I’m not worried about who we hire as Defensive Coordinator for our team. I’m pretty confident that anyone we bring in here will utilize the talent we have better than Josh Boyer did. I suppose you go with what got you there, and Boyer went down using that mantra. The Cover Zero blitz scheme is what he runs, and if he was going to lose, it wasn’t because he changed it up to something he hasn’t employed here. On the other hand, could you see the Tennessee Titans OC using RB Salvon Ahmed as his primary back and in their power running scheme and feeding Ahmed the ball 40 times in a game? Of course not, because you have to have the power back to utilize the scheme properly. With all the injuries to our secondary, it’s simple to point out that the players we had out there on the field at the end of the season, or even halfway through the season till the end, were not capable of being left out there to cover man to man with no help. The problem was compounded when we didn’t get pressure, despite using extra rushers. Xavien Howard had a poor season, he was not playing anywhere his former pro bowl level. We had Noah Igbinoghene, Justin Bethel, Keion Crossen (who played the entire season with a subluxated shoulder) and even safeties Elijah Campbell and Eric Rowe playing downs at CB. There’s a very good reason why our defense was one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.
I feel that whether we hire the ultra experienced Vic Fangio, less experienced Sean Desai, hire our own LB coach Anthony Campanile, or Kris Richards from the Bears, our defense is ready to flourish. The talent is undeniably there, with a plethora of good to excellent defensive lineman, starting with the excellent Christian Wilkins who is one of the finest interior defensive lineman in the game. When healthy, Emmanuel Ogbah is a stout pass rusher, consistently getting pressure. He hasn’t been a double digit sack guy, but he’s had 9 sacks twice, and probably would have exceeded that this season if he was healthy.Then there’s the ultimate lunch pail guy, Zach Sieler who had his best season as a Dolphin. Due to the Ogbah injury, Sieler got lots of playing time and made the most of it. Our most promising guy I’ve yet to mention, that’s OLB Jaelan Phillips. While Phillips sack total dropped 1.5 sacks from 8.5 to 7, he was all over QB’s this season with 25 QB hits. He also upped his tackle total by 19, and he’s a player that the opposing offense needs to account for. We added Bradley Chubb, and while he absolutely didn’t make the expected impact this season, this was a move for now and beyond. Chubb split the season with the Broncos for 8 games, and 8 games with the Dolphins. He had 5.5 sacks with Denver, yet just 2.5 with our Dolphins. He only played 59% of the snaps with us as opposed to 74% with Denver. I’d expect that to change significantly next season, no matter who our defensive coordinator is.
Our secondary was just riddled with injuries, some guys played the entire season at way less than 100%, such as Xavien Howard who battled groin injuries for a good part of the season. We lost S Brandon Jones in our 7th game. We lost one of my favorite players, DB Nik Needham in our 6th. We never had top cover corner CB Byron Jones, who elected to have ankle/achilles surgery in March, and although he was expected at the start of the season, it seems as if he pulled a “Will Fulller” on us, and sat out the entire season. There were some positives that came out of this, we unearthed a solid talent at CB in UDFA Kader Kohou. Kohou played in 15 games, starting 13 of them. While Kohou may not be the Jets Sauce Gardner, value wise, he’s pretty darn close. Garder, while being one of the top cover corners in 2022, his rookie season, he was drafted #4 overall, while the Dolphins signed Kader Kohou as an undrafted free agent. the jets will be paying Garder $7.6M next season while the Dolphins will be paying Kohou $870K. Someone is due for a raise! Eric Rowe did his best to replace Brandon Jones, but we clearly missed his impact. He’s currently rehabbing from his ACL surgery and should hopefully be ready at the start of the season. As far as Byron Jones is concerned, it’s unlikely he ever dons a Miami Dolphins uniform, especially carrying the current $18M + cap hit. He can be released post June 1st and save about $14M of his salary, and defer the cap hit to the next year. We’ll see on this one, but I just can’t see him back here.
ILB Elandon Roberts had a great season for us in ’22. Roberts led the team with 107 tackles, and was 2nd on the team with 10 TFL. I admittedly undervalued Roberts, and he may actually be a better fit if Vic Fangio gets the job. Fangio’s 4-3 defense, or “6-1” requires a thumper in the middle at MLB, and Roberts is just that, especially when compared to his ILB mate, #55 Jerome Baker. Baker had a solid season, notching 100 tackles for the 3rd time as a Dolphins LB, and adding 4 sacks. Roberts really impressed this season though, and though I thought of him more of a limited athlete, he made tackles sideline to sideline, and many times blew up plays in the backfield with speed and excellent technique tackling. If I were a defensive coordinator perusing at the Dolphins defensive roster, I’d be particularly excited about Wilkins, Phillips, Chubb and Holland. Holland had somewhat of a down year, having to play much different scheme wise with all of the injuries in the secondary. He’s a very instinctive player who I’m sure will be back in a role that better suits him next season. Chubb will thrive here, whoever takes the reins of this defense will have both he and Phillips over 10 sacks each, I’m almost certain of that. Phillips is such an impressive athletic specimen at 6’5 270, he’s going to get better, you can just see he’s ready to bust out.
One of the biggest questions in the secondary is can Xavien Howard be healthy enough to be a dominant cover corner? He was down in every category, starting with a career low 1 INT, playing in 15 games. He had 1 INT in 2019, but only played 5 games. He was also way down in passes defensed with 12, and I can tell you as someone who watched each and every game, he was targeted more this season than any other. He was targeted 80 times, and compare that to 106 for Kader Kohou, it’s not as much of a disparity as you would expect. He was toasted plenty this season. He needs to come back healthy next season, but of course a scheme change away from the “Cover Zero” will take a lot of pressure off all of our DB’s. We need our talented front 7 to be the predominant pass rushers, and we need them to be much more successful next season. Blitzing should be reduced substantially, and I think our secondary with that change alone, will be better. Expecting DB’s to cover one on one with no help, and not get to the QB after a few seconds is defensive suicide. It’s just not feasible. Besides the disadvantage it put our secondary in, how many times was our pass rush behind and approaching the QB, who then was able to step up and either throw for a completion, or simply gash us for big gains by running the football as a ballcarrier? Way too many is the answer, we all saw it happen, time and time again. That will be corrected as well, just by changing the defensive scheme.
Let’s face it, defense isn’t what it used to be, you can’t hit anymore, especially if it’s the QB, or a “defenseless receiver”. One positive is “Roughing the passer” calls will be able to be challenged next season, although at what rate these will be overturned remains to be seen. There were tons of egregious RTP calls made all over the NFL, but the sack by Jaelan Phillips on NFL precious QB Justin Herbert, when Jaelen Phillips hot Herbert, knocking him down, and in order not to injure the QB and land on him with his full body weight, spread his arms and cushioned his fall on the QB, like doing a push up. Of course, the flag came out immediately, and that’s precisely the type of call you’d expect to be challenged and overturned, but again, that remains to be seen. So whether we hire Fangio, Desai, Richards, or hire from within, Anthony Campanile, I feel like our defense will be considerable better next season, and if our QB, Tua Tagovailoa can stay healthy all season long, I like our chances next season!