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DAVIE (CBSMiami/AP) — It’s been an interesting, and in many ways surprising, first two weeks of the NFL season.
Ndamukong Suh’s not laughing at the Miami Dolphins’ front four anymore.
The five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle poked fun at his former team’s run defense on Instagram during the exhibition season. But after two games — both wins — the run defense appears better without Suh.
Miami is allowing 3.3 yards per rush, which ranks third in the NFL. That’s a big improvement over last year’s average of 4.1, which ranked 16th.
And while the pass rush has totaled only three sacks, Miami has mustered enough pressure to force five interceptions, which is tied for the league lead entering Sunday’s game against Oakland.
It has been a collective effort to replace Suh, with all nine defensive linemen on the roster seeing significant playing time.
“Those guys have done a good job,” coach Adam Gase said Wednesday. “They’re doing well as a unit. I love the fact that they’re all contributing.”
In last week’s win at the Jets , eight defensive linemen had at least one tackle. The ninth — Charles Harris — had a sack negated by penalty.
The front four totaled 21 tackles, including nine for losses.
“We’re just trying to be great,” said tackle Davon Godchaux, who had six tackles. That’s a total Suh reached only once last year.
When asked if the Dolphins miss Suh, Godchaux responded with laughter.
“Y’all are going to give me a trick question,” he chortled as he walked away.
Following the offseason departure of Suh and several other star players, Gase said the locker room culture had improved. And he said the rotation system with the front four is working better than in his first two seasons.
Godchaux shares time with tackles Jordan Phillips, Vincent Taylor and Akeem Spence.
“We’re definitely buying into it,” Godchaux said. “Everybody is a starter. We don’t look at it as if a guy is a backup. We label all nine guys as starters.”
Better depth and shared snaps could help the Dolphins avoid a repeat of last year’s collapse in the run defense. Over the final 10 weeks they allowed 127 yards per game rushing — and won only twice.
There’s already a difference in how fresh the front four looks. Gase notes a particular improvement in passing situations.
“That’s the thing I love about when we get to third down,” he said. “We’ve got four guys going out there that are ready to rush the passer.”
The top pass rushers are Cameron Wake, who is 36 but seems ageless, and veteran newcomer Robert Quinn. Between them they have seven Pro Bowl berths.
“The addition of Quinn is huge,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “He has given them supreme effort opposite Cameron Wake. And they have a very good unit inside that can generate pressure as well. It’s a combination of new players, new energy and the scheme. It’s fun to watch them. Unfortunately we’ve got a lot of work to do to get ready.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)