Ndamukong Suh simply can’t win if the Dolphins keep losing.
The league’s highest-paid defensive player is held to a standard that no other defensive tackle is. And his new head coach knows it.
“You talk about misleading,”Dan Campbell said Wednesday, when asked about Suh’s pedestrian statistical output through four games.
“That’s one of the first things you look at. OK, you sign a guy like him, you’re looking for three or four sacks and four or five [tackles for loss], and all of those things. Ultimately you can have a very productive day without having those type of stats.”
Perhaps. But it’s much easier to measure Suh’s footprint when he empirically impacts the game. That hasn’t really happened yet in Miami. Suh has no sacks and just three tackles for loss in four games.
Dating back to last year, Suh hasn’t had a sack in five straight games. The longest stretch of his career without one is six games.
So it’s fair to say that his Dolphins debut has been one of his least statistically productive stretches of a career that, just two months ago, seemed destined to end in the Hall of Fame.
“People don’t give out sacks,” Suh said. “They’re not free. So at the end of the day, you’ve got to go out there and earn them and fight for them.”
Fight hasn’t been a problem for Suh, said Campbell, who during the bye week watched defensive tape of the Dolphins’ first four games.
“What I saw is a player who improved over four games,” Campbell said. “I’ve seen a guy who goes out, he gets here early, he does his own thing, as far as doing a workout and working hard. He does stuff with the team, then he comes out here and practices. The guy gives 110 percent.”
The respect appears to be mutual.
People don’t give out sacks. They’re not free. So at the end of the day, you’ve got to go out there and earn them and fight for them.
Suh said he enjoys Campbell’s energy, mindset and “the way he goes about his business.”
Suh added: “I think as a professional you can only respect the guy. I think he played in the NFL for 11 years and I think he understands being in our shoes previously. Obviously now being on the other side of the ball, if you want to say the other side of the ball, but being in a coaching role he understands how to mend the two together.”
Perhaps just as important, Suh said he has always “had a great relationship” with Lou Anarumo, and doesn’t anticipate that changing now that Anarumo has replaced Kevin Coyle as defensive coordinator.
Coyle lost the confidence of many of his players when the 2014 season went south, and many of those issues resurfaced when the defense was exposed this year.
Part of the reason they’ve fallen short of expectations: Suh hasn’t been his overwhelming self. By his own admission, Suh’s being paid handsomely to “create havoc.”
Yet the Dolphins’ defense has done anything but.
Dolphins football czar Mike Tannenbaum played perhaps the biggest role in the team signing Suh to a six-year, $114 million contract in the offseason. Appearing Tuesday on 640 AM-WMEN, Tannenbaum acknowledged that Suh needs to play better.
“We signed him to a six-year contract,” Tannenbaum said. “We’re four games into a six-year contract and he hasn’t played as well as we hoped, and we haven’t played as well as we’ve hoped. I think we have to give it a grade of incomplete.”
Tannenbaum then praised Suh’s work ethic, and said he expects Suh will turn it around.
Suh’s response, when asked about Tannenbaum’s comments:
“I don’t think anyone has played up to their level. For me, I’m very hard on myself. I don’t think I’ve played up to my level of ability and I think that at the end of the day we have a lot of room to grow as a unit defensively, offensively and special teams-wise.”