After the Dolphins’ season-opening victory over New England, coach Mike McDaniel declared the workforce belongs to the protection.
The Dolphins’ 16-10 victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday confirmed nothing has modified, six video games later.
The protection, and the secondary, particularly, is the power of the workforce, the rationale the Dolphins are 4-3, and within the thick of the AFC playoff race.
They’ve accomplished an excellent job of promoting season tickets and creating hype. Amongst quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, left sort out Terron Armstead, broad receiver Tyreek Hill, McDaniel and the remainder of the crew, hey, good job of getting publicity.
However this offense doesn’t produce sufficient touchdowns, and it doesn’t win video games. Not but, anyway.
The offense is extra artistic than ever. Nevertheless it’s 21 factors per recreation common is paying homage to the Joe Philbin period, the 2012-14 seasons when the Dolphins averaged 18, 19.8 and 24.3 factors per recreation, respectively.
In different phrases, at this level, if the Dolphins get to the playoffs, it’ll be due to the protection.
And the subsequent few video games arrange particularly properly for the Dolphins protection to proceed its team-carrying methods.
The Dolphins’ subsequent 4 opponents are Detroit (1-5), Chicago (2-4), Cleveland (2-5) and Houston (1-4-1). None has a quarterback or offense that prompts worry, although Detroit is ninth in scoring (24.3 factors per recreation) and Cleveland is tenth (24.0 ppg).
Contemplate how the Dolphins’ injury-riddled protection, led by defensive coordinator Josh Boyer and the talent-rich secondary, clamped down on the Steelers.
Pittsburgh’s seven second-half possessions resulted in 5 punts and two interceptions.
You noticed the protection, which misplaced security Brandon Jones to a knee harm within the third quarter, lead in opposition to the Steelers, with interceptions by cornerback Justin Bethel, security Jevon Holland and cornerback Noah Igbinoghene, the final two coming within the recreation’s ultimate three minutes and icing the victory that snapped a three-game dropping streak.
“At first I didn’t assume I caught it as a result of the referee proper there stated it was out,” Igbinoghene stated of his game-clinching play with 18 seconds left. “I noticed the evaluation, and I noticed everyone get excited and I bought excited as properly. I bought this interception, and it’s my first one. It’s a blessing.”
You additionally noticed the protection lead with security Clayton Fejedelem crashing by way of to make a vital cease on a third-and-1 run by Steelers operating again Najee Harris early within the fourth quarter.
“It was only a good defensive name,” Fejedelem stated. “Edge strain, third-and-1, I used to be capable of come off the sting and time it up. Najee Harris is a superb again, so to have the ability to get him on the bottom, get out of there, it’s simply capitalizing on these alternatives.”
And also you noticed the protection lead with guys equivalent to safeties Verone McKinley and Eric Rowe and defensive lineman Ben Stille making contributions. McKinley and Stille, a pair of undrafted rookies, made their NFL debuts.
“You’re prepared,” McKinley stated of the mindset of a Dolphins reserve defensive participant.
“After they say it’s time to go, you strap it up and say, ‘Let’s trip.’ ”
After which there have been guys equivalent to linebacker Jaelan Phillips (1.5 sacks) and Andrew Van Ginkel, who tied for the workforce lead with eight tackles apiece.
Holland talked concerning the protection’s potential to make “splash performs,” that are turnovers and massive stops.
“I do know as a protection all of our defensive gamers could make that ‘splash play’ regardless of who you might be,” he stated. “And I feel that occurs in our preparation. And when our preparation meets alternative, splash performs occur. And also you see that at this time with Noah, with Justin Bethel, with [Phillips], with [Van Ginkel]. Guys are flying round.”
Perceive one thing: Bethel, Fejedelem, Igbinoghene, McKinley and Stille aren’t starters, and even within the common defensive rotation. They’re merely guys who comply with the Dolphins’ defensive pattern of creating performs.
You realize the fellows who have been lacking from the secondary: cornerbacks Byron Jones (Achilles), Nik Needham (Achilles), Kader Kohou (indirect) and Keion Crossen (knee). After which they misplaced Brandon Jones throughout the recreation.
But, the protection, led by the secondary, nonetheless led the best way to victory.
No, the protection can’t do it alone.
The offense should discover its manner finally.
For that to occur, Hill, the apparent selection for workforce MVP and NFL’s main receiver with 773 yards, should proceed to ball. The identical goes for Tagovailoa, Armstead and Waddle.
And the offense as an entire have to be a lot better.
Within the meantime, they’ll depend on the game-changing, game-winning qualities of the protection.
As a result of in the mean time, it’s one of the best hope the Dolphins have for making the playoffs.