Though it may not seem like too much has changed on the surface, Miami’s new front line on defense will be very different. It is well-known that the Dolphins lost their best defensive end in free agency, Olivier Vernon. They were also without Cameron Wake for the latter part of the season thanks to a torn Achilles. Now Wake is back and hopefully healthy. Still, he is 34 years old and is on the tail end of his career. Wake has worked hard this off-season and he came on strong before the injury, recording 4 sacks in 2 games. Whether or not he can be on the field for every down is questionable.
Replacing the now Giant, Vernon, is Mario Williams. A former pro bowl defensive end, he was accused of quitting on the Buffalo Bills last season and collecting his money. Williams was said to have had differences with head coach Rex Ryan and his defensive scheme. So it was no surprise it didn’t work out there. He somehow winded up in Miami early on in free agency (before Olivier left). Williams is 31 years old and had a sub-par year last year with only 5 sacks and 19 tackles. However, at his best Williams can be a monster on opposing lines and he haunted the dolphins throughout his stay in Buffalo. That was probably why the Dolphins took a chance on him. He can’t be an upgrade over Vernon, but he can produce as much as him for a short time. He will look to prove everyone wrong and will fit the overall theme of redemption for this D-line.
The two end spots are covered and so are the tackles. Returning to also prove he made the right decision to come to Miami is Ndamukong Suh. The 115 million dollar man restructured his deal this summer to give the Phins some cap space. Suh was criticized early on in the season for not playing hard. It was understandable after both Head coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle were fired. Suh had his moments of dominance and flashed his old ways too. His stats were not bad and he commended double teams for the majority of games, opening lanes for other pass rushers. So he did do his job, but we know he can do better and getting after the QB while stuffing the run is his bread and butter. Joining Suh is a toss-up between Earl Mitchell and 2015 2nd round pick Jordan Phillips. Neither really impressed last season and Mitchell was a huge disappointment as the arrival of Suh was expected to really help him out. This could inevitably lead to the young Phillips overtaking the other DT spot if he can win the camp battle.
The Dolphins lacked any depth on the defensive line, and though they still have little tackles. they did sign a few DE’s. Besides loosing Vernon, they also lost valued back up Derrick Shelby. Jason Jones and Andre Branch are two veteran ends who were added to help back up Wake and Williams. Branch played well in his time with the Jaguars. Jones is familiar with the new defensive line coach and playing alongside Suh. So both are welcome and valued additions that will fortify the depth. The wildcards at this position and possible camp battles to watch are returning Terrence Fede, Chris McCain, and…Dion Jordan. Jordan is the infamous drug policy abuser who has been suspended twice now and sat all of last year. He was a high 3rd pick in the first round of 2013. He was thought to be a raw defensive end with great potential to get after the QB. Now he is seeking reinstatement and will look to re-earn his spot on the line. I feel like a drug free Jordan could really help bolster the depth on the line and possible give the Phins the youth they need to balance the age in the starters. Chris McCain played a lot of linebacker last year because of injuries. Now he hopefully return to the position that helped him make the team as an undrafted free agent in 2014. The Dolphins were 28th against the run last year and 25th in sack, so they need to get better since they can’t score. They wont be able to stop anyone either.
Thanks for reading and follow me on twitter for more. Next update we’ll look at the all-important QB situation and a rising threat.