Barry Jackson

The bottom line on each Miami Dolphins’ defensive player through half the season

Miami Dolphins Ndamukong Suh (93) and Cameron Wake (91) sack Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) in the second quarter of the Oct. 15 game at Atlanta.
Miami Dolphins Ndamukong Suh (93) and Cameron Wake (91) sack Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) in the second quarter of the Oct. 15 game at Atlanta. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

With the Dolphins at the season’s midpoint, here’s an assessment of each defensive player currently on the 53-man roster: (Note: Snap counts are only for defensive snaps, not special teams snaps.)

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

Ndamukong Suh: Snaps: 429. Pro Football Focus ranking: Second among 117 defensive tackles, behind only Aaron Donald. Suh has been Miami’s best player this season, is the linchpin of a run defense that’s much improved and has impressed the team by becoming a better leader and mentor to young players.

Jordan Phillips: Snaps: 126; PFF grade: 109th if he had enough snaps to qualify. Phillips missed three games with an ankle injury and has seven tackles and no sacks in five games. But he has made fewer errors in the running game and coaches say he is a more consistent player who’s in better shape and doing everything asked of him.

Davon Godchaux: Snaps: 262. PFF ranking: 65th of 117 defensive tackles. The rookie fifth-rounder has been a godsend, filling the vital role vacated by the release of Earl Mitchell and providing generally stout play against the run. (The 49ers’ Mitchell, incidentally, is rated 112th). This past Sunday might have been Godchaux’s best game.

Vincent Taylor: Snaps: 101. Playing time has been limited, but PFF would rank him in the top half of defensive tackles if he had enough snaps to qualify. Also has two blocked field goals.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

Cam Wake: Snaps: 296. PFF ranking: 14th among 110 edge defenders. Has six sacks, but none in the past two weeks, and generally has held up well against the run.

William Hayes: Snaps: 210. PFF ranking: 12th among 110 edge defenders. Though he missed a tackle on an Oakland TD run, he generally has been very good against the run, providing key stops to critical moments in the second half of the Tennessee and Atlanta games. Has one sack after producing five for the Rams the past two years.

Andre Branch: Snaps: 273. PFF ranking: 82nd among 110 edge defenders. Has had a generally quiet second season here, with 13 tackles (a pace well below his 49 last season) and three sacks. His run defense has been more than adequate, but he hasn’t had a sack in a month (though he missed one game with a groin issue).

Charles Harris: Snaps: 266. PFF ranking: 58th among 110 edge defenders. Had a couple of good moments in the Tennessee and Atlanta wins but overall has had a nondescript rookie season, with nine tackles and one sack. Hasn’t been a big liability against the run but also hasn’t had a great impact as a pass-rusher, which is mildly disappointing.

Terrence Fede: Snaps: 35. A more-than-capable No. 5 defensive end who also can move inside when needed.

LINEBACKERS

Kiko Alonso: Snaps: 495. PFF ranking: 65th among 108 qualifying linebackers. Has 51 tackles (behind last year’s 115-tackle pace), a sack and two forced fumbles but was victimized in coverage last Sunday and that’s an ongoing concern.

Lawrence Timmons: Snaps: 374. PFF ranking: 32nd. Played brilliantly initially after missing the first two games when he went AWOL and was suspended. Hasn’t been quite as good the past couple weeks, with several missed tackles. On pace for his lowest tackle total since 2009. A strong blitzer but has no sacks after averaging 3.9 the past nine years.

Rey Maualuga: Snaps:146. PFF ranking: Would be 44th among 108 if he had enough snaps to qualify. Been decent in his role in base defense, but clearly a one-year stopgap while Raekwon McMillan heals from knee surgery.

Mike Hull: Snaps 145. Held up against the run but was victimized in pass coverage when he played early in the season and hasn’t had a defensive snap in a month.

Chase Allen: Snaps: 50. Stands as Miami’s No. 4 linebacker at the moment, seemingly ahead of Hull and Stephone Anthony because he’s active on game days for special teams reasons. Led the NFL in preseason tackles and the Dolphins are intrigued by his skill set.

Stephone Anthony: Snaps: None. Hasn’t played a down since the Dolphins sent the Saints a fifth-round pick for him in September. Has a $1.5 million cap hit if he’s on the team next season, no hit if he’s not.

SAFETIES

Reshad Jones: Snaps: 487. PFF ranking: 14th of 107 safeties. PFF ranks him second among safeties against the run but just 46th against the pass. His return has clearly upgraded Miami’s defense this season, but he comes off his worst game in memory on Sunday.

Michael Thomas: Snaps: 122. PFF ranking: 22nd among safeties if he had enough snaps to qualify. Remains an ace on special teams and has been capable as a fill-in to bridge the gap between Nate Allen’s loss and T.J. McDonald’s return from suspension (on Monday against Carolina).

Maurice Smith: Snaps: 17. PFF ranking: Would be 17th among safeties if he had enough snaps to qualify. Not only did Smith overcome odds to make the team as an undrafted rookie free agent, but he competently handled a bunch of third down snaps against Oakland.

CORNERBACKS

Xavien Howard: Snaps: 483. PFF ranking: 113th of 115 qualifying cornerbacks. Hasn’t been beaten much in the past month after a poor start but had a costly end-zone pass interference penalty on Sunday and has no interceptions in 15 career games. More is expected.

Cordrea Tankersley: Snaps: 366. PFF ranking: 70th of 115 cornerbacks. Hasn’t been a liability since replacing Byron Maxwell Oct. 1 against the Saints and held up better against the run than some draftniks expected. Has five pass breakups but no interceptions in six games.

Bobby McCain: Snaps: 278. PFF ranking: 45th of 115 cornerbacks. Enjoying his best pro season, highlighted by the critical late-game interception against the Jets. Has improved enough where the Dolphins can feel comfortable with McCain as their slot corner.

Alterraun Verner: Snaps: 10. Been targeted once and allowed a 69-yard touchdown (against the Jets) on that play. But with Byron Maxwell gone and Tony Lippett out for the year, Verner would be needed for heavy snaps if Howard or Tankersley is injured.

Torry McTyer: Snaps: 3. Dolphins see upside in the undrafted UNLV rookie but his chance in a game probably won’t come until training camp 2018.

Walt Aikens: Snaps: 0. Remains a core special teams player but hasn’t received a chance on defense after shifting from safety.

Jordan Lucas: Snaps: 0. Has special teams value and can play safety or corner.

Here’s my assessment of the team’s offensive players on the 53-man roster.

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