The question on most Dolphins fans' minds involves the quarterback position. The team is 3-1 in games started by Tua Tagovailoa and 4-3 in the starts by the cagey veteran, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Brian Flores declared on Friday the team's intentions to make their decision at quarterback on game day, but the other side of the football offers no mystery.
That streak of takeaways and limited points allowed began when Miami went on the road to the house of the defending NFC champions in San Francisco. With the quarterback (Jimmy Garoppolo), star tight end (George Kittle) and rookie receiving sensation (Deebo Samuel) from the 2019 team all available for the 49ers in the Week 5 game, the Dolphins forced three turnovers, a quarterback change and limited Head Coach Kyle Shanahan's typically explosive offense to just 17 points.
That was the first game back after a nearly three game (missed all but one series vs. Buffalo) absence from offseason signing Byron Jones. Jones, who only missed one game in his five years with the Cowboys, injured his groin on the first series of the Week 2 game vs. the Bills. He played four snaps in the contest and was in coverage on the third-down snap that got Miami's defense off the field on the first possession of the day.
In those three games without Jones, the Dolphins defense allowed an average of 25.0 points per game. In the eight games with Jones in the lineup, the Dolphins surrender just 16.3 points per game.
Jones is one part of a larger equation for the Dolphins defense. NFL Network's Brian Baldinger says it's the vision and commitment to the style of play that has sparked the Dolphins defensive turnaround from 2019.
"Brian Flores has a clear vision for how he wants to play defense and it starts with two guys that can lock down on the outside," Baldinger said. "That's the foundation. Pass rushers, yeah (Emmanuel) Ogbah has (eight) sacks, but you can figure out your pass rush. It's not about sacks. It's about pressure and what pressure does to other teams quarterbacks and offenses."
According to Pro Football Reference, the Dolphins 9.4 percent quarterback knockdown rate ranks eighth in the NFL.
Baldinger continued with his thoughts on the Dolphins perimeter cornerbacks creating an opportunity for the rest of the system and personnel to flourish.
"The Jets -- the bright spot had been the development of (wide receivers) Denzel Mims and Breshad Perriman," he said. "And those two (Dolphins) cornerbacks just took them out of the game."
"Xavien Howard is as good as there is in this game right now. From reading routes, from not letting you get off the line of scrimmage, to just sticking right to you and playing the ball in the air."
"Darrelle Revis used to tell me all the time -- there's three phases a corner has to win at. He has to win at the line of scrimmage, he has to win on the stem (during the route) and then win when the ball is in the air. Xavien Howard does all of those things. Byron Jones does them too, he just doesn't intercept the ball the way Howard does. But he can do everything else. He's really smart. He tackles well and he lines up and plays every snap."
"When you look at the Dolphins defense and all the things they do – and they do a lot – it starts right there. And that's a credit to Brian Flores saying this is how I want to play, these are the guys I need. That's where the foundation of the defense starts."
Brandon Jones -- My Cause My Cleats
On Thursday, we detailed the story of long snapper Blake Ferguson and his battle with Type-1 Diabetes and linebacker Sam Eguavoen's push for greater awareness around epilepsy.
Safeties Eric Rowe and Clayton Fejedelem shared their causes in that story. So did tackle/guard Jesse Davis and cornerback Nik Needham.
Friday, we heard from rookie safety Brandon Jones on the cleats he'll be wearing, and the special bond he shares with Jayden Morton. If you're unfamiliar with his story, Brandon detailed his relationship with Jayden and that life-changing trip to the hospital with his Texas teammates this summer on the Drive Time podcast.
"My cause is going to be osteosarcoma which deals with – I've got a story. I made a relationship with Jayden Morton, a kid that I met at Dell's Children's Hospital in Austin Texas when I was at Texas in college," Jones said. "He suffers from that cancer. Overall, I just wanted to be able to represent not only him, but this is a cancer that only kind of shows in kids that range from age 10-20.
"They're younger than me and I've got younger brothers. I always put Jayden, for example, in my brother's shoes and I just couldn't imagine how hard life could be at that age having to deal with that stuff. So I'm representing for him and all the other kids that suffer from sarcoma.
"I'm going to wear them during pre-game. I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to wear them during the game because I'm going to give (the cleats) to him for Christmas and I don't want to mess them up too bad. We'll see how the grass holds up during pre-game."
Friday Injury Report and Roster News
The Miami Dolphins today announced they have placed running back Matt Breida on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Running backs DeAndre Washington and Salvon Ahmed are DOUBTFUL.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, wide receiver/running back Malcolm Perry and offensive guard Solomon Kindley are QUESTIONABLE.
Cornerback Tony Brown and offensive guard Alex Redmond are OUT.
Defensive tackles Christian Covington and Xavier Williams, long snapper Clark Harris, offensive guard B.J. Finney, cornerback Darius Phillips, safety Brandon Wilson and wide receiver Mike Thomas are QUESTIONABLE.
For the rest of the Dolphins-Bengals Week 13 injury report, click here.