Dolphins defensive end Andre Branch had a simple and succinct explanation on Thursday for why Miami’s defense was so delinquent in stopping the run last season:
“When we look back on last year, people weren’t doing their job,” Branch said. “When we were supposed to be in a position, they weren’t there… Everybody has do to their job. That’s the most important thing.”
So what makes him confident that those problems will be solved?
“That’s not my job to make sure that they do their job,” he said. “It’s just my job to make sure that I do mine. I count on them as much as they count on me. Once we get that camaraderie with each other, when you feel like you let your brother down, that hurts way more than a coach telling you that you didn’t do your job.
“Once that starts happening, that’s when we know we’ve got it. At the end of the day, there’s going to be mistakes. No game is perfect. But we’ve got to work towards that.”
The Dolphins finished 30th in run defense last season and Miami opponents averaged 4.8 per carry, tied with the 49ers for most in the league.
A few things make Branch encouraged. Among them:
• A second year in this defensive system for Branch and many others should help “no question. We were a new group last year. We did pretty well. We had our times where we could’ve definitely been better, but it was our first year together, so now we’re flowing more. It’s not as much teaching as ‘either you’ve got it or you don’t,’ and if you don’t, you’re not in there.”
• The transition from defensive coordinator Vance Joseph to Matt Burke has been smooth. “I don’t feel like it’s even a new coach in there,” Branch said, with Joseph leaving to become head coach of the Denver Broncos. “We run the same scheme and he knows this defense just as well as V.J. did. We’re listening to him just like we did to V.J.”
• Branch points out “we added a few pieces, great players.” He said rookie first-round defensive end Charles Harris is “explosive,” and that linebacker Lawrence Timmons has been in this league for a ton of years and he’s been playing at a very high level for a long time.”
He said Timmons and defensive end William Hayes, acquired from the Rams, bring “wisdom. Will was in the room with me, so I get to really hear his wisdom. He’s been playing for a long, long time. It’s just little things. You can never have it all. “
Unlike last season, Branch enters as a starter.
“More comfortable than I was at this point last year,” he said. These are my brothers. I had to earn their respect. Now we’re rocking and rolling.
When did you earn that respect?
“Probably after Game 1, when we played Seattle. I came from Jacksonville, so it was just like, ‘I’m gonna go in, put my head down and work.’ After a while, you kinda feel things changing and they just welcome you with open arms.”
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