Miami Dolphins

The real reason why the Dolphins’ defense has struggled (Hint: It's not the front 4)

The Raiders had plenty of open space against the Dolphins Sunday.
The Raiders had plenty of open space against the Dolphins Sunday. AP

The Dolphins have not gotten enough pressure on the quarterback in the last three weeks.

Quarterbacks have dropped back some 90 times and the Dolphins have just four sacks and 10 quarterback hits.

As a result, Miami has allowed a ghastly 95 points and has looked like the defense of 2016, not early 2017.

So whom to blame? The Dolphins have the league’s richest defensive line, so that would seem to be a good place to start, right?

Not so, insists Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke, who said he has “been actually pleased with what they've done.”

Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, Andre Branch and others have, by and large, done their jobs. But they have not gotten the statistical payoff they deserve, coaches believe.

The reason?

“There's nothing I can do to make [teams] not throw the ball quick if they really want to,” Burke said.

Yes, opponents have decided to not let the Dolphins’ best players beat them, getting the football out of the quarterbacks’ hands fast and taking their chances against Miami’s back seven.

“I think one of our failures has been that we've given up more chunk plays in the last few weeks than we had earlier in the year,” Burke said. “If a team wants to throw the ball in 1.4 seconds, there's nothing I can do about it. ... We have to make that not a successful plan of attack. That's what we have to do. That comes from tackling those quick throws, and limiting a two-yard throw to a two-yard game or a three-yard gain, not a 10-yard gain.”

The Dolphins have allowed 14 plays of 20 or more yards the last three weeks, including two over 40 in Sunday’s loss to the Raiders. Oakland had success despite Miami being intentionally aggressive in its zone coverages.

“I think we were a little bit over-aggressive in some of the shallow routes and now we're opening up stuff behind us,” Burke said. “It's kind of a fair trade there a little bit. We have to do a better job of mixing our coverages where, hey maybe they think now is the time I get a quick throw off and now we're matching that up a little tighter vs. giving up stuff behind us. That's the kind of game we have to play.”

Getting back to the defensive line: Burke said he has generally been pleased by the group’s performance and “thought they played well last week.”

Burke added: “The message to some of the guys on the back end is, I'll pause the tape and you see the pocket collapsing but the ball is coming out. Keep mixing up our coverages, giving different looks, getting a little bit of tighter in that area of things to give those guys an extra half a second.”

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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