The Miami Dolphins’ defense played a good inspiring game on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. If it weren’t for the defense, the Dolphins wouldn’t have been able to come back and be in a position to win the game potentially. The defense did give up plays, but they sacked Josh Allen 7 times and forced three turnovers against him, and they hadn’t been able to do that in the four years they have played against him. They could have had more turnovers because Allen fumbled two other times.
My biggest frustration with the defense this season was that I didn’t see that type of pressure or turnovers being forced consistently. It regressed this season. The Dolphins brought back the defense for continuity, and they were the backbone of the team the last few years with their pressure on the quarterbacks and timely turnovers. That didn’t happen this year. The defense also wasn’t good on third down and getting off the field. During the 5-game losing streak, they didn’t come up with big stops in key moments. The San Fransisco 49ers had a key drive to put the game away in the 4th quarter. The following week, the Los Angeles Chargers took time off the clock in a key drive that made it a two-score game. Then the Bills came back in the 4th quarter to beat the Dolphins, and the defense couldn’t make a key stop. Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers picked apart the Dolphins, especially in the 2nd half when the Dolphins were up by two scores at halftime and ultimately lost.
As I write this article, I found out that Josh Boyer has been fired as defensive coordinator. I struggled with this one if it should be done, but at the end of the day, this was probably the best move, honestly. First, McDaniel inherited him, and the whole defense was retained, basically hoping to improve from being one of the tops the year before. However, the defense this year wasn’t as good. Yes, they had injuries at key positions especially in the secondary with Byron Jones, Nik Needham, and Brandon Jones. However, the Dolphins had more talent up front and should have played like they played Sunday on a consistent basis. I realize some of the blitzing Boyer liked to run with his safeties was limited with Brandon Jones out, and couldn’t play as much pressman with Byron Jones out. The reality is this defense played well against lesser offenses and weaker quarterbacks, but when they played better playoff-caliber offenses, the defense didn’t play well. Maybe a new voice is what is needed. Last year, there was a rumor of McDaniel looking at Vic Fangio, but instead kept the continuity, so there’s an option now.
The Dolphins also must tweak the roster on this side of the ball. Now, they do have some cornerstones, like Christian Wilkins, Zach Seiler, Bradley Chubb, Jalen Phillips, and Jevon Holland. All those players have a bright future for this defense. Wilkins had a great year as a run-stopper and had 98 tackles. It seemed like every game; he was pushing the pile along with Seiler. Wilkins is due for a new contract, so the Dolphins must pay him. Seiler has one more year left on his deal, and after next year who knows if there will be enough to pay him as well. Phillips and Holland are on their rookie deals and look very promising. Chubb has talent but must stay on the field, especially with what the Dolphins gave up a first-round pick plus a new contract. Maybe after a whole off-season and getting acclimated with this group, he will be better.
The one area I said last year the Dolphins need to upgrade is the linebacker position. Specifically, the inside linebacker position. The Dolphins need someone who can run around as a run stuffer, can blitz, but, more importantly, can cover. I thought it was a mistake bringing back the whole linebacker group in Elandon Roberts, Duke, Riley, and Sam Eguavoen. First, Riley and Eguavoen are just bodies on defense and special teams. That’s it. Roberts is a good player and leader on the defense, but the Dolphins need a difference-maker. Channing Tindall will be in his second year, and I don’t know what to expect from him, but don’t bank on him and bring in someone. The Dolphins have Jerome Baker on the outside, and I wish they would use him better on blitzing. Andrew Van Ginkel is a free agent, and I don’t think he was used properly this year so the Dolphins will probably lose him in free agency. They need to reset this position; it’s definitely a weakness, especially in pass coverage.
The secondary was banged up but had some key guys step up out of nowhere. Rookie Kader Kohu was a pleasant surprise, especially with Byron Jones out for the season, and he started and held his own. Xavien Howard is locked in, but he was not himself this year and had an off year. He was probably more hurt than he and the team were letting on. He had a couple of groin muscle pulls, but if he was that hurt then don’t play and take time to heal. He got his contract and if he wasn’t hurt, the fear is maybe he’s showing signs of a decline. Hopefully, That’s not the case. Byron Jones was a mystery with his injury, considering he was supposed to be ready for training camp, and he was never cleared and made things very frustrating. He is clearly going to get cut so the Dolphins can create more money under the cap. Plus, with the emergence of Kohu and others, he is expendable. Trill Williams was having a promising training camp and then got hurt in the preseason. Keion Crosson was a surprise and helped. The Dolphins need to continue to add more players for depth and prepare if Howard starts to decline. It’s especially important with the Dolphins inevitably moving on from Byron Jones. The safeties led by Holland are good but need more depth as well. Eric Rowe and Clayton Fejedelem are free agents. Brandon Jones will be back, but the Dolphins need to keep adding players in case of injuries and not just bank on players improving like Verone McKinley.