Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins’ defensive tackles struggle to find form in new post-Suh reality

Christian McCaffrey roasted the Dolphins defense for a 71-yard touchdown run early in Maimi’s second preseason game.
Christian McCaffrey roasted the Dolphins defense for a 71-yard touchdown run early in Maimi’s second preseason game. Getty Images

Perhaps it’s time to consider what the Dolphins lost in cutting Ndamukong Suh.

Because two preseason games into the post-Suh era, the defensive tackles vying to replace him have failed to do so.

Kris Kocurek’s vision to stop the run by committee has not been realized in losses to the Buccaneers and Panthers.

The Dolphins have allowed an average of 149.5 yards per game on the ground – and 5.1 per carry. Those figures ranked last and 28th in the league, respectively, after Friday’s games.

The Panthers ran all over the Dolphins from the opening kick, totaling 226 yards on 31 carries.

And nearly a third of that total came on the second snap of the game.

Dynamic Panthers back Christian McCaffrey burst through a huge hole, bounced to the outside and raced 71 yards to the end zone.

“I think we were out of our gaps,” explained safety T.J. McDonald. “We weren’t gap sound.”

Added middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who was blocked out of the play:

“They schemed us up pretty good. They knew we play a Wide-9 so they came in tight with a tight end and cut off one of our linebackers. We can’t get over the top. A simple run-scheme thing that we hadn’t seen.”

So yes, there were breakdowns in the back seven. But that was magnified by the lack of push by Miami’s defensive tackles – which has now been a two-game issue.

Of the five interior linemen to take reps with the first team, only one – Vincent Taylor – has a tackle for loss. (He had his second of the preseason Friday.)

Akeem Spence, acquired in a trade from the Lions, has been invisible so far.

Jordan Phillips missed the Panthers game with a shoulder injury.

Davon Godchaux did drop Cam Newton in the backfield on Carolina’s early two-point conversion, but it was not a recorded play so it didn’t show up on the stat sheet.

Then there was Kendall Langford, who worked with the starters and logged 19 snaps just three days after signing with the team. That’s the same Langford who had been out of football since November.

Suh, meanwhile, might have been expensive (like really expensive), but he almost never came off the field. So the Dolphins now must use players who, logic suggests, would have rarely played if he were still here.

But that was the trade-off Adam Gase and Mike Tannenbaum were willing to make by shedding Suh’s bloated salary. The money they cleared helped make it possible to trade for defensive end Robert Quinn, who was spectacular Friday night.

Quinn sacked Newton twice, beating left tackle Matt Kalil both times. Making Quinn’s night all the more impressive: He did so on just 13 plays from scrimmage.

Could this be the year Quinn finally gets back his otherworldly level of 2013 and ’14, when he tallied 29 ½ sacks?

“I’ve been saying that since it happened the first time,” Quinn said. “Of course it hasn’t happened. I always believe that every year. It’s kind of my mindset. Try to break records, do something extreme. Hopefully I can get back to those good numbers. But as long as this team is winning, it doesn’t matter.”

Friday was also the first time he and Cam Wake shared the field. Wake was held out of the preseason opener, but played against the Panthers.

“I think it’s great for us,” Quinn said of the tandem. “And good luck to the other teams.”

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson takes a knee during the singing of the national anthem at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte before Friday's preseason game against the host Carolina Panthers.

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