DAVIE — Tom Brady is usually difficult to sack, but even if he’s not dropped a few times on Sunday, Miami Dolphins defensive end Andre Branch believes he can help disrupt the flow of the New England Patriots’ offense.
“Having a dirty pocket is what we preach, making sure there is pressure on him all game,” Branch said. “And hit him legally, when it’s time to hit him, and just keep rushing relentless.”
The Dolphins are right in the middle of the NFL with 33 sacks. But Miami leads the NFL with 126 team quarterback hurries, according to SportingCharts.
In fact, Miami has three players in the top 34 of quarterback hurries: Cameron Wake (24), Ndamukong Suh (20) and Branch (19).
Sacks? They’ve done that, too.
Wake has 11.5, Branch has 5.5 and Suh has 5.0.
“You know, as a defensive line it’s not just me and Cam, but everybody, Suh and Jordan (Phillips) and Earl (Mitchell), so we work together and if one person is getting doubled or two people are getting doubled that mean basically somebody is 1-on-1 so we always harp on winning our 1-on-1 matchups,” Branch said. “And we expect that out of our room. We have a ton of talent. We see ourselves as leaders. And we don’t want to let our brothers down. So we have to play at a high level each and every week.”
Branch is showing humility. But the insertion of Branch and Wake into the starting lineup has prompted a 9-1 Dolphins run.
Another crazy set of stats:
•The Dolphins are 10-0 in games in which Wake has at least a half-sack.
•The Dolphins are 6-0 in games in which Branch has at least a half-sack.
What Branch has brought is relentless energy. He is one of the most important emotional leaders of the defense. He also helps keep the locker room loose with a unbridled sense of humor.
After four seasons with the Jaguars, Branch signed a one-year deal which makes him the 42nd-highest paid defensive end in the NFL. He’ll be due a raise after this productive season.
In November, Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph was asked about why Branch was producing at a high level.
“I think Andre Branch is a talented guy,” Joseph said. “He was when we signed him. He’s been a guy over the years that hadn’t been consistent. Now he’s being more consistent. He’s playing with a tougher attitude. He’s not avoiding contact up the field. He’s working with the tackles. He’s playing the run game well. He’s in a contract year. He wants a long-term deal somewhere, so I don’t blame him. You play well and you get your long-term security. He’s a guy that’s a top-round pick. He should be a good player because he’s talented enough.”
This week, Branch downplayed the contract-year narrative.
“My mindset is to get better each and every day no matter what the circumstances were,” Branch said. “I didn’t have a mindset because it was a one-year. If it was a five-year or a ten-year or one-year or one-month, I’m going to give it my all regardless each and every day, grind each and every day. And live with the results.”
Would he like to stay in Miami long-term?
“Definitely,” Branch said on Friday. “I feel like this is a great defense, a great team and a great environment here in Miami. I’m just focused on the Patriots right now. And whatever happens, happens.”
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