The strength of this Miami Dolphins football team is clearly on the defensive side of the ball, and it’s a significant strength at that with a defense that features stars such as Karlos Dansby, Randy Starks, and Cameron Wake. Those three are three of the best players at their respective positions in the NFL, but they aren’t the only players to watch for on the Dolphins D.
1. DE Cameron Wake
What a monster. He has been the best pass rushing DE in the NFL this season, and he has already accumulated 12 sacks and 18 quarterback hits this season. The QB terror is going to be extremely difficult to hold in check, even for star right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. While he has been the best RT in the league this season, Vollmer is a little nicked up and had some struggles the last time he faced an elite pass rusher (Von Miller). Vollmer should be able to hold up, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wake add to his total of hits on the quarterback in this game. There are very few players in the NFL who are as disruptive as Wake.
2. DT Paul Soliai
One of the most underrated players in the game, Soliai is as consistent as it gets against the run and has been one of the best run-stopping defensive tackles this season. He’s always been up there and currently has 22 tackles this season. More importantly, he has six tackles for loss and provides the perfect mix with star interior partner Randy Starks.
3. DT Randy Starks
While Soliai is the solid, consistent run-stopper, Starks is the disruptive presence up the middle who can rack up sacks from the three-technique spot. The veteran currently has four sacks this season, and he even has four passes defended. The funny thing is, that’s just as many PDs as Chris Clemons and Jimmy Wilson this season (both are DBs).
Starks is coming off of a big game against the Seattle Seahawks, and he does an excellent job of getting to the quarterback. One of the best pass rushing DTs in the NFL, he has seven QB hits in total.
4. LB Karlos Dansby
The Miami Dolphins have an excellent trio of linebackers in Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, and the rising Koa Misi, with all three of them being very good run-stoppers. Dansby is the leader of the three as the middle linebacker, and he continues to be a punishing run defender. He has 83 tackles and seven passes defended this season, and his solid work in coverage is also of note. He keeps a solid foundation in the middle, and the Dolphins interior triangle will be tough to run on in this game. It’s a good thing Ryan Wendell is one of the best run blocking centers in the league, but this is still going to be a challenge for star running back Stevan Ridley.
5. CB Sean Smith
At this point in time, Sean Smith is the only good cornerback on the Miami Dolphins, and he is a very good one at that. While he does have lapses in coverage at times, Smith has gotten back to his 2010 form after a dismal 2011 campaign. He has the athleticism and talent to hang with No. 1 receivers, and he should do a good job against Brandon Lloyd on the outside. Lloyd will be able to get a few catches, but his main job will be focusing the attention away from the middle of the field (Julian Edelman and Wes Welker mainly).
Smith has a couple of picks this season and 11 passes defended, and he is the only legitimate defensive back on this team. Both safeties are well below-average, and the rest of the CBs are underwhelming with Richard Marshall out for the season.
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