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I’m Confident in my Love for the Dolphins’ Depth on Defense

The Sun is beginning to rise on a grateful universe especially in my area of North East PA. Instead of four graceful dogs holding court in my living room as I did two weeks ago, I have only my two. Currently, there is a cease-fire between them. I know that’s as hollow as an infomercial’s guarantee that their glue can hold ocean liners together. It’s only a matter of time until the canine war is back on. So as I did for Miami’s offense, now is the perfect time to explain to the masses why I thoroughly love the Miami Dolphins’ defensive depth.

The Defensive Ends

Classic lunchpail group is what you find in the Dolphin’s defensive ends. That’s not to say that you may not end up having a star emerge in there as the real deal, I’m saying that this unit, and others on defense, is a unit that isn’t going to wow you with flashy moves and 4.5 speed. The defensive ends, including the nose tackles, which I’ll be getting to later, are all about being big men who are immovable objects.

Wilkins and Ogbah (didn’t think he would be 280LBs but alright) are the gems of the d-line. I love the trajectory that Wilkins has been on since he got to Miami. Watching him progress to where he is today is the typical plight of an NFL mid-first rounder. You start as a rookie where you have minimal success but you show flashes of greatness. Then in year two, you get more consistent and show that you’re a guy that can be depended on who can also be a leader. Year three now is the year to cement yourself as one of the better players in the league at your position. Wilkins isn’t your prototypical defensive end so his stats will never jump off the page. But in Flores’ 3-4 defense he can cause havoc for defenses. I expect he will continue on his path of being a very good player.

Emmanuel Ogbah had nine sacks last year that kind of came out of nowhere. Not sure if he’ll get to that level again, but I think at least seven sacks is extremely doable.

Potentially, my favorite guy on the d-line is Zach Sieler. This guy plays like the toughest guy out there. His John Wick-will can’t be matched and it’s that will and drive that has brought him to this level. It’s unfortunate, however, that the RV life he once embraced is no more.

I hope he doesn’t have a Rocky situation where all the fame of being a gritty defensive end gets to his head and he gets knocked out by Clubber Lang. That be bad and a tad unexpected.

The rest of the defensive ends are Jason Strowbridge, Jonathan Ledbetter, Nick Coe, Tyshun Redner, and Durval Neto-Queiroz. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Strowbridge get more time. He played a little bit last year and I get the sense that Flores has bigger plans for him.

I realize those names may not get anyone’s engine going but here’s the caveat in Brian Flores’ defense; some of the outside linebackers are at times going to be playing defensive end. Yep, that’s right. Jaelan Phillips, and AVG, Biegel will all see time at defensive end. It’s the nature of a 3-4 and it’s a staple for Flores who loves nothing more than to have defensive players that can be lined up at different spots on the field. I truly wonder if he loves anything else in this world other than defensive versatility. If I ever get a chance to ask him a question I’ll make sure I ask him that.

The Nose Tackles

I realize the Dolphins employ around a billion defensive backs, but the nose tackles when you examine them have pound for pound the sneakiest depth on the team. I’m beyond fascinated to see how Raekwon Davis elevates his game. I and most everyone else loved what he did in his rookie campaign last year. There’s a reason why Flores flipped out when he drafted Davis. It’s because the guy is a mauler who is a piece of humanity that can’t be moved. He’s not Warren Sapp where he’s going to use speed to make plays. Instead, he’s going to be that Vince Wilfork type, albeit a bit smaller, where he just sits in the middle of the defense and clogs up holes.

Adam Butler, potentially my favorite free agent signing, is a player I think is going to play a lot and will play good football. He was no slouch in New England and now, like many others, reconnecting with Flores is in vogue. He’s only 27 so let’s not start thinking that this is some old guy. He’s not that. He’s a guy that can play who can be relied on.

John Jenkins is on his second tour with the Dolphins. He’s another solid professional that I bet you see more than you think you’ll see of him. Even Benito Jones, the last tackle on the roster saw time last year for the Dolphins. We all know Davis is the man, but it’s nice to know that the drop-off from Davis to Butler isn’t severe.

The Middle Backers

I think easily the weakest position on the defense is the middle backers. I like Jerome Baker and this is a contract year for him and yes I love the sack he had on Mahomes. But I just don’t know about him long-term. I feel like when I watch him play I see too many times that he’s out of position against the run. He’s good at covering tight ends and backs out of the backfield which is very hard to do and no linebacker is actually good at it. I just think he has too many games where I say to myself “was Baker even out there today?” Because it’s a contract year, perhaps he’ll ball out.

Benardrick Mckinney, a guy Miami traded for, has the potential to be excellent. Or, he might just be okay. Don’t get me wrong, I like the signing. But I won’t be shocked if he has a very Shaq Lawson-like impact, which is interesting because Lawson was dealt to Houston in the trade that brought McKinney, where he has just an okay season. Flores and the NFL for that matter love guys that are a year or two out from a pro-bowl season. Mckinney fits that mold. Hopefully, he’s all healthy and he and Baker can stuff the run because that’s an aspect that can hold this team back.

Elandon Roberts comes back and I’m excited about that. I thought he was very solid before he got injured last year. He’s not an all-timer but he does his job and he brings an energy that I love seeing. Plus, he made one of my favorite plays of the year last year when he stuffed Gore on 4th and 1.

We’ll see where Vince Beigel fits in. He also is coming off a big-time injury. It’s possible he can be a diamond in the rough but finding playing time will be tough I feel for him.

The Outside Backers

Certainly the most unheralded unit on the defense. There’s a ton of boom or bust here. You have rookie Jaelan Phillips who has all the tools to be the defensive rookie of the year and quickly climb the ranks as a top pass-rusher. He’s that good. All the reports you read on Phillips is that the Dolphins got the steal of the draft with him. His past injuries are what made him fall. If those don’t show their ugly, disgusting head, Phillips will be a bonafide stud and you can’t teach that. I mean look at this. LOOK AT IT!!

