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What is with all these Miami Dolphins defensive ends?

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins have added Robert Quinn and returned William Hayes to a defensive end position that did not appear to be a position of need for the team before the start of free agency. Bringing Hayes back to the team and trading for Quinn adds them to a roster that already includes Cameron Wake, Andre Branch, Charles Harris, Cameron Malveaux, and Jonathan Woodard. It begs the question, what is with all of these defensive ends?

Miami came into the offseason needing depth at the defensive end position, especially if they are looking to cut down Wake’s snap count in order to keep him fresh throughout the season, turning him into a “pass rush specialist.” It has been a role that the team seems to have wanted Wake to fill the last couple of years, but Wake does not cooperate and shows he needs to be a starter still.

Hayes played well last year as a run-stopping defensive end, and showed he has pass rush abilities as well. Re-signing him makes sense, but in a year where the team has plenty of needs, and just added to them with the release of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, adding Quinn led to a few side-eye looks.

Which is where I think the defensive ends come in. I think Miami is looking to run more of a hybrid type of defensive line. Jordan Phillips and Davon Godchaux will likely fill the starting defensive tackles roles, but I would expect to see some of the defensive ends playing defensive tackle more often. We saw it at times last year, with Wake and Hayes inside at defensive tackle, even with Suh playing outside at defensive end. This year, there could be plenty of defensive snaps with lines that include a combination of Wake, Hayes, Branch, and Phillips as the base, with Harris, Quinn, and Godchaux rotating into the lineup. Miami could also look to add a fifth defensive lineman, likely pulling a linebacker, to give themselves more flexibility on from where the pass rush will come.

Basically, the Dolphins could be setting themselves up to not run a 4-3 defense or a 3-4 defense, but some sort of amoeba wondering between those two. All of the extra defensive ends could help with that.

Miami could simply be looking for depth, but Wake, Harris, Branch, Quinn, and Hayes all likely to see plenty of playing time seems to indicate there will be more than two of them on the field at the same time.