DAVIE (CBSMiami/AP) — Things have gone almost the exact opposite way for the Miami Dolphins defensive line than what was expected heading into the season.
The lineman with the Dolphins’ only sack this season was benched for their most recent game.
That’s a head-scratcher, along with almost everything else about Miami’s defensive line.
The front four was considered the strength of the team last year, but after Dolphins gave up 113 points in the final three games to blow a shot at the playoffs, they acquired tackle Ndamukong Suh and made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.
So far with Suh, the defensive front looks worse. The Dolphins (1-2) rank next to last in run defense at 145 yards per game, and last with one sack in 94 pass plays.
“I don’t really look at stats,” Suh said Wednesday. “I look at being consistent and disruptive.”
Suh was better at both Sunday, and had his first two tackles for a loss this season. But the defense reached a new low by giving up 270 yards in the first half of a 41-14 loss to Buffalo.
The pass rush might prove pivotal Sunday when the Dolphins play the Jets (2-1) in London. New York has allowed only two sacks in 118 pass plays.
Embattled Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle acknowledged the Dolphins need to change their ways.
“We’ve been playing on our heels a little bit,” Coyle said. “We haven’t just been able to go out and attack. I think that’s something that we need to address as we move forward — eliminate the thinking and just let guys to just go out there and play.”
Coyle’s job was in jeopardy after last December’s collapse, and during the offseason he said he would simplify his scheme. But that approach hasn’t helped.
The only player with a sack is second-round draft pick Jordan Phillips in the season opener. He was inactive Sunday, and said coaches told him he needs to practice better to earn playing time.
Suh, Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon have no sacks. Last year Wake had 11½, Vernon had 6½ and Suh had 8½ with Detroit.
“I’ve gone through this before,” Suh said. “Teams don’t want us to get sacks. We’ve got to go out there and will ourselves to get sacks.”
Poor run defense has defused the pass rush, coach Joe Philbin said. By running effectively, opponents frequently find themselves in short-yardage situations on second and third down.
“We haven’t been able to get teams in a lot of long-yardage situations where you can really tee off,” Philbin said. “And we haven’t won a ton of one-on-one matchups.”
The Dolphins expected to dominate one on one, with Suh and four-time Pro Bowl end Wake leading the way, but neither has made much impact. Wake turns 34 in January and might simply be in decline, but he has also been nursing a hamstring injury.
“Cam is getting healthier,” Coyle said, “and we hope that he’ll be back in his top form real soon.”
The back of the defense has issues, too. The Dolphins haven’t found a reliable cornerback to start opposite Pro Bowler Brent Grimes, and the replacements for injured safety Louis Delmas have also struggled.
A better pass rush would ease the strain on the secondary.
“We have one of the best defensive lines in the league,” safety Reshad Jones said. “Those guys will get going pretty soon.”
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