“Is there anybody like Suh?”
No, Cameron Wake, there is not.
And that’s why the Dolphins were comfortable handing Ndamukong Suh a six-year, $114 million contract in 2015, and surely the team remains that way some 20 months later.
Suh was unstoppable when the Dolphins needed him the most last Sunday. On the Jets’ final drive, the star defensive tackle dropped running back Bilal Powell for a 1-yard gain and sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick on consecutive plays, single-handedly ending the drive and snuffing out any chance of a New York rally.
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High above the field in the Dolphins’ owners box, Stephen Ross must have been smiling.
The billionaire real estate mogul loves when an investment pays off. And it’s looking like Suh, whose Dolphins (4-4) face the Chargers (4-5) on Sunday in the first of back-to-back California road games, is starting to do just that.
In just eight games, Suh has recorded 37 tackles — the most by any NFL defensive tackle. Five of those tackles came against the Jets, and each held New York to 2 or fewer yards. Here’s more: Suh is on pace for career-high nine sacks. No surprise, then, that Suh is the NFL’s fourth-ranked interior defensive lineman, according to Pro Football Focus.
Yes, Suh — who’s midway through his seventh NFL season — is expensive. His salary-cap figure jumps from $12.6 million in 2016 to $19.1 million in 2017 — and he then gets really pricey. Suh could eat up more than an eighth of the team’s salary cap in both 2018 and 2019. He remains the league’s highest-paid defensive tackle by nearly $2 million a year.
But try to imagine where the Dolphins’ defense would be without him this season. Safety Reshad Jones (shoulder) and linebacker Koa Misi (neck) are out for the season, and rookie cornerback Xavien Howard (knee) hasn’t played since September.
And yet, the Dolphins still rank in the top half of the league in yards per play allowed (5.5) and defensive scoring (22.8).
“I’m glad he’s on our team,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said recently.
On another occasion, Gase described Suh’s season as “unique.”
“I think it’s been pretty consistent as far as what he’s done over his career,” Gase said. “When you have a guy that plays the position he plays and gets double- and triple-teamed as much as he does and still somehow finds a way to get through, it says a lot about him.”
Gase praised Suh’s work habits and knowledge of the defense.
“You talk about a guy that’s scheme-sound and does his job a lot — he’s probably the guy that does it better than anybody,” Gase said.
About the only person who won’t praise Suh’s play this year? The man himself. He recently balked at a reporter’s request to grade his season.
When another asked whether he’s gunning for the first double-digit sack season of his career, Suh responded curtly: “No. Whatever happens, happens.”
And after the Jets game, when Suh had arguably the most impactful series of his time in Miami, he was quick to praise his teammates. If Wake hadn’t sacked Fitzpatrick earlier in the game, Suh probably wouldn’t have been single-teamed on that final play, he said.
“I got my opportunity, and when I did, I’m without question going to make the most of it,” Suh said.
They’ll need more of the same Sunday. Much more. The Chargers are an offensive juggernaut. San Diego ranks third in scoring (29.8 per game), seventh in passing (271.3) and ninth in total offense (378).
Philip Rivers is among the top 10 NFL quarterbacks in passing (2,560 yards), touchdowns (17) and passer rating (96.2).
And running back Melvin Gordon is on a Jay Ajayi-like streak, averaging 117 rushing yards in his past four games. (OK, that’s a stretch; Ajayi is averaging an absurd 143 yards over that same period.)
“He’s a very, very tough and hard runner,” Suh said of Gordon. “Young guy. Obviously he’s well-talented and we’ll have a big task on our hands.”
The same could be said for the Chargers. Just ask Cameron Wake.