Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh refuses to put parameters on what he considers his prime and, after another strong year in 2017, it looks like he’s still going to be near the top of his profession for a while.
Suh, who plays arguably the most physically demanding position on the field and does so while regularly facing multiple blockers, was fourth on the team with 83.8 percent of the defensive snaps this season according to Pro Football Reference’s tracking. He’s played between 83-86 percent all three years for the Dolphins, showing no dropoff from the 81-86 percent of the snaps he took his last three seasons in Detroit.
“I’ve been built to play each and every snap,” said Suh, who did so in the win over New England this year. “I pride myself on that.”
Second-year cornerback Xavien Howard led the team in defensive playing time this year and was on the field 97.2 percent of the snaps. That’s a big jump from his rookie year, when he missed more than half the season due to injury.
Linebacker Kiko Alonso led the team at 91.1 percent in 2016 and followed it by playing 96.4 percent of the snaps this season.
Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones was second to Howard, which was a significant milestone after being derailed by a rotator cuff injury last season. He played 97.1 percent of the defensive plays, matching the 97 percent he was at when he was healthy in 2015.
“It was a long offseason, a lot of hard work and dedication,” Jones said. “I had to sacrifice a lot. It means a lot knowing my shoulder held up a full season. I played well. I made a lot of plays for this team.”
He’s led Miami in tackles and made the Pro Bowl in each of his last two healthy seasons.
Cameron Wake got some additional validation for his comeback from an even tougher injury and cashed in on a $1 million contract incentive by playing at least 55 percent of the defensive snaps. He had that pretty much wrapped up before the season finale and finished at 58.3.
He played 51 of 79 snaps in the game at Kansas City when Miami was fighting desperately to stay alive in the playoff chase.
Wake topped 50 percent last year, too, despite coming off the bench the first five games. In two seasons since the ruptured Achilles tendon that threatened his career, he has been on the field for all 32 games, played 1,199 snaps, gotten 65 tackles, 22 sacks and five forced fumbles.
The reverse happened with Andre Branch, who looked good in 2016 with 4.5 sacks and earned a three-year, $24 million contract in the offseason. His playing time dropped from 67.1 last year to 53.6 percent largely because he struggled with injuries for at least half the season. If Branch, 28, comes back healthy next season, there’s good cause to believe he’ll rebound.
“It’s tough because you’re limited, and people don’t see that,” he said. “They just want things to be done and they have no clue what you’re going through. But at the end of the day, it’s a part of football. It’s a very brutal sport, and you’ve gotta battle through injuries.”
DAVIE — Linebacker Kiko Alonso offers a lot to the Dolphins’ defense.
Defensive coordinator Matt Burke wanted to make that clear Wednesday. We know because Burke said Alonso has “a lot” of responsibilities 10 times when asked about Alonso’s effectiveness in pass coverage.
The question came up after Alonso was exposed twice by Tampa Bay to open Sunday’s game, allowing completions of 22 and 24 yards to tight end O.J. Howard. By game’s end, Alonso was targeted 11 times and allowed 10 receptions for 138 yards, according to Pro Football Focus.
And, by the way, get ready for All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski to be attacking Miami’s defense on Sunday when the Dolphins visit New England. Gronkowski has 41 receptions for 619 yards (15.1 average), five touchdowns and 10 receptions of 20 or more yards.
“I honestly think he’s been pretty good,” Burke said of Alonso. “I mean, he probably had a couple of squirrelly busts last week, but in general he’s done a really good job.”
Burke tries to be understanding when those busts occur because of Alonso’s workload.
“We put a lot on Kiko Alonso,” Burke said. “He does a lot for this defense. He does a lot for me as a play-caller. He gets a lot of people lined up. He makes a lot of checks. We always basically put him on the hardest matchup possible, period. So we’re going to put him in spots that are tough for him at times and he’s going to have his moments.
“But I’m happy with the way he’s performed so far, for sure.”
Alonso leads the Dolphins with 69 total tackles. He also has a sack and forced two fumbles, one of which was returned for a touchdown by Reshad Jones.
This season, Alonso has been targeted 59 times in coverage and allowed 48 receptions, second-most among 4-3 outside linebackers, according to PFF. He has given up three touchdowns.
