THE DOLPHINS’ DEFENSE REPORT CARD – B
Their defense was better than their offense in the 2022 season.
Without question, there were great defense players this year. The team as a whole just couldn’t quite come together for an A. The Miami Dolphins are a team that has many players with only a few years in the NFL, under a new and transitioning coaching staff, in a season that had the players rotating quickly due to so many injuries .
WHEN IT’S GOOD…
Linebacker Jerome Baker and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, often excelled in their positions as did defensive ends Cameron Wake, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Jaelen Phillips.
Just like the offense, the Dolphins’ defensive players dealt with their share of injuries and shifting players. Safety Brandon Jones was hurt less than halfway through the season. And while Jevon Holland showed himself to be an effective safety it was just one more of many shifts in the team chemistry and more changes to their game strategy. The result, regardless of athleticism, is that the Dolphins defense ranking has declined statistically this season compared to the last.
The Dolphins took on 3 rookies in 2021. Two of those rookies were defensive players: linebacker Jaelan Phillips, and safety Jevon Holland, (wide receiver Jaylen Waddle was the third rookie that year). Both Phillips and Holland have performed very well in their positions and are expected to keep improving with time and experience.
In 2022 the Miami Dolphins took on 5 rookie players: Channing Tindall, Erik Ezukanma, Skylar Thompson, Tanner Conner, and Kader Kohou. Waddle and Tindall have certainly shown their value as football players in a short amount of time. Cornerback Kader Kohou (obtained as an undrafted college free agent) has been a starter for most of the 2022 season. The rookies are putting in work (maybe more than they expected in the case of Skylar Thompson for example)
It is fun to watch elite young athletes go for it with everything they have, but we are also watching these talented athletes figure out their first years playing in the NFL. They are in a time of athletic transition, on a team that has been making or been forced to make (in the case of injuries) big changes in both players and coaching staff.
The short of it is, there are a lot of fresh, young athletes coming in at once who have never played together as a team, haven’t played in the NFL before or not for more than a few years. Was the increase in how many rookies they took on in the 2022 season a specific strategy? (Look how well Waddle paid off!) Or maybe, it was because of resources being funneled into an offseason trade for wide receiver Tyreek Hill that they had a smaller draft pool?
Mike McDaniel replaced Brian Flores as the head coach while Josh Boyer was retained as defensive coordinator for a time. Now he, and some other defense coaches, have also been let go. His replacement is ex-Broncos coach Vic Fangio .
These changes are ideally in the best interest of the players and team but are still significant changes on a relatively young team that had to make adaptability a signature for the season. It’s going to be over the next few seasons we see how the Dolphins form themselves as a team.
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