Although this will probably be the “starting” front 7, LE William Hayes, LDT Davon Godchaux, RDT Jordan Phillips, RE Robert Quinn, WLB Kiko Alonso, MLB Raekwon McMillan and SLB Stephone Anthony, substitutions will be rampant. So many different personnel will be used on this defense, and basically the plan is to keep fresh bodies on the field when the offense has basic formations, and then to change up our defensive personnel to best match up with whatever formations the offense decides to throw out us, whether that’s 2 or 3 TE’s, 2,3,4 or even 5 WR’s or whatever, we will have players on the field that can handle it. So while the aforementioned 7 may get the start, it will probably be more like 15 or 16 players used depending on the situation, whether it’s rotating fresh players in on the D-line, or bringing in 3 safeties to cover an athletic TE and 2 WR’s, or a receiving RB like an Alvin Kamara.
It’s amazing me to how different the initial front 7 is from last year. The surprising success of Godchaux now enters the limelight next to returning veteran LE William Hayes, and next to him, the player who every year we hope will turn into a Pro Bowl DT , Jordan Phillips, and next to him, former All Pro DE Robert Quinn. Crazy, right? Add in the next wave of pass rushers, Cam Wake from the left side and occasionally Charles Harris too, and then Andre Branch on the right side, along with Charles Harris, and there is some pretty solid depth there. Akeem Spence will bolster the DT spot as “the next guy in”, and then there will be a battle for the 4th spot at DT, between Vincent Taylor, Gabe Wright, Jamiyus Pittman, and Anthony Moten. At DE, Cameron Malveaux showed flashes of promise, but it will be difficult to make the 53, unless of course one of the frontrunners is released or traded, like Andre Branch. At this point, the Dolphins might have that luxury, but as we know, things change quickly.
Even the Magnificent 7 is not set in stone, although I believe the starting DL I mentioned will be the one we see opening day as long as everyone is healthy. Jerome Baker and Chase Allen will be heavily into the competition for a LB spot, more than just special teams or pass coverage substitution assignments. Stephone Anthony is far from a lock at SLB, but I think he’s a slight favorite at the moment. He has the size, speed and athleticism to be the perfect SLB, but his instincts are lacking, so his reaction time slows down his 4.5 speed. Allen looks like a solid tackler, and we know Baker has better than average coverage skills, and he can chase and tackle sideline to sideline with great speed, but is he tough enough to to stay on the field? That’s a question that will be answered not only in training camp and the preseason, but all season long.
Is it possible our defense can be better without Ndamukong Suh? This guy thinks so. No longer will any player be out there for close to 900 snaps, it’s too exhausting, and even the best of the best wear down physically, even if they don’t get hurt, an exhausted All Pro isn’t better than a rested player, and I think we’re going to see that come true this season. Suh in all his glory was asked to do too much, and the fact that he took that on deserves much credit. I applaud him for what he gave to this team. Despite that, he was only a leader by example, not a leader, and not a player that bonded with his teammates, he was more of a hired assassin, not part of a mob. With more fresh bodies on the field, I think we’ll see our defense kick it up a notch.
It’s been very exciting to hear that in OTA’s (Yes, they’re only OTA’s) that MLB Raekwon McMillan has been the leader we’ve needed, for the defense, directing traffic, making sure players are properly aligned to what the offense was doing. Honestly, I can’t wait to see him play this season. OK, not sure how many words I’ve typed and I haven’t brought up Minkah Fitzpatrick yet! True, this is a front 7 article, but Minkah will be such a big part of our defense this year, and I believe he will be used extensively this season, right out of the gate. You want your best players out there, and I assure you he will be one our best. Who cares whether it’s at FS, S, CB, NB, LB, just get this kid on the field! The more I look at the players we have available this year, the more excited I get. I’m not sure if this defense will be great immediately, but I think it has potential to be. In addition to the front 7, if the safety trio, Reshad, Minkah and T.J., as well as the starting corners, whether that’s Xavien, Tank or Lippett and Bobby Mac do their jobs, I think we could be a surprise this season. Can’t wait to get it on!