5 most important Miami Dolphins defensive players entering 2016 season

Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) walks off field after win over the Redskins at FedExField in Landover, Maryland on September 13, 2015. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) walks off field after win over the Redskins at FedExField in Landover, Maryland on September 13, 2015. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

To say that the Miami Dolphins’ defense underperformed in 2015 would be an Ndamukong Suh-sized understatement.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle paid for the defense’s poor play with his job. With training camp set to begin later this month, we take a look at the five most important defensive players entering the season.

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Mario Williams: The newly signed defensive end is one of the Dolphins’ biggest question marks entering the season. After playing four seasons in Buffalo, Williams was released by the Bills following a 15 game, five sack 2015 campaign.

The 31-year-old is determined to recreate the success he had in 2014, when he had 14.5 sacks, and prove that his prime had yet to pass him. Williams signed a 2-year, $17 million contract in March and will line up opposite of Cam Wake in what, the Dolphins hope, is a rejuvenated pass rush.

Byron Maxwell: The Dolphins traded down in the draft while acquiring Maxwell, along with linebacker Kiko Alonso, from the Eagles in March. Maxwell has five years remaining on a $63 million contract that he signed with the Eagles last offseason.

The Legion of Boom alumni started 14 games last season, forcing two fumbles and intercepting two passes. So far in his tenure with the Dolphins, Maxwell has stood out in practices and has stated that he believes the Dolphins are a defensive team.

Kiko Alonso: Another piece sent to Miami in the Dolphins-Eagles trade, Alonso is in the last year of his rookie contract. The 25-year-old linebacker missed the entire 2014 season after tearing his ACL, but returned last year to make 43 tackles in 11 games, while also intercepting a pass.

The Dolphins will look for Alonso have a season comparable to his rookie year with the Bills in which he made 159 tackles while playing in 16 games.

Alonso’s health will be key to the success of the Dolphins defense and the projected starting middle linebacker claims that his past injuries are behind him.

Cam Wake: Age is a concern for the 34-year-old defensive end who inked a $15 million extension through 2017. Wake’s 2015 season was derailed by injury, yet he still made seven sacks in the seven games that he played.

Wake, who has played seven season in Miami, has been one of the team’s most reliable players, totaling 70 sacks in that time. The Dolphins will expect Wake to continue his production opposite of Mario Williams.

Reshad Jones: The 28-year-old Pro Bowl safety is coming off a career year in which he made 135 tackles, had two sacks and picked off five passes in 16 games. Jones will be looked to help anchor a Dolphins defense that expects to improve, despite the loss of Brent Grimes, after adding serval players this offseason.

The former Georgia Bulldog was made over 90 tackles in three of his last four season, eclipsing the 100 tackle mark in two of those years.

Jones missed a day of practice earlier this offseason during a contract dispute.

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