The present and future of the Dolphins defense looks bright
By Ryan Davis
The Dolphins defense shut out the Falcons in the second half this past Sunday. They have played 5 games this season and have allowed less than 20 points every game. This hasn’t happened since the 2000 season.
The Dolphins defense is ranked in the top 10 allowing only 16.8 points per game. It has a good mix of established veterans and young players who are starting to make impact plays.
Reshad Jones is playing at a Pro Bowl level and making impact plays in games. Jones intercepted the pass to clinch the game against the Falcons and returned a fumble for a touchdown against the Titans. He signed an extension this offseason which keeps him on the team through 2021.
Nate Allen, a serviceable player, is the other starting safety. He has minimized his mistakes these past two weeks but does not seem to be in the Dolphins’ future plans.
The safety of the future is T. J. McDonald, who will be back from suspension in three more games. He is signed through 2021. Jones and McDonald have never played a regular season game together, but with their contracts they have the ability to play four and a half years together.
Xavien Howard is in his second season in the NFL and is a potential number one corner. He was matched up against arguably the best receiver in the NFL, Julio Jones, and he did a good job. Howard is on his rookie contract through 2019.
Rookie Cordrea Tankersley is the other starting cornerback on the Dolphins since Byron Maxwell’s injury. Saints quarterback Drew Brees congratulated Tankersley after his first start for being a great competitor. He has three starts in the NFL and already has the coaches’ confidence. Even if Maxwell comes back, Tankersley may hold on to the starting position.
Tankersley made some big plays against the Falcons with the biggest being the pass deflection that led to the interception by Jones, which ended the game against the Falcons. The Dolphins have Tankersley under contract until 2020.
The two starting safeties and two young cornerbacks will be together until the end of 2019. They will be able to build tremendous chemistry and grow into an elite unit.
Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, Jordan Phillips, and Andre Branch are the veterans on the defensive line with contracts past this season. Suh is an outstanding defensive tackle with five Pro Bowl appearances and is under contract till 2020. Branch has three sacks in 5 games this season and is signed through the 2019 season.
Wake is a five-time Pro Bowler with 3.5 sacks this season, making his case for another Pro Bowl appearance. He has one more year on his contract, but Dolphins may bring him back if he continues to drink from the fountain of youth.
Then the Dolphins drafted three defensive lineman in the 2017 draft: Charles Harris, Davon Godchaux, and Vincent Taylor. All three are under contract till 2020. Harris is the Dolphins first round pick from the 2017 draft and recorded his first career sack last week against the Titans. They have all played in every game this season and made contributions. These players can continue to develop and fortify the defensive line for years to come with the experienced veterans leading the way.
The starting linebackers this season are Kiko Alonso, Lawrence Timmons, and Rey Maualuga. These three veterans have solidified the Dolphins run defense. Timmons is playing outstanding after missing the first two games and has a contract for one more season.
Alonso has made some big plays. He caused the fumble in the Tennessee Titans game, which lead to the fumble recovery touchdown by Reshad Jones. Kiko signed an extension this offseason through 2020.
Another linebacker who will play for the Dolphins in the future is 2017 second round pick Raekwon McMillan. He had a terrific training camp and was supposed to be the starting middle linebacker for the Dolphins. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in the first preseason game. McMillan is the likely starting middle linebacker of the future and will take Maualuga’s place. He’ll be on his rookie contract until 2020.
Overall, the defense is comprised of young and experienced players, who are under contract together for the next few years. This core group of players are playing well together now and should only grow together into one of the elite defenses of the NFL in the coming years.