Ball! Ball! Ball! Miami Dolphins CB Byron Maxwell is a turnover machine

Miami Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell (41) is congratulated by outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins (53), and free safety Michael Thomas (31) after Maxwell swatted down a pass intended for San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith (82), during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Miami Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell has improved dramatically. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

DAVIE — No NFL defensive back has more forced fumbles this season than Byron Maxwell of the Miami Dolphins, with four.

No defensive back in the history of the Miami Dolphins has ever had more than four forced fumbles in a season.

“Ball, ball, ball,” Maxwell said this week.

In each of the last two games, Maxwell has forced a fumble.

In the second quarter against San Francisco, Maxwell held up and stripped tight end Garrett Celek, forcing a fumble recovered by linebacker Kiko Alonso.


Miami Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell has forced nine fumbles in his career and already has a career-high four this season. Here, he strips Garrett Celek.

In the fourth quarter against Baltimore, Maxwell punched the ball out of the hands of tight end Dennis Pitta, who had been torturing the Dolphins secondary.

“I saw a little air,” Maxwell said.


Miami Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell says he’s always computing when to attempt a safer tackle and when to try to make something happen by punching the ball out, like here on Dennis Pitta.

Maxwell’s play has improved dramatically since the beginning of his first Miami season.

Constantly challenged by opposing offensive coordinators, Maxwell has improved as a pass defender, now tied for sixth in the league with 14 passes defended.

Maxwell has also improved as a tackler. Coaches say he’s putting in extra work in conditioning and film study.

After a victory at Los Angeles, coaches complimented Maxwell’s play.

“But I didn’t get the ball,” he told a reporter.

Well, in three of the past four games, he’s taken the ball.

A forced fumble and interception against Baltimore. A forced fumble against San Francisco. And an interception at San Diego.

Even when Maxwell hasn’t been perfect in his career, he’s still a threat to create a turnover.

“He emphasizes it,” Dolphins safety Isa Abdul-Quddus said. “You can tell when he goes to make a play, he goes to get the ball out. It’s not just enough to get him on the ground, he wants the ball. And that’s what makes him a great player.”

Punching the ball out of Pitta’s hands is a vintage Maxwell play, perfected when he played in the Seattle Seahawks’ vaunted “Legion of Doom” secondary.

“There is a certain way a guy holds the ball and you could tell on tape,” Maxwell said. “I’ve gotten in trouble the last couple of years because I’ve been thinking ball, ball, ball. But I had to switch it up. I had to get tackles. And then if the opportunity comes, then I take it. That’s what I’ve learned. But you see a little air and you just go for it. You might get it. Who knows.”

Maxwell said former Bears defensive back Charles “Peanut” Tillman was one of the first to actually punch the ball.

“He really was a guy that around the league, cornerbacks starting thinking, ‘Man we could do this.'” Maxwell said. “And you know, you look at the technique. It’s one more way to get the ball. And that’s what this game is about, playmakers.”

Dolphins defensive back Michael Thomas said he would like Maxwell to speak with all the defensive backs about differnet techniques he’s used to strip, pry and punch the football loose.

“He has a knack for that,” Thomas said. “He does it every day at practice. He’s a natural at it. I love it. I benefit from it. I always love when he gets the ball.”

Many times this season, Miami’s defense has been on the field too long.

This week, Arizona coach Bruce Arians said the Cardinals are 5-6-1 despite a #2 defensive ranking and #9 offensive ranking in the NFL, because of a poor turnover ratio.

The Cardinals and Dolphins are both +1 in giveaway/takeaway margin, but Arizona is usually much better.

With Carson Palmer, David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald to contend with on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium, a timely turnover — perhaps even a strip fumble or punched fumble by Maxwell — could actually decide the game.

“Max can come out of nowhere and make a great play,” Abdul-Quddus said. “Stealing posessions is one of the main things we want to do, because it gives our offense an extra chance. And it saves our legs.”

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