Miami Dolphins’ once-frightful run defense now plays with ‘no fear,’ Ndamukong Suh says

Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints tackled by Kiko Alonso of the Dolphins as Lawrence Timmons (94) and Andre Branch (50) look on. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

DAVIE — The Tennessee Titans have two of the top 25 rushers in the NFL, not to mention the possibility of a quarterback who can take off running at any time.

“Put no fear in my heart,” Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said Wednesday.

Suh can say that. Now. Whether he would have or could have said that last year is debatable. Teams were too busy running over and through the Dolphins for anyone to do any talking.

Even though three games is a tiny sample size, the contrast is startling.

This year: No. 5 against the run, 77.7 yards allowed per game.

Last year: No. 30 against the run, 140.4 yards allowed.

“We know last year, that wasn’t us, no matter if people made excuses about it being our first year together,” defensive end Andre Branch said. “At the end of the day, run defense is man against man and for us to stop the run, it just shows that everyone has pretty much owned up to their mistakes and everybody’s just doing their job.”

In a struggle of man against man, it’s not hard to imagine the feeling when, say, Buffalo is rushing for 272 yards against you, which happened in December. Or when every team in the second half of the season is rushing for at least 100 yards. Or when you’re giving up a team-record 2,247 rushing yards for the season.

“It’s tough when you check the stats, when you see a team has X amount of rushing yards,” Branch said. “It is frustrating because you practice your tail off and then you don’t get the results that you want.”

One sign that stopping the run has been a point of emphasis came from tackle Davon Godchaux as he discussed the Titans.

“We’ve got a big challenge,” Godchaux said. “Last year they rushed all over the Dolphins.”

Godchaux knew that even though a year ago, he was playing for LSU. But he was right. Last season, the Titans rushed for 235 yards in a 30-17 victory that dropped Miami to 1-4. The Dolphins managed to turn things around and make the playoffs even though teams continued to run all over them.

But it was clear something had to change.

“Guys just getting to the ball,” safety Reshad Jones said. “We’re fitting up. Guys are getting in their gaps and being where they need to be.”

Adding Godchaux has made a difference. So has the arrival of end William Hayes. And, now, linebacker Lawrence Timmons.

“Fury, fire and big hits,” Suh said of Timmons. “He’s a guy that obviously comes downhill. I love him and enjoy him playing behind me. I look forward to him continuing to progress in our defense and play off us as defensive linemen up front.”

One could argue that the run defense’s numbers are better because the pass defense ranks 27th, meaning teams haven’t had to run so much. But even when teams have tried to run, they haven’t gotten far, averaging 3.07 yards per carry compared to 4.8 last season. And that’s taking into account that one of their opponents was the Jets, who are seventh in the NFL in rushing.

Still, the Dolphins are 1-2. Getting support from the offense Sunday would be nice, because shutting out the Titans doesn’t seem realistic. Tennessee brings DeMarco Murray, the 17th-leading rusher with 215 yards (and a 5.1 average), and Derrick Henry, 25th with 178 yards (4.6).

“Both of them hit the holes hard,” Hayes said. “Murray might be a little bit more agile but they both get that ball and try to get yards after contact. They look for contact. It’s not like they shy away from it.”

Besides Murray and Henry, quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was limited in practice Wednesday with a hamstring injury, has rushed for 116 yards and three touchdowns.

“I think they’re a physical team but at the end of the day, put no fear in my heart,” Suh said. “I know as well as any other guy on my team and looking at those guys and their eyes, nobody is scared of them being physical or whatever. We embrace the challenge. We look forward to it. Like I said, I think you can see it in my face.”

[Mike Pouncey says team is full of fury after two losses]

[Adam Gase: Jay Cutler isn’t 25 anymore]

[Dolphins’ offensive line isn’t giving Jay Ajayi much room to breathe]

[Yell for Matt Moore all you want. Adam Gase can’t hear you]

[Kenny Stills, on Vegas tragedy: Enough talk. It’s time to find solutions]

[CB Torry McTyer’s girlfriend works at Mandalay Bay, barricaded herself]

 

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

Reader Comments 0

0 comments