Where is the Dolphins pass rush in 2018?
Or to put a finer point on it: Where are the big plays from their biggest players?
Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn were supposed to anchor a “meet-you-at-the-quarterback” defense.
Instead, they together have as many sacks as William Hayes has by himself — and Hayes has not played since the second quarter of the Raiders game due to a season-ending knee injury.
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Important context: The Dolphins have not blown anybody out this year, so teams have been able to stay balanced. But it’s not like teams are just running the football on Miami to neutralize the pass rush.
Opposing offenses have thrown 153 passes against the Dolphins this season — the 11th most attempts that any defense has faced.
If there was a game for Wake and Quinn to show up, Sunday in Foxborough was it. The Dolphins defense was built to stop Tom Brady.
It barely slowed him down.
Brady completed 23 of 35 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns. He did throw two interceptions, but it was not nearly enough.
Perhaps the most important stat: Brady was not sacked (although Wake and Quinn did combine for five quarterback hits).
A quarter of the way through the season, Wake and Quinn have one sack each. That put them in a tie for 84th among NFL players through Week 4.
When asked how he comes to grips with getting so thoroughly dominated by New England, Wake replied late Sunday afternoon:
“I guess you don’t. Probably will take a little while to sink in, honestly. It’s hard to swallow, a tough pill to swallow. So I haven’t done it yet, and it’s going to take me a little while.”
Once the shock wears off, Wake will surely focus his attention on getting after Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who has had good protection this year. Dalton has been sacked just seven times in four games.
As a team, the Dolphins have just six sacks, tied for third fewest in football. And that has to be hugely disappointing for defensive coordinator Matt Burke, who said flatly before the season that the Dolphins need to improve on last year’s numbers.
The Dolphins ranked 26th with 30 sacks in 2017.
They have somehow gotten worse — with seemingly more talent.
Wake, at 36, is still playing more than half of the Dolphins’ defensive snaps.
But his efficiency is down.
He has just four solo tackles (12 total), and only one of them have been for loss. Wake has hit opposing quarterbacks four times.
The numbers are very similar for Quinn: 12 tackles (eight solo), three tackles for loss and five hits — on 20 more snaps.
Combined, it helps explain some brutal defensive rankings. The Dolphins are 26th in total defense (allowing 395.3 yards per game), 26th against the pass (284.8) and 30th on third downs (allowing a conversion a full 50 percent of the time).
“Execution,” Wake said, when asked what went wrong Sunday. “You’ve probably heard that word maybe a couple of times from guys up here. Just got to be where you’re supposed to be, do what you’re supposed to do, make the tackles, make the plays.”
For Wake and Quinn so far this season, that has been easier said than done.
“I’ll worry about self-scout at the end of the year,” said Dolphins coach Adam Gase. “Right now, Cam does exactly what he always does. He does a great job of setting the edge and when he gets his opportunities to rush the passer, if he doesn’t have two or three guys hitting him, he usually causes some kind of pressure.
“Rob, I think he’s giving us everything he has,” Gase added. “I think there’s a couple of plays he wishes he could have had yesterday. He had a great chance on that [end-]around and he did a great job of sniffing it out. I think it’s tough enough to even get yourself in that kind of position to make that play. I would love to see him make the tackle because that would have been a huge loss but I think he’s working to do everything right.”