Face it, Miami Dolphins fans. Miami’s rush defense has been terrible for years, and they are finally taking the appropriate steps to fix it. The re-signing of Andre Branch and the addition of defensive end William Hayes (Pro Football Focus’ 11th best edge defender against the run) are good moves that will help solidify this problem, but neither is more important than the signing of former Steeler’s linebacker – Lawrence Timmons.
Timmons comes from a franchise where physical defense and stopping the run has always been a priority and a pride. It’s embedded in the history of the Steelers’ organization dating all the way back to the days of Chuck Noll’s Steel Curtain in the 1970’s, and has continued through the great coaching eras of Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin (really easy to keep track of all their head coaches when they’ve only had 3 since 1969. How many have the Dolphins had again?)
The former 2007 1st-round pick played a pivotal role slowing down running backs since he became a full-time starter in 2009. According to ESPN.com, from 2010-16 the Steelers ranked 1st, 8th, 2nd, 21st, 6th, 5th, and 13th in Rush Defense. 5 of those seasons as a Top 10 rushing defense. 3 of those 5 as a Top 5 rushing defense. During that span, Lawrence Timmons had 6 seasons with over 100 combined tackles.
Why is that important?
I’ll tell you why that’s important!
Because unlike most simple-minded football fans, I know that you don’t fix your Run Defense with only good D-lineman. Ndamukong Suh is a great player, but when have you ever seen a Defensive Tackle get 100 tackles in a season?
The Dolphins have not had a linebacker with back-to-back 100+ combined tackle seasons since 2011 and 2012 when Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett were at the helm. But apparently being the 3rd and 13th best Rushing Defense in those years was not good enough for Dolphin Nation, and their lack of turnovers caused them to be run out of town for “younger and faster” linebackers in Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler.
But Dolphin Nation was right, they were faster, and they let that Rush D fall faster than an old man slipping on soup at a deli. The Dolphins Rush Defense plummeted from 13th in 2012 to 24th in seasons 2013(124.9 yds/G) and 2014(121.1 yds/G). And it got worse in 2015 when Koa Misi was in the middle – 28th with 126.2 yds/G allowed. (Why do some fans still believe in Koa Misi?)
This past season was the lowest of lows. The Dolphins ranked 30th in Rush Defense via ESPN.com allowing 140.4 yds/G in the regular season. Many of those yards due to the mediocre starting talent the Fins already had at linebacker and the massive amounts of injuries they had along the way.
The newly acquired Dolphins LB is sure to clean up a lot of this mess.
Have I mentioned he stays healthy?
Unlike often-injured and banged-up linebackers of the past like Dannell Ellerbe and current Dolphins in Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins, Timmons has only missed 1 game since 2010. He brings a sense of durability and dependability to this major position of need.
Lawrence Timmons is 30 years old and is not the Dolphins long-term answer for the future, but he is the answer for the next 2 years while they look for an upcoming young stud at MLB. The Dolphins will most likely move Kiko Alonso (depending who they draft) outside, as they have been planning to do since December, where they can use his athleticism to cover tight-ends, slot receivers, and pass-catching running-backs out of the backfield(Don’t be bitter, Kiko-fans. I love Kiko but he’s not built to play middle). The second outside linebacker spot could be filled with returning veteran Jelani Jenkins or a 1st round selection in the draft like Zach Cunningham.
These players, paired with a Defensive Line consisting of Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, Andre Branch, William Hayes, and Jordan Phillips should solve a lot of the defensive problems the Dolphins had in 2016. Look for the defense to improve along with the team overall.