Byron Jones, Xavien Howard, and Kyle Van Noy are just some of the names Dolphins fans are excited about heading into 2020. But after a horrible 2019 campaign, is this excitement rational?
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Last season, the Dolphins ranked 30th in total yards allowed, 26th in passing yards allowed, 27th in rushing yards allowed, 32nd in points allowed, and they were tied for 28th in takeaways. Now, let’s argue why most of those numbers are useless.
For starters, Miami’s first half of the season skewed the Dolphins defensive statistics. In fact, the 163 points allowed in the Dolphins first four games accounted for 33 percent of the total points Miami gave up. In other words, 33 percent of all the points Miami allowed came in only 25 percent of Miami’s games.
Secondly, according to Sharp Football Stats, Miami’s defense was trending up to 18th in pass defense success and 10th in run defensive success for the last few weeks of the season which was up from their full season rankings at 31st and 25th respectively.
Plus, Miami ranked 11th best in preventing explosive runs, 14th best in defensive success when opponents targeted wide receivers, and 3rd best in defensive success when opponents targeted tight ends in the red zone.
Not to mention, the Dolphins ranked as the 7th most successful red zone defense in the second and third quarters, so it's not like the Dolphins defense was flat out terrible. They not only shined at times throughout the season, but in certain situations they were actually pretty good given the limited talent they had on the roster. Guys like Nik Needham and Vince Biegel really made a name for themselves, and established themselves as useful playmakers on the Dolphins defense.
Plus, the stats show that the Dolphins defense improved as the season progressed, showing that at some point good coaching and chemistry clicked into place. Yet, what do the Dolphins run defensively, and how does their scheme help them next season?
In 2019, Brian Flores implemented one of the most man heavy defenses in the NFL in Miami. The Dolphins rely on athletic football players who can be versatile and play all over the field. Flores gets his ideas from his time in New England under Bill Belicheck, and although Flores’ game plan struggled early on in the season, it held good offenses like the Colts, Eagles, and Patriots to losses.
Plus, the offseason acquisitions in the secondary really fit the man heavy scheme that Flores loves to play. Byron Jones is one of the elite man corners in the NFL, and Noah Igbonoghene was one of the best man coverage corners in the NFL draft. Plus, the Dolphins added Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy, both of whom played for Flores in New England, and therefore should transition smoothly to Miami.
Plus, the Dolphins added to their defensive line bringing in Raekwon Davis via the draft, who can add a playmaking presence to the interior of the Dolphins defensive front. But, bringing in Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah makes a huge difference as they are instant upgrades compared to last year’s pass rushers in Taco Charlton and Charles Harris. Lawson and Ogbah are both capable of 8-10 sack seasons, and after the Dolphins didn’t even have a guy over 5 sacks last year, having two capable edge rushers is a nice luxury.
All in all, Brian Flores proved to South Florida that his scheme worked last year. Now, with an improved defense thanks to free agency and the draft, Flores has the talent to make his defense succeed. Therefore, expect Miami’s defense to improve drastically in 2020; don’t be surprised if the Dolphins end up having a top fifteen or even top ten defense next season, as Miami has found the recipe for defensive success thanks to great coaching and young defensive talent.