No more Ndamukong Suh. He’s in Los Angeles, supposedly next to Aaron Donald, who’s holding out. If I haven’t read at least 20 articles written by writers outside of FLA who work for major companies as ESPN, CBS, NFL.com etc that proclaim that because Suh is gone, this defense just can’t be any good. Let’s face facts, this Dolphins defense wasn’t that good with him, so to say his loss will be monumental doesn’t register for me. Enough of Suh, because we’re looking at what we DO have, not what we don’t. As has been said ad nauseam, we’re going to be rotating players on the D-line much more than we have in the past, specifically in the NS era, where he played 971 snaps a season, which is just too much, even for a top 5 DT in the NFL.
Honestly, I say this with no malice, but I think it’s very possible that an average football fan from a different team might not be able to name 1 DT on our current roster. There are no “stars”, and besides the Akeem Spence, who we picked up in a trade with the Lions for a 2019 conditional 7th RD pick, our oldest DT at the moment is 25 years old, and that’s probably our most talented one, Jordan Phillips. With the current philosophy of heavy rotation, the pressure won’t fall on one particular player, although Jordan Phillips will be expected to play at a higher level now, as he’s now “the man”. Let’s take a look at who we have . . .
Jordan Phillips DT – 6’6 341 – 25YO
The 2015 2nd RD pick (Pick#52) came to the Dolphins with a reputation as a DT who has all the physical gifts you could ask for, except the “inconsistent motor” tag. Oh, the dreaded on/off switch and the always included “if this guy ever decides he wants to play, watch out!”. He’s had 3 seasons of “cruising in my opinion, he hasn’t really shown himself to be a consistent player, still “showing flashes”, but nothing totally tangible to grab at. Maybe if he’s rotating in and out more, he’ll give better effort while he’s out there, and I’m sure the coaches are hoping for just that. It’s like a starting pitcher who is thrown into the bullpen, he can just let go for a couple of innings and throw as hard as he can, because he doesn’t have to try and go 9 innings, only 2. 58 total tackles (37 solo) and 4.5 sacks tells me he’s been playing to stay fresh for 9 innings. Time to go out there and kill it every snap young man!
Davon Godchaux DT – 6’3 315 23YO
Godchaux was such a pleasant surprise last season. Last year’s 5th RD pick (178th) had a very promising season. This kid has a great motor, and the results are there to see. He can tackle too, and last year, Godchaux finished with 40 tackles (26 solo). That’s production. Godchaux didn’t register a sack, but I saw him around the QB just missing a few times. This kid has me hopeful, but I love the overachievers. I thought Godchaux showed some good explosion, but he also needs to be more disciplined, as I saw him offsides quite a few times. Those penalties are killer, and I’m sure the coaches are working with him. I look for a little growth from Godchaux, and maybe even a couple of sacks this season.
Akeem Spence DT – 6’1 307 26YO
Spence is the grizzled veteran here, at the old age of 26. This just goes to show you how young this DT rotation is now. Spence is a 5 year veteran who came up with Tampa Bay Bucs for 4 seasons, and played for the Detroit Lions last season. Dolphins DL coach Kris Kocurek was in Detroit last year, and liked Spence, so the Dolphins brought him in. Spence is a capable player who’s used to being rotated in. Last season with the Lions, Spence had a nice season, 39 total tackles (19 solo) along with 3 sacks. Pretty solid for a 3rd guy in, which just goes to show you the potential effectiveness of rotating players more often. I think Spence fits in perfectly here, a guy who knows how to play the game, teach the young guys, doesn’t have a “ME” attitude, and has the ability to start if necessary. Great pickup!
Vincent Taylor DT – 6’3 306 24YO
The Dolphins drafted Taylor in the 6th RD last season, and I think they got exceptional value from 2 DT’s taken in the 5th and 6th RD’s. Taylor didn’t play as much as Godchaux, but this year he will be in the running for some more snaps, provided he earns them. Taylor played in 13 games, finishing with 18 total tackles (11 solo). He’s not definitely in, but I think it’s Taylor’s spot to lose at this point.
Gabe Wright DT – 6’3 309 26YO
Wright is a former 2015 4th RD pick by the Detroit Lions. He is definitely at the crossroads here, this being his 3rd team in 3 years in the NFL. The Lions waived him after spending a 4th RD pick on him in early September 2016. He played in 7 games his rookie season, but was unimpressive. The Browns picked him up and put him on their PS. The Browns finally activated Wright in 2016 after appearing in just 5 games, and then the Browns waived him. The Eagles signed Wright of June 2017, then cut him in September. The Dolphins signed Wright at that point and signed him to the PS, where he was finally activated the last game of the season in ’17. This kid has work to do, and he better get at it fast, or he won’t be long for the NFL, which in some cases means Not For Long. BTW, Wright was a projected 2nd or 3rd RD pick in the 2015 draft.
Jamiyus Pittman DT – 6’1 319 23 YO
Pittman was an UDFA pickup this season after he played right in our backyard at Central Florida. Piitman played both outside and inside at CF, but he will definitely be inside as a DT in the pros. Pittman is going to have to play his best football if he wants to crack this roster. Depending on how many DT’s we carry, last year we carried 4 last season, but keep in mind that DE William Hayes moves to DT in some packages. If we do carry 4, that means Pittman will have to leapfrog both Wright and Taylor, a tall order. If we carry 5, which is pretty likely, especially if the plan is to keep rotating players in, he has a better shot. Pittman was pretty productive at CF, finishing with 138 total tackles (66 solo) along with 13 sacks in 4 seasons.
Anthony Moten DT – 6’4 315 23 YO
Moten is another UDFA that played in FLA, Moten played for the Hurricanes. Moten was a part time player at Miami, not a starter, but that’s fine considering he would just be part of the rotation early on. Moten was not a combine invitee. Moten played in 27 games in 4 seasons at Miami, finishing with 38 total tackles (14 solo) along with 1.5 sacks. Moten is obviously a longshot to make the cut.
So that’s where we stand at DT. It’s still possible we pick up a veteran after early season cuts, but my guess is we probably carry 5 DT’s, and I think those will be Phillips, Godchaux, Spence, Taylor, and whichever DT shows the most in the preseason. Wright has the pedigree, and this could be his last chance to get his career in gear, so I give him the slight edge, with Pittman right behind him.