
I’m sure many of you considered the fact that the Dolphins’ success—holding the Chargers to a measly 44 yards on 14 carries—came more from the Chargers abandoning the run than anything else.
Because, how could you not?
I propose this question because last season, as I’m sure every Dolphins’ fan remembers, Miami’s defense ranked 30th against the run, surrendering more than 140 yards a game (4.8 yards per attempt) during the regular season.
That same problem, which left many of you screaming obscenities at your television all season, persisted into the playoffs, where the Dolphins gave up 179 rushing yards in a 30-12 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Despite the Dolphins addressing the linebacker position in the offseason—signing All Pro Lawrence Timmons and drafting Raekwon McMillan—things haven’t necessarily gone to plan for first-year defensive coordinator Matt Burke.
McMillan, who was penciled in as the starting middle linebacker, was lost for the season during the first preseason game. And it’s still unclear if Lawrence Timmons, who was suspended indefinitely after going AWOL hours before kickoff against the Chargers, will return to the team.
Last week, the Dolphins’ coaching staff, as they did many times last year, was forced to adjust on the fly. Despite the circumstances, the Dolphins escaped southern California with a 19-17 win.
The Dolphins, by stuffing the run-game early, may have forced the Chargers’ offense to change their game plan. But what would have happened if the Chargers stuck to the ground game? Do you think the Dolphins’ defense would have eventually collapsed?
At this point, we can only speculate. But tomorrow, we may finally get that answer when the Dolphins play the Jets.
The Jets, although arguably one of the worst teams in the NFL, have two running backs—Matt Forte and Bilal Powell—that gave the Dolphins trouble last season.
In both meetings, Forte and Powell averaged more than five yards per carry. In the first matchup, the duo torched Miami’s defense for 114 yards on 18 carries (6.3 average). In the second, the pair rushed for 105 yards on 20 carries (5.2 average).
I’m sure Jets head coach, Todd Bowles, is aware of this. And unlike the Chargers, the Jets, which have NFL journeyman Josh McCown under center, may be less prone to abandon the run game.
It’s very early, but we still have yet to see the Dolphins’ defense at full strength. We haven’t seen it with Lawrence Timmons—who knows, we may never get that chance. And we still don’t know if acquisitions Stephone Anthony and Rey Maualuga can help either.
But how confident are you in the Dolphins’ ability to stop the run on a consistent basis when the two linebackers starting alongside fifth-year pro Kiko Alonso are second-year player Mike Hull—an undersized, ungainly bruiser—and rookie Chase Allen—an undrafted small-school prospect?
The aforementioned linebackers, along with the rest of the Dolphins’ defense, may be put to the test tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if they can build on last week’s performance, or if old habits die hard.
Sports’ fans like to live in the moment. But a team’s recent history, including its bad traits, is important to remember and should never be ignored.