The Miami Dolphins shocked the sports world nine days ago when they acquired All-Pro Cornerback Jalen Ramsey via trade. Since then, they have been described as AFC title contenders, and their odds to win the Super Bowl have increased dramatically, and rightfully so, but it’s not just because of the addition of Ramsey. It’s because of all the upgrades they have made on the defensive side of the ball.
Last year the Dolphins’ pass defense struggled to say the least: ranking 27th in yards allowed, 26th in passing touchdowns allowed, and in the bottom 5 in 3rd and 4th-down conversion percentage. While it has to be noted that the Dolphins’ secondary was arguably the most banged up in football last season, it was clear that the defense needed an upgrade this off-season. That is why Grier and Co. decided to start the offseason with a bang by getting one of the most respected defensive minds in football, Vic Fangio, to join the Dolphins’ coaching staff as the team’s defensive coordinator.
This move alone would have had a dramatic impact, as bringing in Fangio means a more schematically sound defense as opposed to the gimmick all-out blitz defense the Dolphins had run with Josh Boyer over the past few seasons. A good reference point for how this could play out is the University of Michigan. With Don Brown, the Wolverines dominated weaker teams but struggled to stop top-tier QBs and offenses (sound familiar?). After switching out Brown for Mike Macdonald (who now runs a scheme similar to Fangio’s in Baltimore for the Ravens): the Wolverines’ defense improved dramatically, defeated Ohio State for the first time in a decade, and won the Big Ten for the first time since 2004. The Dolphins could see a similar impact this season.
Adding Vic Fangio alone was going to lead to drastic improvements on the defensive side of the ball. Still, since then, the Dolphins have added a plethora of talent on the defensive side by bringing in Jalen Ramsey, David Long Jr, DeShon Elliot, and Malik Reed. What Ramsey brings to the table is obvious, with him arguably being the best cornerback in football since he was drafted in 2016. Still, the impact the other three free agents the Dolphins have brought in will have cannot be understated.
David Long Jr. will likely be the Dolphins’ top linebacker entering next season and could arguably be the best middle linebacker the Dolphins have had in a long time. While he has had his share of injury troubles over his career, he has been tremendous whenever he has been on the field and sported a career-high in tackles with 86 and passed defended with 7. He also graded out among the top linebackers on PFF.
David Long Jr last season:
– 76.2 overall grade (14th ranked LB)
– 89.0 run-defense grade (5th ranked LB)
– 80.1 pass-rushing grade (6th ranked LB)
$11 million for a two-year deal is an absolute steal for the #Dolphins
— Ryan Smith (@PFF_RyanSmith) March 13, 2023
Elliot and Reed’s impacts may not be as apparent or eye-catching right now, but come November and December, the Dolphins will see the benefits of these signings, as they give them depth at defensive back and edge rusher. Having watched a good amount of Detroit Lions football, I am quite familiar with DeShon Elliot’s play from the past season, and I think it was a tremendous signing for the Dolphins as Elliot posted a career-high 96 tackles this past season while filling in for the injured Tracy Walker at safety. Elliot is a versatile safety who will help bring depth and consistency to a Dolphins secondary with both of those last season.
Reed is also a player who will bring depth to the table, but he is a fascinating signing as he had a career-high eight sacks while being coached by Fangio in Denver back in 2020. It is unlikely that he will start for the team, with Bradley Chubb and Jaelen Phillips serving as the team’s two primary edge rushers. Still, given his familiarity and success in Fangio’s system, he will more than likely provide the Dolphins with a quality pass-rushing option to rotate in. It may not be the gaudiest of signings, but the Eagles showed just how impactful having depth in the trenches is this past season.
Obviously, Jalen Ramsey is the biggest splash of the offseason, but with all the additions the Dolphins have made to the defensive side of the ball: they are primed to field one of the best defenses in football and compete for the Super Bowl. Dolphins’ fans made a shopping list for Grier of defensive players hoping he’d bring home a treat; Grier has given us a banana split so far, and Jalen Ramsey is the cherry on top.