For an afternoon it felt like we had the 2020/2021 Miami Dolphins defense again, didn’t it? This of course comes with the disclaimer that it was against the Houston Texans and one of the most mistake-prone quarterbacks in the NFL, but it was nice to see either way.
They were aggressive and regularly pressured, hit, and sacked the quarterback. That pressure forced Kyle Allen into making some bad decisions and they capitalized on turnovers-once scoring a TD and another time setting the offense up with a 1st & goal. Let’s take a look at some of those pressures and break down their stats over the last couple of games.
The defensive line took over
Coming into this season, I was excited to see how good this defensive line could be. While they didn’t have a dominant player like Aaron Donald or Nick Bosa, they had a ton of depth at both the interior defensive line and edge. The hope of course was that Jaelan Phillips would become that dominant player within the next season or two.
As the season has progressed they have unfortunately lost Emmanuel Ogbah and Trey Flowers but also added Bradley Chubb at the trade deadline. The interior of the defensive line has always been very stout and the edge rotation has looked impressive the last few games.
The defensive line got after it against the Texans this past weekend, accounting for 19 pressures and forcing Kyle Allen to make some boneheaded decisions.— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) November 29, 2022
Phillips, Chubb, Ingram, and AVG are looking like a really solid edge rotation going forward. #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/MJJOXBxujx
Over the last three weeks the trio of Melvin Ingram, Jaelan Phillips, and Bradley Chubb has been extremely productive. They’ve accounted for 27 pressures in that time frame and all three are in the top 25 for PFF Pass Rush grade and pass rush win rate for edge defenders. (per PFF)
Can they keep it up down the stretch?
What is the most important thing for a defense to be able to do to win in December and January? Answers to this could vary, but rushing the passer and stopping the run land at the top of my list. They’re now 10th in rushing yards per game allowed and are 5th in PFF Pass Rush Grade as a team.
When you shut down a team’s running game you can make them one-dimensional. Couple that with the fact that your offense can put up points and you should be able to force teams into obvious passing situations. These are the moments when a defensive line can take over a game.
The only question with this defense is going to be their depleted coverage unit. Xavien Howard has had an uncharacteristically quiet season but played well against the Texans. If Byron Jones can return at some point, it would really be a huge addition to this team and I could see the defense being a big part of a late-season surge.
When this team is firing on all cylinders, they are difficult to beat. We saw that in the Cleveland game and the first half of this Texans game. The Miami Dolphins have won in a lot of different ways this season and that is typically the mark of a good football team. If this defense can continue to pressure opposing quarterbacks, they’re going to be a difficult opponent come playoff time.