The Miami Dolphins are tied for fifth in sacks and allow an average of 106.2 rushing yards per game — a significant turnaround after some early-season struggles. The defense struggled in Week 1 as Austin Eckler and the Los Angeles Chargers gashed the unit for 233 yards on the ground.
Three weeks later, the surging Buffalo Bills scored 48 points in a 28-point win. Despite these initial difficulties, Vic Fangio’s unit is building momentum with just eight games left in the regular season.
“I think a lot of it is just figuring it out and kind of seeing how we’re playing in Fangio’s scheme compared to the older scheme that was here previously,” defensive tackle Zach Sieler explained, “then how our blocks are different for us or how we’ve got to play something and adjust to something else, and sometimes that just takes time.”
Sieler and Andrew Van Ginkel each have four sacks. Bradley Chubb leads the team with six, and Christian Wilkins has 4.5. Miami’s defense combined for seven sacks in wins against the Chargers and New England Patriots to begin the year but had six total sacks in losses to the Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, and Philadelphia Eagles.
“Yeah, you don’t get here without being frustrated at some point and having to work through something,” Sieler said of the ups and downs. “So that’s something that we’ve all been built and coached and viewed as our strength for so long, is finding a way to make something work when you know you have all the abilities.”
Cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard are back in the lineup. The same is true for third-year edge rusher Jaelan Phillips. Opponents have scored more than 21 points against Miami just once since Oct. 1, and a healthy defense can set the tone for the late-season playoff race.
“We’ve got to take advantage of the plays we can,“ Sieler said. “The calls that are called from Coach Fangio, we’ve got to play them to the best of our abilities and we’ve got to make those plays when they arise and that’s what we’re trying to do.”