Once again, the offense looks to be a work in progress with only days to go until the opening preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons. Much of the focus has been on Ryan Tannehill and the offensive line, with questions abound. Will Tannehill finally click with Mike Wallace? Can the offensive line help give our young quarterback a fighting chance of staying upright? The questions could go on, and on, and on…
Get the picture?
Now lets switch to defense.
Last season the Dolphins finished top eight in the league in least points allowed, a feat they also reached the season prior to that. In 2013 Miami also allowed the third fewest passing touchdowns. Considering the Dolphins didn’t exactly get the production they would have liked out of the linebacker position, these stats make 2014 a very promising season indeed.
Lets start with the defensive line. As it currently stands, Cameron Wake is elite, Olivier Vernon is getting there, Randy Starks makes plays and helps hold up the middle, Jared Odrick has shown his versatility by playing well on the outside as well as the inside and Dion Jordan is starting to show in camp why Miami spent the third overall pick on him in the 2013 NFL Draft. Add in a slew of very capable backups, and this defensive line is deep.
As for the secondary, they were extremely good last year. This year, they could be even better. On Tuesday Cortland Finnegan stole the show in practice with three interceptions, while Brent Grimes continued to show why he is one of the best corners with a good performance of two interceptions. In fact, when you consider Grimes didn’t allow a single touchdown in 1,131 snaps, the prospect of Finnegan and Grimes playing together is one definitely worth watching. Behind them include the promising Jamar Taylor and Will Davis, while Walt Aitkens (the 125th selection by the Dolphins in the 2014 Draft) rounds out the top five. The best of the rest include Jalil Brown, Kevin Fogg and Steven Clarke.
At safety, when Louis Delmas isn’t dancing and joking around off the field, he’s looking like a clear upgrade over Chris Clemons. Lets just hope he stays fit. Reshad Jones earned a big payday last year, and didn’t quite live up to the billing. Look for him to improve. Behind them include Jimmy Wilson (who also operates as the nickel corner), Don Jones, Jordan Kovacs, Michael Thomas and Demetrius Wright.
It seems the problem area on this defense is still at linebacker. While in the last few days the Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler and Koa Misi have shown they are very good at blitzing, they do still have trouble in coverage (especially Wheeler). Can the Dolphins really expect Jordan Tripp and Jelani Jenkins to step up on passing downs? That may be asking too much, too soon. Kevin Coyle needs to find a way to mask these deficiencies with the existing starters at his disposal (minus, of course, Wheeler on passing downs). The key will be whether Ellerbe can thrive on the outside, and whether Misi can hold the fort on the inside. The team desperately needs good linebackers to combat those athletic tight ends.
Without a shadow of a doubt, there will be players that I have missed out. But that wasn’t the aim of this article. The aim of this article was to demonstrate that this Dolphins defense are very good. Providing Coyle can find a way to improve the linebacker position, they can be elite for many years to come.
Of course, the media generates the stories, but there is plenty of promise on defense in 2014. Do you agree?
Alex Parish is an Associate Editor at The Phinsider. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @AlexParish89.