DAVIE—The NFL never asked Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso for his side of the story regarding his hit that gave Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco a concussion last week, and it didn’t need to do so. The play did not merit a suspension, so Alonso and the organization raised no objection.
Alonso is cleared to play Sunday against the Raiders, as is Flacco for Baltimore’s game at Tennessee. He is out of the concussion protocol.
Alonso expressed concern for Flacco the night of the hit and was relieved to see this week that he wouldn’t miss a game. They are on good terms after a brief exchange during the past week.
“Yeah, I texted him and said, ‘Man, I hope you’re alright,’” Alonso said. “He said he’s feeling good. He wasn’t upset.”
Alonso declined to say whether he was fined for the hit, offering only a coy shoulder shrug. All said regarding a potential penalty was that he felt the league treated him fairly by not suspending him.
His version of the play was that Flacco waited too long to slide and left him no choice but to hit him. He put his shoulder directly into his head, knocking his helmet off.
Beyond that, it’s been a good week for Alonso as the Dolphins try to put the shame of their 40-0 loss behind them. The extended weekend break wasn’t the same as having a bye week, but he does feel fresher than usual heading into the Oakland game.
“Yeah, I feel great,” he said. “I think everyone feels good.”
The play drew a range of reactions. Critics said Alonso should be fined and suspended and should have been ejected. Others cited the bang-bang nature of a play that left Alonso with few options.
Gase said Flacco’s late slide put Alonso “in a tough spot” because he couldn’t be sure if Flacco was giving himself up.
“He’s kind of waiting to see what’s he going to do, what’s he going to do,” Gase said. “And then when he’s sliding his body is not like a true slide that you normally see. He’s kind of half in, half out.
“So it’s a tough play to tell a guy what to do. If he completely stays away from him and all of a sudden he keeps running and goes head first and gets the first down, then we all go, ‘What are you doing? Finish the play.’ And he comes in like that and Joe slides, I don’t think Kiko was trying to do anything maliciously.”
The play fired up the Ravens, some of whom saw it differently. Tackle Austin Howard called it an unnecessary blindside shot, adding, “I hope the NFL takes the correct actions.”
The football world has been heatedly discussing whether Kiko Alonso’s hit that knocked Joe Flacco out of Thursday night’s Miami Dolphins-Baltimore Ravens tilt with a concussion was dirty. The Ravens went on to dust the Dolphins 40-0, but it was Alonso’s hit that was the main talking point.
Late in the first half, with the Ravens driving into Miami territory, Flacco took off on a scramble and was nearing a first down when he slid. Alonso, seemingly half-expecting the slide, launched himself at Flacco and nailed him in the head with his arm, knocking off the quarterback’s helmet and spurring a melee that lasted several seconds.
The referees flagged Alonso for a personal foul, but the linebacker was not ejected. After the game, Alonso called it a “bang-bang” play, but told reporters that Flacco’s slide came a smidge later than he anticipated.
“I just think it was a second late, which is why I hit him,” he said. “… At first I was anticipating I thought he was going to slide. And then it got to a point where I was like, ‘I got to (hit) him,’ because he slid too late.”
According to ESPN, it was the first personal-foul penalty whistled against Alonso in his four-year NFL career.
Even Ravens coach John Harbaugh got into Alonso’s face after the play, and the two could clearly be seen screaming at each other. Alonso said he told Harbaugh, “Man, it was bang-bang. I don’t know what else I could’ve done.” Harbaugh did not comment on it after the game beyond saying it was penalized correctly.
Viewers of every ilk blew up Twitter suggesting that Alonso should have been ejected from the game, fined, suspended … or even worse.
But several analysts took Alonso’s side, including ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.
The outspoken Smith admitted that it’s understandable to want to protect the NFL’s quarterbacks, as they’re the faces of the league, but he stopped short of calling for a suspension.
“I didn’t think the hit was as egregious as Ravens players tried to make it out to be,” he said Friday morning. “Was it a little late? Probably so. But I thought that … (Flacco) slid a little bit too late and his upper body was still a touch erect.
“I just look at it as one of those situations where, obviously, if you have an opportunity to get a hit on a quarterback, you’re going to take advantage of that…. Kiko Alonso was obviously, definitely trying to do that. I thought that the hit to the head … obviously you could say that it was a bit excessive, but again I thought that Flacco slid a little bit late. And because of that, I thought Kiko was in position to make the argument that it was somewhat unavoidable.”
