That's a wrap on 2021! Who's ready for 2022? The Dolphins are, and it starts with a trip to Nashville in search of an eighth consecutive victory. Miami's seven-game run is the best for the franchise since the 1985 season when Dan Marino and company closed out the regular season with seven straight before winning in the divisional round to make it eight-in-a-row.
December was a fruitful month for the team and a handful of individuals, including Jerome Baker. The fourth-year linebacker was named AFC Defensive Player of the Month for the first time in his career.
"I was in meetings and I was just sitting there and my phone just kept buzzing and buzzing and buzzing," Baker said. "I think Duke reposted it and I clicked his notification and that's when I found out, so I was definitely happy though."
Baker tallied 16 tackles (six for a loss) and 3.5 sacks during Miami's perfect December. In those three games, the Miami defense allowed just 36 points, took the ball away four times and piled up 17 sacks. Over that stretch, Baker played 170 out of a possible 172 defensive snaps.
While we have you, don't forget to cast your vote for Baker for Walter Payton Man of the Year. Instructions are in the tweet below.
Preparing for the Elements
The Dolphins' 3-0 December brings Brian Flores' record in the final month of the calendar to 9-3 in his head coaching career (19-7 post-Halloween).
But that was last month, and the Dolphins are onto January and a big game Sunday in Nashville. It's the second game that will be played at Nissan Stadium inside of a four-day period – the Music City Bowl was held Thursday – with plenty of rain expected to fall in-between and a potential for snow in the forecast for Sunday. So, are the Dolphins preparing for a slippery surface? What does that look like?
"I watched some clips from that game and saw that there were some guys slipping, so I made mention of that to our team," Flores said. "I think it's more focus on shoulders over knees, knees over toes – those kind of base fundamentals that you'd hear in Pop Warner. Coming to balance, playing on the inside of your outside foot. Things like that. Just reminders and things we've got to pay attention to really on any surface, but definitely on a wet or slick surface. Those are just reminders that you give to your players. I think every coach is – when you're dealing with a surface or elements like that – it's something that you have to make mention to your team so they're at least aware of it."
The temperature is also expected to be in the upper 30s at kickoff, which is certainly a change for this Miami team. How will that alter the team's approach?
"Put some thermals on, put a hoodie on and get out there," Flores said.
Flores also discussed his one-day-at-a-time mentality.
"I understand that thought process and why those questions are asked," he said "I think we all do. I also know that the fans and our family members, they're not going to be out there trying to block Jeffery Simmons or trying to cover these receivers. That's not in their future either, so they don't need to spend all their energy on that. I think our guys do. I think when you look at it from that lens – you're not the one out there blocking (Bud) Dupree or covering Julio (Jones). I think if we had to do that – if everyone else had to do that – I think they'd try to focus on that. They wouldn't be looking kind of down the road. I think that's pretty reasonable. So no, I don't try to tell anyone 'don't talk about to me about this, don't talk to me about that.' I think my energy and my focus is where it is and other people's energy can be where it wants to be. But I think people can respect and understand why we want to put our energy on the Titans and no one else, and we respect and understand why people are thinking differently or thinking past that."
The Miami Dolphins today announced they have activated guard Solomon Kindleyand wide receiver Albert Wilsonoff the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Get Zach to Canton
For the third-straight year, five-time All-Pro Linebacker Zach Thomas is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Thomas is one of 15 finalists for the Class of 2020:
Dolphins LB Zach Thomas
Vikings DE Jared Allen
Bengals OT Willie Anderson
Buccaneers DB Ronde Barber
Jaguars OT Tony Boselli
Bears RS Devin Hester
Rams WR Tori Holt
Patriots DE Richard Seymour
Texans WR Andre Johnson
Panthers OT Sam Mills
Packers DB LeRoy Butler
Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware
Colts WR Reggie Wayne
49ers LB Patrick Willis
49ers DT Bryant Young
The seven-time Pro Bowler, 1996 AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year and member of the 2000's All-Decade Team racked up 1,720 career tackles, 20.5 sacks, 17 interceptions, 17 forced fumbles and scored four touchdowns in 184 career games played.
The Selection Committee may elect up to five Modern-Era Players for the Class of 2022. Each must receive a minimum positive vote of 80 percent for election. Three others — Dick Vermeil, Art McNally and Cliff Branch, the finalists in the Coach, Contributor and Senior categories, respectively — also are candidates for the Class of 2022. Voting on each of those three will be held individually, in conjunction with the meeting to decide the Modern-Era Players.