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Week 15 Film Review: Do Dolphins Fans Need to Recalibrate their Expectations for Boyer’s Defense?

A 2020 and 2021 strength is now a glaring weakness...

Miami Dolphins v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

For the last two years, Dolphins fans have watched a defense that made a ton of plays and came up big in big moments. They had the corners that could survive on an island and the ability to make opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable from whistle to whistle. We see glimpses of that defense occasionally, but not nearly often enough.

Just like McDaniel is receiving most fans’ ire, Josh Boyer is getting a lot of blame for these struggles. Josh Boyer may not be a top-10 defensive coordinator in this league, but he is working with far too many reserve/practice squad-level players each week. Let’s take a look at where the defense continues to shine and where they could be making adjustments.

The Big Plays

This is a thirteen yard gain for the Bills, but these kinds of plays set a tone. Jevon Holland comes all the way up from his free safety position to stick Josh Allen on this play. Just a beautiful tackle and a great display of why Jevon Holland is such a special player-a franchise building block.

The first half really didn’t have much to be excited for with this defense, but they came out ready to play in that third quarter. This was the opening drive and it gave Miami a chance to score and make it a two point game.

They exclusively run zone on this series (which I think they should have done more of) and force a check-down, tackle for a loss, and an incomplete pass on third down. People are rightly upset with the defense, but this kept them in the game.

They also had some really big impact plays in the second half. Jaelan Phillips’ strip sack gave Miami the opportunity to stretch the lead to eight points. If the Dolphins manage to score a touchdown on that drive it could have been the play that decided the game. This defense makes impact plays, they just almost always come from the defensive line and nowhere else.

That Looked way too Easy

When you give up 32 points though, it can’t all be positive. There were a lot of bad plays but these few were the ones that stood out most to me.

This is the most frustrating part of watching this defense in 2022. There are far too many easy/free plays for offenses to stay on schedule. Running backs leaking out of the backfield (especially in the red zone) have killed this defense all season and they still don’t seem to have an answer.

If you force a quarterback like Josh Allen to check it down all game and complete difficult passes, you will eventually force him into making a mistake (re-watch the week 3 game). When you give him these easy looks, there’s no pressure. He can sit back and pick you apart all afternoon.

This play will haunt my dreams for a while. It’s 3rd & 17 here and the Bills run one viable route past the sticks; a deep in from Gabe Davis that they should never be able to complete in this situation. They have three separate check downs at about the 20 and our middle zone players cheat up to stop those rather than get enough depth to prevent the in-breaking route to Davis.

Maybe if they get too much depth Allen checks it down and they convert, but at least you give yourself a chance to rally and tackle. The defensive line not getting pressure doesn’t help the situation.

Where can they make Adjustments?

I have been making this recommendation for a while now, but I would love to see more zone from this defense (they still run man about 50% of the time). Let them work on it and get comfortable in those situations prior to the postseason. This man/blitz heavy defense doesn’t work against quality offenses when you have special teamers and practice squad players at corner. They will identify your weaknesses and take advantage of them.

I don’t think Josh Boyer is a bad defensive coordinator, but I don’t think he’s someone that can make chicken salad out of... well, you know. They have the ability to put together good drives and even good games, but they’re playing with far too many backups to consistently be able to do that. If this team is going to make noise down the stretch it will be because of their offense and this defensive line.