Smith reiterated that you need to protect the quarterbacks, “err on the side of caution,” and as a result, he was in favor of Alonso receiving a fine, “but I don’t think a suspension is warranted here or anything of that nature.”
So what do you think? Was it a dirty hit? Should Alonso be fined or suspended for his actions? Is it fair that Flacco was knocked out of the game, but Alonso continued to play on?
Vote here, and send us your thoughts in the comments section below or on Facebook.
BALTIMORE—There’s little chance Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso will be able to talk his way out of a punishment from the NFL after what he did to Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.
Late in the second quarter of Miami’s 40-0 loss in Baltimore, Flacco scrambled on a nine-yard run and as he slid, Alonso drilled him in the head hard enough to knock his helmet off. Flacco exited the game and is now in the league’s concussion protocol.
Alonso defended the hit, saying Flacco slid as late as possible and left him no choice but to go for the tackle.
“I was wondering, is he gonna slide?” Alonso said. “And then it got to a point where I’m like, ‘I’ve gotta hit him,’ because he slid too slate. It was bang-bang.”
Joe Flacco in cocussion protocol after this hit by Kiko Alonso. #TNF#MIAvsBAL
The play drew a personal foul penalty for Alonso and spilled into a skirmish near the Ravens sideline.
It started with Baltimore center Ryan Jensen, who shoved Alonso to the ground and pounced on him. It got bad enough that a referee was taken down.
The incident continued with Baltimore coach John Harbaugh and Alonso screaming at each other. Alonso said he told Harbaugh, “Man, it was bang-bang. I don’t know what else I could’ve done.” Harbaugh did not comment on it beyond saying it was penalized correctly.
Alonso hadn’t seen the video immediately after the game, but was aware of the damage it did to Flacco. He regretted the impact of the hit.
“Yeah, well, I hope he’s alright,” he said. “You hate to see that happen to people. I truly hope he’s OK.”
BALTIMORE–Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso delivered a questionable blow to Joe Flacco’s head on a quarterback slide, knocking him out of tonight’s game against the Ravens.
Flacco rolled right and took off on a nine-yard run before Alonso hit him with his forearm. The play took place near the Ravens’ sideline and started a melee between the two teams with 3:14 remaining in the second quarter.
Baltimore center Ryan Jensen shoved Alonso, then tackled him. Line judged Jeff Seeman was taken down as the players fought. At one point, Ravens coach John Harbaugh got in Alonso’s face and they screamed at each other. Alonso also had to be separated from Ravens wide receiver Jeremy Maclin after the incident had mostly been settled down.
Alonso was hit with a 15-yard personal foul, but he got off easy compared to Flacco. The Ravens quarterback was immediately taken to the locker room and is now in the league’s concussion protocol. Prior to going down, he was 10 of 15 for 101 yards with a touchdown pass.
Ryan Mallett came in for Flacco and finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Benjamin Watson to put the Ravens ahead 20-0 just before halftime.
Baltimore announced Flacco is definitively out for the game.
Highlights of Falcons coach Dan Quinn’s conference call with the South Florida media on Wednesday:
On Jay Cutler: “When you play a quarterback who’s played 12 years and seen it all, it’s tough to disguise and change up looks on him. He seems like a quarterback, when you know the coverage and where he wants to go with the ball, that’s been impressive to me. Through the years I’ve always been impressed by the release where he not only has the mental quickness to know where to go with the throw, but the physical quickness to get it out as well.”
On how to deal with turmoil when you’re a head coach: Quinn related how he learned from watching how Nick Saban, Steve Mariucci and Pete Carroll handled difficult times: “That’s the time as an assistant coach that you really watch and you see the head coaches at the time at their best and you maybe learn some lessons along the way, that if your opportunity came another time, that you’d certainly be ready for that.”
On crisis management: “As far as dealing with the crisis, everybody looks to you as the head coach and you want to make sure you’re coming across to your team in the right way and have the answers to whatever solution needs to come. You always want to understand as the leader, they are looking to you. … I was so impressed working with Nick during my time in Miami. I loved it. It was kind of like going to grad school for football.”
