The Miami Dolphins hit the practice field in an unfamiliar location on Wednesday, heading out to the first of two joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As the starting offensive line took their positions, a familiar face was looking back at them. “My boy, Suh,” Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil said of new Buccaneers defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. “It was good seeing Suh. I still see him doing Suh things and it’s still good.”
Suh spent three years with the Dolphins, playing for them from 2015 through 2017. He started all 48 games for Miami over that span, plus the team’s lone playoff appearance. He recorded 181 tackles with the Dolphins, along with 15.5 sacks, 13 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. He played for the Los Angeles Rams last season, then signed with the Buccaneers this spring.
“He was doing Suh things,” Tunsil said after the practice. “Everybody knows what Suh does.”
What Suh was doing was wrecking the Dolphins’ offensive line.
“I think that’s something we need some improvement on,” Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said of the offensive line after the workout. “I thought that was evident. I think (Tampa Bay Defensive Coordinator and former Dolphins secondary coach and interim head coach) Todd (Bowles) does a good job defensively. He’s got a myriad of schemes. That’s what we’re going to have to deal with. I think we could’ve done a better job there and I think that’s good. We need to see that. It’s better for that to happen in a practice setting. We learn from it and make the corrections and hopefully that’s better in a game. I think that’s part of the learning process here.”
The Miami offensive line, especially an offensive line with rookies at both guard positions in Michael Deiter on the left and Shaq Calhoun on the right, getting beaten on Wednesday is not purely negative however. Flores explained, “I think every experience they have is a good one. Every time they see over, under, diamond, odd, double mug, mug in the b-gaps – every time they see that, it’s a good experience for them and one that they can hopefully learn from and then the next time that it comes up, they know how to handle it. I think these situations for those guys, specifically the young guys, but really the entire line working as a group, this is good.”
“The first snap, I look up, and Ndamukong Suh is standing there,” Deiter told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Wednesday. With his eyes getting big, Deiter continued, “It was kind of like, ‘That’s Ndamukong Suh right there. Are we sure we are ready to do this?’”
He continued, “It’s still football. He’s blockable, but he’s really, really good.”
Looking back on the joint practice, Deiter said, “There was some good, some bad. A lot that we can clean up and get better from, but, for the most part, I thought we did well. I think I did a lot of stuff okay, and then there was a lot of stuff that I did really bad. Just stuff I need to watch and clean up.”
“What it’s going to be like when the real bullets fly, because he (doesn’t) play,” Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said after practice of what the younger offensive linemen - both for Miami and for Tampa Bay - can take away from practicing against Suh. “He’s going, so yeah, it’s great for a young guy. It’s like our young guys when they’re going against him. You better have good technique, you better know your assignments, you better play fast, because he’s going to be playing fast.”
It was a long day for the starting offensive line, which included a four play span that, according to the Sun-Sentinel’s Omar Kelly, saw Miami allow three sacks and commit a false start penalty. That is the effect of Suh. It is an effect the Dolphins used to see every day in practice for three years, and it is an effect the Dolphins are now getting for two days of practices this week.
Hopefully, come Friday’s preseason game against Tampa Bay and on into the future, the experience of playing against Suh, and being beaten by Suh and the Buccaneers defensive line, will pay dividends for Miami.