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Top News: Defensive Performance, Suh's Evolution

Posted Oct 19, 2017

The day after former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason said the Dolphins have a “championship-caliber defense,” the man in charge of that unit just shook his head at the comment.

Defensive coordinator Matt Burke was asked Thursday during his weekly press conference whether he was concerned about overconfidence among his players in light of Esiason’s comments.

“I don’t know who is talking about that, but nobody is reading anything in our room,” Burke said. “No, absolutely not. There’s always stuff to get better at. We’ve definitely not played our best game by far, which is good. We always say it’s better to coach off a win and coach the mistakes. We made plenty of mistakes last week. It was a great win and a great effort, but there’s a lot of work to be done and those guys, I haven’t seen one sniff of those guys believing anything else.”

Through Week 7 of the 2017 regular season, the Dolphins rank third in the NFL in fewest points allowed and they’re fourth in rushing yards allowed per game. They’re 11th in total defense, but also 30th in interception rate and 22nd in pass defense.

Burke said the Dolphins defense can improve in just about every facet and pointed out that there were too many missed tackles and big plays allowed against Atlanta.

So Burke doesn’t really have time to start wondering whether he’s coaching a championship-calibert defense.

“I’m just trying to win a ballgame, guys,” Burke said. Look, I don’t hear that stuff. I really don’t. God bless you guys (media members). I’m sure you’re all really good at what you do but I don’t read any of your stuff. We don’t think like that. It’s one game at a time. These guys beat us pretty good last game, so we’re not looking past anybody. We’re not thinking about defensive stats or championships or any of that crap. We’re trying to win a ballgame and we’re going to do whatever it takes this week to do that. I don’t think that’s even crept into any of our guys’ minds.”

Suh’s evolution: Burke has known defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh longer than just about anybody since he was in Detroit when Suh began his NFL career there in 2010, and he has seen him become more and more of a leader through the years. “Probably the biggest thing I’ve seen is how he’s been with the young guys, really taking those two rookie tackles and even Jordan (Phillips) under his wing,” Burke said. “Probably more than I’ve ever seen him, (he’s) really trying to help those guys. I think he sort of sees where he is in his career and (thinks), another way I can help is to keep my legacy going with some of these guys and help them become good players. He’s been really, really, really good with the other tackles and even the ends and stuff, in terms of helping being another coach out there for us.”

Fede finds niche: Terrence Fede has become a core special teams player in his fourth season with the Dolphins, and he played a key role in the botched Atlanta snap that set up the game-tying field goal at Atlanta on Sunday. Fede and Chase Allen lined up across from Falcons long-snapper Josh Harris, and he rolled one back to punter Matt Bosher early in the fourth quarter. Bosher picked up the loose ball and started running before being tackled by Michael Thomas well short of the first down. “Crazy,” Fede said. “It’s a free-for-all. Everybody is running after that ball.” Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Darren Rizzi said Fede has come a long way as a special teams player. “His evolution has been huge,” Rizzi said. “He’s matured in a lot of ways. I thought he really done a nice job this offseason and now he’s carrying it over. I was a big fan of his and a big supporter of his making the team.”

Always ready: Offensive lineman Jesse Davis’ role has changed in recent weeks now that he’s no longer rotating at left guard with Anthony Steen, but he handled his new assignment against Atlanta on Sunday when he was asked to come into the game at right tackle when Ja’Wuan James briefly left because of an injury. “I was just doing my job, next guy up kind of thing,” Davis said. “Everybody has got a job to do. I know my role. Steen has been playing really good football. Everybody has. They want me as the backup, so that’s what I’m going to be doing.”

New look: The Dolphins defense will have no less than four different starters from the team that faced the Jets at MetLife Stadium back on Sept. 24. Those four are linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Rey Maualuga, cornerback Cordrea Tankersley and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who missed the first Jets game because of an ankle injury.

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