On performances by Kiko Alonso and Reshad Jones vs. the Titans: What a game by Alonso. He’s got length at linebacker and he’s got ball skills. He can pick it. He has great instincts and really, when the tackles were there to be made, he was really secure in that. And then as far as Reshad goes, they’ve done a real fine job of disguising when he blitzes, when he’s playing zone. They like to use him down in the box, much like we do with Keanu (Neal) and I think, when you talk about featuring players, that’s kind of what I’m talking about. Anytime you score on defense, you know you’re doing some things well. It was a terrific hit that forced the fumble. I thought great awareness where some players on both sides were standing around and it was real awareness to say, ‘You know what? I’m going to let the refs decide this.’ ”
On Falcons receiver Julio Jones, who is coming off a hip flexor injury: We just got done with our walk-through and he looks like he’s moving good an exploding and that’s the name of his game, where he can really explode. For whatever reason our bye came at the right time for us. We had a few guys that were banged up and Julio was one of those. We’ll take it through he week but I’m encouraged by what I see so far. But until we see him really opening up and exploding, that’s when we know. The good news for me as an evaluator is I wish people could see how he practices: It’s full speed, wide open and hauling. Our DBs are better because of it. The example he sets as a professional ballplayer really stands out here.”
DAVIE — We’ve been told the “tape don’t lie.” Well, neither do numbers, and here are the most interesting stats about the Dolphins as they prepare for a challenging trip to Atlanta on Sunday:
Offensive rankings in total offense (231.3 yards per game), passing offense (156.5 yards), scoring (10.3 points) and third-down offense (25.0 percent)
Major categories in which the Falcons’ offense ranks in the NFL top 10: total offense (4th, 388.3), passing (7th, 262.5), rushing (8th, 125.8), scoring (8th, 26.0), fewest sacks allowed (8th, 8), third-down offense (8th, 43.2 percent)
Key category where Falcons’ offense ranks last in the NFL: red-zone (20.0 percent)
Dolphins’ third-down percentage in opener vs. Chargers (5 of 13)
Dolphins’ third-down percentage in three games since (7 of 35)
Points scored by Dolphins in second quarter
Points allowed in first quarter
Jay Cutler’s average yards per game in 4 meetings vs. Falcons, with 99.4 passer rating, 6 TDs, 3 interceptions and a 3-1 record
Percentage of drop-backs in which Cutler has been under pressure, sixth-most in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. His completion percentage under pressure is 39.5, ranking 27th
Last time Dolphins won in Atlanta. Have played there only 4 times, losing in 1998 and 2009
Drop, in percentage points, in yards per game since the opener. Output has dropped in each successive game this season, from 336 to 225 to 186 to 178
91.9 and 90.3
Grades for LB Kiko Alonso and S Reshad Jones, respectively, by PFF (those were the highest grades in the NFL at each position)
Defensive ranking in points allowed per game (16.8). That’s a major jump from 23.8 allowed last season, which ranked 18th in the league
Tackles for loss (at least 4 in every game)
Total quarterback hits in first 3 games
Quarterback hits vs. Titans
Total passes defensed in first 3 games
Passes defensed vs. Titans
Specialists from Jupiter High playing in Sunday’s Dolphins-Falcons game. Atlanta P Matt Bosher is 29 and Miami K Cody Parkey is 25, so they didn’t overlap.
MIAMI GARDENS — When the offensive touchdown finally came late in the afternoon, there was no celebration, no piling onto Jarvis Landry’s back. He simply walked, slowly, to a young fan in Row 1 and handed him the football.
A short time later, once the Dolphins could affirm that Landry’s touchdown was the decisive play in a 16-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans, the reaction in the offensive side of the locker room remained tempered. Landry disappeared faster than his stroll to that boy, left tackle Laremy Tunsil quietly said he didn’t wish to talk and neither did receiver DeVante Parker.
“Obviously we’re excited not to lose” was running back Jay Ajayi’s non-ringing endorsement. When someone started to ask about the Hard Rock Stadium fans booing quarterback Jay Cutler, Ajayi said, “No, no” and immediately he too headed for the players’ parking lot.
