Is Jalen Ramsey the reason for the Miami Dolphins defensive prowess?

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Jalen Ramsey has helped Miami’s defense be dominant since his return in Week 11. In his 3 games on the field, Miami has held opponents to less than 20 points. During his nine-game absence, Miami only held opponents under 20 points twice. Who is responsible for this defensive dominance? Is it Jalen Ramsey, or could it be Vic Fangio? I suspect the answer could be a little bit of both.

Miami played its first nine games of the season without Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey was acquired by the Dolphins via trade with the Los Angeles Rams. To be fair, the Dolphins were also playing their first nine games on defense under new Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio. Vic Fangio was signed by the Dolphins in the off-season after parting ways with Josh Boyer.

During weeks one to nine, Pro Football Focus (PFF) scored Miami’s average on total defense to 64.0. Miami’s rush defense, pass rush and coverage scored 68, 70, and 68 on average during this same time. Miami was also blitzing about 19% of the time. One can suspect all of these numbers were due to Fangio’s unfamiliarity with the team and his track record for abstaining from blitzing.  

To fully understand Ramsey’s impact, we have to know how Miami’s defense was performing before his return. The other factor to consider is the direction in which the Dolphins' defense was trending. A deep dive into the season paints an interesting picture. According to PFF, the Dolphins' average on total defense, rush defense, pass rush and coverage got scores of 68, 63, 65, and 68 through the first 4 weeks of the season. At the 6 week mark, Miami improved in all four categories, except in coverage. Miami went from 68 to 72 for total defense, 63 to 69 in rush defense 65 to 71 in pass rush, and 68 to 66 in coverage.  

Jalen Ramsey returned to the Miami Dolphins in Week 11. In his debut, Jalen Ramsey had 2 interceptions, 2 pass deflections, and 1 tackle. Pro Football Focus graded Ramsey at a 90.3 in total defense and 91.5 in coverage. Wide Receivers guarded by Jalen Ramsey were targeted 10 times.  Only 1 completion of 10 yards was made by the Raiders when throwing in the direction of Jalen Ramsey. 

In the three games Ramsey has played, Miami has performed better than the nine games without him.  The Miami Dolphins total defense, rush defense, pass rush, and coverage grades on PFF were 78, 70, 77, and 76. In each category, Miami improved by at least two points.  For the season, Miami’s averages have also improved; getting scores of 71, 69, 74, and 72. Only Miami’s rush defense has statistically gotten worse, going from 70 to 69. One can argue that the loss of Jaelan Phillips could have skewed this number but, this isn’t the first time all season Miami plays without Phillips, so I digress.

Miami’s defense was trending up before Ramsey’s arrival. However, Jalen’s infusion into the defense has been exactly the shot of dominance the team was looking for to get to the next level. Since his return, Miami has generated five interceptions, two of which went back for a touchdown. These 5 interceptions represent half of the team's season total. Jalen Ramsey has helped Vic Fangio trust his defense more and continue to place his players in a position to succeed.

The Dolphins are currently the third ranked defense in the NFL. Miami is second in the league with 3 interceptions returned for touchdowns and third in the league with 41 sacks.  Miami only blitzes 21% of the time, up from 19%. With Jalen Ramsey and Xavier Howard, Vic Fangio can afford to blitz more while establishing trust with his secondary.

Jalen Ramsey has helped create a new wrinkle for Vic Fangio and this Dolphin defense. The units success will depend on their continued understanding of Fangio’s scheme. To say Jalen Ramsey is the sole reason for Miami’s defensive dominance would be irresponsible. To discredit the impact he’s had on the field would be criminal. Suffice it to say, I’m glad Fangio and Ramsey are both on our team.