Still not as swole as Tua but he does look really good.

Then you have AVG, I guess you can call him Andrew Van Ginkel if you’re into that kind of thing. I feel like he’ll be taking over the Van Noy role on the defense which is something he’s primed to do. Just be a guy that finds himself in the right spot more often than not. AVG showed he can make impact plays coming off the edge who has a motor that just doesn’t quit. I won’t be surprised if AVG is a bigger name when the season is done. Also, who doesn’t love seeing this?

Both Phillips and AVG will find themselves at times lining up at defensive end and that’s fine. They’re quick enough and have the power to make that work. I don’t know if I want a heavy dose of either of those guys doing that but in passing situations, I say release the hounds.

The Canadian Crippler, Sam Eguaveon, is a solid backup to these guys who has shown he can play in the league. I remember thinking/hoping he was going to be better than he has been but that’s more on me than it is Eguaveon. He’s a good pro. Every team needs tons of guys like that.

Currently, Kylan Johnson and Brennan Scarlett are on the team. I imagine they will be practice squad guys or camp bodies.

The Defensive Backs

Me looking over the list of cornerbacks that are currently on the Dolphin’s roster.

Do you want depth? Like do you really want depth? Look no further than the Dolphin’s corner and defensive backs. I wrote on May 6, when Miami signed Jason McCourty that the Dolphins had eleventy billion defensive backs on the team. I was precise with that number. Since then, that number has risen to a level hitherto undreamt of. Yes, I think we have entered a realm of imaginary numbers, which I promise you are a real thing that is out there. Since the McCourty signing, the Dolphins have signed Jaytlin Askew as an undrafted free agent and Trill Williams from the Saints.

These two join an extremely crowded unit with names such as Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Iggy, Nik Needham, Justin Coleman, Jamal Perry, Javaris Davis, Tino Ellis, and Terrell Bond.

I think it’s fair to say that Howard and Jones will make the team and will both be your boundary corners. We all know Jones had a mediocre season, for him, last year and that he’s ready to prove that he’s worth the money he got two years ago. I see no reason that he does not step up his game and that’s going to be paramount because although I don’t think Howard takes a step back in his play I do think he doesn’t reach the number of INTs he had last year.

The nickel corner seemingly would be Needham but who knows at this point. McCourty knows what he’s doing in this defense and he’s another Flores guy from the northeast. I also don’t think you can rule out the possibility of seeing rookie Jevon Holland playing nickel corner at times as well. You know, Flores and that versatility.

I think we all love hearing about how Noah Igbinoghene is progressing in year two after a pedestrian-at-best rookie season. Corner is a very difficult position as a rookie and we saw Iggy struggle last year. Take it for what it’s worth with him and pretty much any young player that gets talked up during voluntary camp from any beat writer but they are all praising Iggy on how he’s looking so far.

I’m going to make a proclamation here: Justin Coleman is going to be a critical contributor at some point this year. He won’t be an opening day starter but I just have this feeling that he’s going to have an Eric Rowe-like impact where he just starts playing and keeps playing and he’s just flat out solid.

I think it’s fair to say that Flores values his secondary as the focal point of his defensive vision. Play man to man in your face defense, a lot and have a bunch of guys able to do it so when someone does go down with an injury you have a capable guy ready, one who doesn’t have to change the way Flores calls his defense. Makes sense since that’s where all the money is on that side of the ball.

The Safties

This unit might be the most fascinating unit on the defense. So many ways to go about business. Bobby McCain is gone so free safety needs to be filled. You’d think rookie Jevon Holland would be the guy to assume that role. I assume it will be Holland who is a Brian Flores wet dream with how versatile he can be. Holland can play free, strong, and even nickel corner. I’m pumped to see how Holland quarterbacks this defense because that’s the type of role I think he will be groomed for.

Eric Rowe and Brandon Jones will battle for the strong safety position. I expect Rowe to be your opening day starter at that position but we all know Brandon Jones can play and will play. Jones showed a tenacity to cause havoc on blitzing. He had only one sack but he disrupted several plays and showed a thirst to hit hard.

It’s this kind of play that has me feeling all tingly about what Brandon Jones can do.

Clayton Fejedelem, Nate Holley, and Brian Cole round out the safties. Fejedelem is carving out a nice role as a special teams guy. I see no reason that will stop.

That’s the defense. That’s the defense I think is loaded with depth. Some units more than others, but still, I feel that this coaching staff has tough decisions ahead trying to figure out who’s going to get cut. That’s a good thing.

Depending on what stat you want to show your fealty to, the Dolphins have had statistically a #1 defense last year. What can’t be disputed is that the Dolphins led the league in creating turnovers with 29. That’s awesome but as we all know that can’t be relied on. That’s okay as long as more solid play by more players occur. The Dolphins can’t be dreadful against the run and can’t get lit up in big games such as Buffalo Bills games.

I know that the top quarterbacks in the league are the top quarterbacks in the league for a reason. This year the Dolphins face Allen twice, Brady, Ryan, and Jackson who are excellent at what they do. They also face Carr, a revitalized Wentz, and Tannehill who aren’t pushovers. These are the games the defense needs to step up what their game because you know those quarterbacks are probably going to be on-point. I have much confidence that the second-year guys will elevate and the rookies will over-perform. I mean it’s June 5th a million different things can change but I’m going optimistic. No reason not to besides the decades of not performing well.

Have yourself a wonderful weekend. I got finished with this blog much later than I figured but Moon’s Over my Hammy and yardwork got laid at my feet. The weather is ripe for a great day. Take advantage.

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