Defensive Stalwarts Hitting Milestones

Posted Dec 13, 2012

Dansby, Burnett and Jones lead the way statistically.

Numbers sometimes don’t always tell the story in football, but there is no denying the importance of the numbers being put up by the Miami Dolphins defense this season.

Middle linebacker Karlos Dansby already has eclipsed the century plateau in tackles with 105 (79 solo) and three of his teammates are within striking distance. Fellow linebacker Kevin Burnett has 83 (60 solo) headed into Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, safety Reshad Jones has 81 (66 solo) and safety Chris Clemons has 76 (54 solo).

When you combine those numbers with Cameron Wake’s 14 sacks, which rank fourth in the National Football League, and look at the team’s No. 9 ranking against the run it doesn’t necessarily correlate to the team’s 5-8 record. What all of these numbers do say is that the pieces are there to be competitive.

“After the season is over you measure yourself against all of those aspects and individual statistics and I don’t think anybody can say we can’t play with anybody,” said Wake, who has matched his career-high for sacks in a single season. “You look across the board at the teams who are considered to be great teams and we’ve played them down to the last series of the game.

“We’re right there with these teams in terms of guys with 100 tackles, double-digit sacks and yards. We’re right there with the elite players in this league and we have that in this room, so it’s frustrating to have that and not have it show in the win-loss column. But it’s comforting in a way to know that we don’t have to completely revamp and we’d all trade those statistics for wins.”

Still, for Dansby he takes a lot of pride in having exceeded 100 tackles for the sixth time in his nine-year career. Burnett did it for the first time last year in his first season with the Dolphins when he finished with 105 tackles (83 solo) and he had 95 (80 solo) the year before in San Diego.

What pleases both of these veterans the most about what they have done statistically this season is the fact that they were asked to transition to a 4-3 defense after excelling in the 3-4 last year. Dansby’s role as the quarterback of the defense was new to him but he has still managed to impact the run game and the pass game with his skills.

“It’s an awesome job and to get to that milestone in this scheme is huge for the both of us,” Dansby said. “We have some safeties that are close as well so if we can get as many as four guys to 100 tackles in the next three ballgames that would be sweet.”

Burnett likes to take a broader look at things when it comes to analyzing numbers and their impact on the game. He understands the different factors at play when it comes to achieving certain milestones.

“You can take it a couple of different ways,” Burnett said. “One, you’re playing a lot of defense, two, you’ve only got two or three good players or three, you’re playing really good team defense. So you’ve got to pick how you want to look at it. It’s a tremendous accomplishment but you’ve got to keep it all in perspective. Stats mean nothing to me without the wins versus the losses.”

For Jones, he was set on making his third season in the league his best and making a name for himself around the league. Having started 12 games last year opposite veteran strong safety Yeremiah Bell, Jones had the right mentor to work with and took that knowledge with him into the offseason and training camp.

So far this season, the former Georgia Bulldog has delivered in all aspects of the game with a team-high three interceptions and one sack to go along with his 81 tackles. He didn’t set any specific goals when it came to number of tackles, but what he did want was to reach that status Wake was talking about.

“I just said coming into the season that I wanted to be recognized as one of the elite safeties in this league,” Jones said. “I think I’m starting to put that together with all the tackles, interceptions and just the overall game. Being the versatile safety that I am, I think I’ve displayed that.”

Head Coach Joe Philbin has recognized the play of his defensive and offensive leaders throughout the season while always preaching team accomplishments, so he put that into perspective when it came to what his defense has done and still need to accomplish.

“Again, football’s not a game about statistics, but if you went through the profile of our defense, there’s certainly some things that we’re doing well in relation to the 32 other teams,” he said. “We still have to do things better to get over the hump and win games. That’s really our focus this week.”

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