Miami Dolphins Andre Branch talks about the team environment
In the NFL, the truth almost always comes out.
It’s not a matter of if. Simply when.
And for the Dolphins’ defensive line, that when was around 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
Robert Quinn, Cameron Wake, Jordan Phillips and the rest had a better day against the Jets than they did against the Titans.
And they weren’t afraid to say it.
“We got to [Sam Darnold] early, got him rattled and we didn’t let off,” Quinn said. “It wasn’t just me. I think it was a collective, group [effort]. We may not have hit or sacked him, we collapsed the pocket, made it uncomfortable for him. We just tried to do our job, and we got it done today.”
All told, the Dolphins’ front had a staggering 21 tackles, including an absurd nine for loss.
They sacked Darnold three times and hit him twice more.
And they set the tone for a run defense that has been much improved through two weeks against two physical teams.
The Dolphins are in the top eight in yards allowed (79) and yards-per-rush surrendered (3.3).
Those are big gains over 2017, when they allowed 110.5 and 4.1, respectively.
“It was no secret that they were going to come out and run the ball,” Wake said of the Jets, who managed just 42 yards on 19 carries Sunday. “I don’t think it was any secret we were going to try to go out and stop the run. I think that’s probably, more often than not, a theme of every week in the NFL, but probably more so this week. … We wanted to take it to them and we were focusing on that [last] week in practice.”
And while it’s admittedly early, Kris Kocurek’s defensive line by committee approach seems to be working.
The Dolphins played nine defensive linemen Sunday. Eight of them had at least one tackle. And the ninth — Charles Harris — sacked Darnold only to see it wiped off the board by an offsides penalty committed by Andre Branch.
Granted, Branch was the victim of some bad luck, too. Officials missed a clear holding penalty — a Jets lineman had his arm around Branch’s neck — on what could have been another sack.
Speaking of sacks, the Dolphins had zero in the opener against the Titans. And that stung for a defensive line that collectively makes more than all but three teams in the NFL, in terms of cap spending.
“The D-line, we look for sacks,” Quinn said. “That’s kind of what we are made of. We were frustrated we didn’t have any. But when you win, you can kind of just throw it away. But then again, we kept it in the back of our head. We know we’ve got to do better, demand more of ourselves. I think guys just came today, showed up, and we’re trying to stack days together and get this team to where we should be, but we still have a long way to go.”
Quinn had one plus four hurries Sunday. William Hayes recorded a sack, too. Phillips had the third.
Davon Godchaux didn’t get to Darnold. But did have two tackles for loss. Pro Football Focus awarded Godchaux an elite 90.4 grade against the run.
Next up: The Oakland Raiders, whose line has protected as well as any in the NFL through two weeks.
Derek Carr has been sacked just twice in 74 dropbacks — one of very few bright spots for a Raiders team that is winless in its first two games.
But Carr has thrown three interceptions — which would seem to play into another Dolphins strength. They have five in two games, which are tied with the Jets and Seahawks for most in the NFL.
At least some of the credit should go to the defensive line.
“When there’s pressure on the quarterback and he’s maybe making an errant throw and sees pressure and he’s running out of the pocket and making throws outside of his comfort zone, I would like to think that leads to an interception,” Wake said.
▪ Even though wide receiver DeVante Parker was a healthy scratch against the Titans, he remains listed as a starter on the Dolphins’ Week 3 depth chart.