Make no mistake: The Dolphins were glad to come out of their home opener — at last, a true home game in October — with a win and a 2-2 record and the knowledge their defense can put on a remarkably suffocating performance.
But make no mistake: If this is their blueprint for the 2017 season, good luck thinking this ride, like 2016, will finish with a playoff berth.
Good luck winning games with 178 total yards or 78 passing yards or nine punts.
Good luck winning with 15 total offensive points over a three-game span.
“It’s always great to get a win in this league but we know how we’ve been playing these last three weeks,” center Mike Pouncey said. “It’s just not acceptable. We’re not going to beat any team playing like that.”
Yes, things seemed morose this time last season, when the Dolphins sprung to life with a favorable schedule and a six-game winning streak. But next Sunday, the Dolphins visit Super Bowl runners-up Atlanta as they step up in class. Besides Miami, seven other NFL teams began Sunday with a losing record. The Dolphins’ remaining schedule includes none of them.
If there was reason for optimism, it came from coordinator Matt Burke’s defense, a unit that bears no resemblance to the one that ranked 29th in the league last year, including 30th against the run. The frustration shown by the Dolphins’ offensive players no doubt was shared in the locker room of the Titans, who were without starting quarterback Marcus Mariota (hamstring) and relied on Matt Cassel. The Dolphins’ defense feasted on the 35-year-old backup, sacking him six times and holding him to 119 passing yards.
Slap an exclamation point to Miami’s run defense, which was shredded by the Titans for 235 yards last season but this time held Tennessee’s sixth-ranked running attack to 69 yards.
It was such a feel-good day for the defense that linebacker Rey Maualuga, making his Dolphins debut, couldn’t help but needle Burke, who had challenged his group by recalling how he looked up at the stat board at halftime last year and saw that the Titans had more than 100 rushing yards.
“I kind of messed around with him,” Maualuga said. “Like, ‘Hey, coach, look up on the board and see what they rushed for.’ I think it was 30-something yards.” (Full disclosure: It was 31 at the half.)
It’s bizarre to remember that not that long ago, the Dolphins were supposedly entering a season with an attack and offensive-minded head coach capable of pinball-like scores and fearing the defense might concede just as quickly. Sunday’s numbers told only half the story.
The other half was how complete the contributions were. Yes, safety Reshad Jones caught eyes by scooping up a fumble when everybody else had stopped, thinking the ball was dead. Jones, who recovered two fumbles in the first quarter, ran 38 yards to the end zone on a hunch that turned into a touchdown.
But it never would have happened without linebacker Kiko Alonso separating Cassel from both the ball and his helmet. Alonso played his finest game as a Dolphin, finishing with seven tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, a pass defensed and the forced fumble.
Andre Branch had two sacks. First-rounder Charles Harris had the first sack of his career. Rookie Davon Godchaux forced a fumble that led to a field goal. Ndamukong Suh and Lawrence Timmons and Bobby McCain and countless others delivered jarring hits. Cameron Wake had four hits on Cassel and shared a sack with Branch that came within a foot or two of being a safety.
“I think we played lights-out,” Maualuga said before amending himself: “Not ‘I think.’ ”
But that offense … Cutler went 12 of 26 for 92 yards, the 6-yard touchdown to Landry with 10:33 left, one interception and a tepid 52.1 rating. That inched him just above tight end MarQueis Gray, who was 0 for one in the Wildcat and had a 39.6 rating.
When asked about the “We want Moore!” chant in favor of Matt Moore, Pouncey turned to humor.
“I thought they were talking about yards,” Pouncey said. “More yards. Are they talking about Matt Moore?
“I mean, as soon as he starts throwing touchdowns, they’ll be cheering for Jay. That’s just how it is.
“ … It ain’t Jay Cutler, trust me. If it was Jay Cutler, Adam Gase would say that. It’s not Jay Cutler. He’s a heck of a football player. He stays composed no matter what.”
The problem, Pouncey said, is the line not giving Cutler time.
“We’ve just got to protect him,” Pouncey said. “It’s that simple. If we don’t protect him, I don’t care who’s the backup quarterback. It ain’t going to get done.”
Especially since upcoming assignments include Matt Ryan and the Falcons, Derek Carr and the Raiders, Alex Smith and the undefeated Chiefs … and two games vs. Tom Brady and the Patriots.