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Dolphins Defense Is Ready To Start Season

Posted Aug 25, 2013

Team feels confident about their front-line defense.



Brent Grimes didn’t know the exact numbers after the preseason game against Tampa Bay Saturday night. The cornerback just knew the Dolphins’ first-team defense had done a good job in its most extensive action of the preseason.

“I don’t know the stats, but I don’t think we gave up a lot of yards or a lot of plays,” Grimes said after the 17-16 loss at Sun Life Stadium. “I think we played pretty well. We didn’t play perfect, but I think pretty well. Coming from that game, we can gain a lot of confidence from that.”

Truth is, the Dolphins have every reason to feel confident about their front-line defense, not just because of what happened Saturday night but because of what’s happened throughout the preseason.

Based on everything we’ve seen since the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, on the first Sunday of August, that defense sure appears ready for the start of the regular season — even though no one is assuming anything.

“We’re ready,” defensive tackle Paul Soliai said. “But we’ve still got a lot we’ve still got to practice on and learn from this tape. We’re going to play (the Buccaneers) again. We’ve got to learn from our mistakes and stuff we could have done better.”

As it was, there were a lot of things the Dolphins did well against Tampa Bay.

The Buccaneers ran 27 plays on offense in the first half and managed a paltry 63 yards. Among those 27 plays were three sacks by the Dolphins — one each by Jared Odrick and Olivier Vernon and a sack credited to the team when quarterback Josh Freeman simply lost control of the ball in the pocket.

The Dolphins also dropped a Tampa Bay running back for a loss on three different plays, with Soliai doing the honors twice and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe once.

Tampa Bay didn’t have an offensive play longer than 19 yards in that first half and managed to convert only 1 of 6 third-down situations.

That the Buccaneers managed to score 10 points in the first half was mainly the result of two Dolphins turnovers that gave them the ball in Miami territory. The one blemish on the first-team defense’s performance Saturday night, really, was a pass-interference penalty on Grimes that gave Tampa Bay a first-and-goal at the 7-yard line and led to a touchdown.

“They played well,” Head Coach Joe Philbin said of his first-team defense. “We got enough pressure on the quarterback. I thought that was good. We hurried some throws, got some people in his face, so to speak. I thought overall we hustled to the ball every play. We knocked the ball loose but missed a tackle or two. I thought overall they played well.”

Encouraging as that was coming in the all-important next-to-last preseason game, it wasn’t anything new for the Dolphins this summer.

Against Jacksonville, the Dolphins held the Jaguars to only one first down on three offensive possessions in the first quarter. Against Houston, the first-team defense stopped the Texans’ first two drives with an interception by Grimes and a sack by Cameron Wake before being taken out midway through the third possession.

The effort against Tampa Bay was just more validation that the Dolphins defense has a chance to be something special in 2013 — even if Odrick was more focused on the final outcome after the game Saturday night.

“You can’t ever be too happy when you lose,” he said. “We did some good things, but we still have a lot of things to correct. What’s encouraging is that we can still get better from here. We played pretty good early on, but we didn’t do enough to win the game. Once we put everything together, it’s going to be a nice showing every time we get out there.”

The Dolphins close out their preseason schedule Thursday night against the New Orleans Saints at Sun Life Stadium, and it’s reasonable to expect the first-team defense to see very little action, if any, in its last tune-up before the regular season kicks off Sept. 8.

Based on what we’ve seen, it doesn’t really look as though the defensive starters need that much fine-tuning.

“Every week we came out and did some good things,” Grimes said. “We’ve just got to carry it over for longer now when we play a whole game. Just do the same thing. If we play fundamentally sound defense, we could be a good defense.”
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