A dominating defense centered on stopping the run, using the defensive line to take on blockers and free up the linebackers to make tackles. A swarming defense that gets after the quarterback and forces him to get rid of the ball before receivers have a chance to get open. A ball hawking secondary, able to create turnovers and give the offense additional possessions. All of those things were sold to Miami Dolphins fans this offseason.
Lemon laws are designed to protect consumers from the purchase of good (typically cars) that immediately begin failing and never reach the standards of quality expected. Where do we go to turn in the Dolphins defense as a lemon?
Stopping the run
With one game left on the Week 2 schedule, Monday night's New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts contest, the Dolphins rank 27th in rush defense. They have allowed 142 yards per game this year. For the Jets or Colts to fall below the Dolphins, they would have to allow 180 rushing yards and 137 rushing yards, respectively.
Where are the run stuffing defensive linemen? Two weeks, two games, with two opponents who made it their mission to take free agent acquisition Ndamukong Suh out of every running play. Two weeks, two games, two opponents who succeeded in doing just that. Cut blocks, double and triple teams, running away from the All Pro defensive tackle. No one is stepping up to stop the run, seeming to rely on Suh to do it all, but not putting Suh in position to do anything.
That is the number of sacks the Miami Dolphins defense has this year. A defense which features an All Pro defensive end in Cameron Wake, an All Pro defensive tackle in Suh, an up-and-coming defensive end who had 6.5 sacks last year and 11.5 sacks in 2013 in Olivier Vernon, has one sack. And who has it? Rookie defensive tackle - and projected run stopper, not pass rusher - Jordan Phillips.
Where is the pass rush? Where are the sacks? The Jaguars had allowed at least four sacks in eight straight games. This Dolphins defense should have feasted on Blake Bortles on Sunday. They sacked him once, and it did not count because of a penalty.
So the vaunted Miami Dolphins pass rush recorded nothing on Sunday. Nothing.
The Dolphins have two interceptions, both from the team's game against the Redskins in Week 1. Brent Grimes picked off a pass, as did Brice McCain. The team has no forced fumbles or fumbles recovered. Turnovers are huge in the NFL, and Miami is not getting any.
Maybe it is unrealistic to expect interceptions in every game, but it should be expected that the team will not allow a second-year quarterback who has been having decision making issues so far this year to throw for 273 yards with two touchdowns and a 102.2 passer rating. The Dolphins defense could not stop Blake Bortles this week. What happens when it becomes Tom Brady or Andrew Luck?
Kevin Coyle's scheme
When the level of talent the Dolphins have on defense is not performing up to expectations, the focus squarely falls on coaching. This offseason, a lot was made of the team's decision to "simplify" defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle's system. It was felt there was too much complexity in the scheme last year, from moving parts just before the snap to gap assignments and blitz packages. The simplication was seen as growth by the Miami coaching staff, recognizing a weakness and fixing it.
Two games into the season, that simplified system is not working. The Dolphins are not playing as a unit, they are not getting in the right position, and they are not executing. All-in-all, Coyle's system is failing (or else players like Suh fell of a talent cliff this offseason just by joining the team). Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin made the decision this past offseason to be loyal to Coyle, keeping him on the roster for another year. That decision could come back to haunt Philbin if they cannot find a way to solve the defense's problems, and solve them soon.
A report this morning from Miami Herald beat writer Armando Salguero indicates Suh is "freelancing" on some plays, and not hitting his assignment. An All-Pro defensive tackle is afforded some freedom to make the best play he can. When that freelancing is harming the rest of the team, however, something has to change.
After the game, linebacker Koa Misi idnicated a big part of the team's issues on Sunday were "miscommunication," leading to players being in the wrong spot on some plays. Is that code from Misi? Is he looking at Suh? It might be speculation, but it might be true as well.
Suh, after the game told reporters, "At the end of the day, we have to go back to the drawing board and figure out what we want to run so guys can make plays and go from there." Suh clearly feels the coaching staff needs to make some changes. The issue may be, Suh is the only one already making the changes, leaving the rest of the defense to try to figure out what is happening.
On to Bills Week
This loss sucked and it is a hard one to take. This is Bills week however, as the Dolphins prepare to open Sun Life Stadium for the year and open AFC Divisional play. Buffalo is coming off a loss as well this week, so it is going to be a fight between to 1-1 teams hoping to stay within a game of the Patriots at the top of the division. If the Dolphins do now fix their defense - and do not take this as an endorsement that the offense is perfect - this week's game could be a long one.