Armando Salguero

Brilliant day for Dolphins defense clouded by troubling decision by Pro Bowl player

Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso said he “got the ‘sh...t’ out of me, and it felt good”, after his interception

Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso talks to the media after their 13-6 win over the New York Jets in a NFL football game at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, November 4 2018, in Miami Gardens.
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Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso talks to the media after their 13-6 win over the New York Jets in a NFL football game at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, November 4 2018, in Miami Gardens.

This one should have been about a celebration. It should have been about an enormous rebuttal to anyone who saw the Miami Dolphins’ defense struggle the past three weeks.

The narrative today should have been about the great rebound game the Dolphins defense had against the New York Jets and the outstanding work embattled defensive coordinator Matt Burke just did in response to a tough week.

We should be having fun with this because it speaks to great renewed confidence by the defense that Burke on Saturday night promised his players they were going to play well. And, he further promised, after they played well he would run to the center of the Hard Rock Stadium field and celebrate their work -- by removing some clothing so the Jets sideline could mark the occasion.

So when the Miami Dolphins not only beat the Jets, but seemingly crushed the Jets’ spirit on offense, several defenders turned to Burke and motioned to him to start his promised celebration, which thankfully he declined to follow through on.

This 13-6 Dolphins victory over the New York Jets -- one that breaks a two-game losing skid, and comes against a division foe -- should be a good news opportunity that is punctuated with exclamation points instead of question marks.

And, yet, there are questions.

Because Reshad Jones, who’s been selected twice to the Pro Bowl including last season, came out of the game in the second quarter on Sunday. And Dolphins coach Adam Gase made it clear the reason Jones didn’t return is because he pulled himself out of the game.

Yes, the Dolphins wanted to give Minkah Fitzpatrick snaps at safety and the plan was he would get some of those snaps at the expense of Jones. But when Jones came out, he decided not to go back in the rest of the game.

Maybe he was angry anyone would dare take him out of the game at all. Maybe his pride was hurt. I don’t know.

Jones stayed on the Miami sideline and watched the entire rest of the game while the defense did its good work. The scene of him watching, fully capable of helping but declining to do so, as the Dolphins intercepted New York rookie quarterback Sam Darnold four times was jarring.

Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake talks to the media after their 13-6 win over the New York Jets in a NFL football game at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, November 4 2018, in Miami Gardens.

This, you must understand, is the same Reshad Jones who explained to me three weeks ago he’s playing with a torn labrum in his left (non-surgically repaired) shoulder. This is the same Jones who must strap on a harness before every game so he can be on the field for his team.

But Sunday, Jones made the cold, calculated decision he would rather not play than be part of any sort of platooning at his position.

Jones was already gone when reporters were allowed to enter the Dolphins locker room. So I called Jones and he answered. We’ve talked extensively in the past and I thought we had a good relationship. But after he said “hello” and I identified myself, the connection went dead.

And Jones didn’t pick up again or return a text to him. His agent Joel Segal also did not return a phone call.

Miami Dolphins Reshad Jones (20) talks with Frank Gore as they play the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, Sunday, November, 4, 2018. CHARLES TRAINOR JR

Amazingly, no Dolphins defenders I spoke with seemed surprised Jones stopped playing. None actually seemed to care. Maybe it was because they were too happy with the victory to really be worried one of the team’s best defenders quit during a game.

One source seemed to sum up the reaction to Jones’s actions when he said, “If he (Jones) doesn’t want to play for us, (bleep) it.”

And this is where I remind you if you’re a Dolphins fan, you cannot have nice things. Because even amid good news and on a day your team won, you still have to wash down your victory sandwich with a glass of water from the toilet bowl.

That water is served up by the Jones episode, to be sure, but also because the Dolphins’ offense was practically unwatchable against the Jets.

Miami Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker talks to the media after their 13-6 win over the New York Jets in a NFL football game at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday, November 4 2018, in Miami Gardens.

The Miami offense was out-gained 165 yards to New York’s 275. And as you just read, the Jets on offense were a mess.

Miami’s Brock Osweiler had his least productive start of the four he’s had since Ryan Tannehill injured his shoulder. No, Osweiler didn’t throw an interception but the Miami offense didn’t get in the end zone and the quarterback was sacked four times.

The Dolphins also could not run the football -- averaging an anemic 2.4 yards per carry.

This would have been the game that caused you to beg for Tannehill to make his return next week because the Dolphins travel to Green Bay and my guess is they better not make the trip with only the defense ready to play.

About that defense: The cynic will say the Dolphins feasted and got fat on a rookie quarterback. Yes, no doubt.

But what you don’t know is the pass Jerome Baker picked off for his first career interception came when the Dolphins were playing a coverage they had not used in a game this year. In fact, that coverage, some players said, was installed only last week.

So players that blew a lot of coverages at Houston were on point with this new coverage. And Burke, who was on the social media hot seat last week, ignored the noise and installed new stuff that worked.

Baker did the rest, plucking the ball out of the air at the Jets 25 yard line and scoring in the blink of an eye.

“I wanted to get over there and help him with a block,” linebacker Kiko Alonso said. “But he was already gone.”

Baker got a game ball afterward. He’s got several from his days in high school and at Ohio State. And he said he’s let his family hold those commemorative balls for him.

“This one I’m going to keep,” Baker said with a wide smile.

And what about waiting for blocks from teammates on his next interception?

“I’m too fast to wait for blocks,” Baker joked.

If only fun stuff like that is what Sunday could have been exclusively about for the Dolphins.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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