Midseason marks: Defense

The Dolphins arrived at the halfway point of the 2005 season with a 3-5 record, which is what a lot of people expected before things got under way. Of course, the record now seems a little disappointing after the Dolphins started off 2-1 with victories over playoff hopefuls Denver and Carolina. We examine the Dolphins' performance in the first half of the season, this time focusing on the defense.

DEFENSIVE LINE

The Dolphins totally revamped that group in the offseason, bringing in veterans Vonnie Holliday, Kevin Carter and Keith Traylor to join Jason Taylor in the starting lineup. The result is this group probably has been the best unit on the defense so far. The Dolphins' run defense was outstanding early on before going through a little bit of a lull. Still, Miami is giving up 3.7 yards per rushing attempt, which is a very impressive figure. As far as the pass rush goes, Taylor and Carter are tied for the team lead with four sacks. Because he is dropping off into coverage at times, it was natural that Taylor's sack numbers was fall off a bit, but he's been fairly consistent in applying pressure. The big issue on the defensive line is the Dolphins don't have a pure nose tackle other than Traylor, but overall the play of this group has been solid. Grade: B

LINEBACKERS

As always, it's been Zach Thomas and the other guys. Thomas has proven wrong those who said he might not be a great fit for this defense, and he's having as good a year as he's ever had -- which is saying a lot. Channing Crowder is way ahead of the curve considering he's starting as a rookie third-round pick, and he figures to get better the more experience he gets. So far, he's been good at times and has made mistakes at other times. As for the other starting spot, Junior Seau has battled a calf injury and hasn't made much of an impact. Grade: C+

DEFENSIVE BACKS

This, along with the offensive line, was a major concern heading into the season and it has played out that way. The Dolphins have had major problems with their third-down defense recently, and the biggest problem has been coverage deficiencies. It's difficult to find any player in that group who had a good first half of the season. Safety Lance Schulters had the biggest play on defense with his late interception against Carolina, but the Dolphins have a paltry four interceptions as a team and opposing quarterbacks are completing 59 percent of their passes. Sam Madison clearly isn't the cornerback he once was, while Travis Daniels is technically sound but lacks great size or speed. The safety position lost Tebucky Jones to a chest injury in the Friday night loss to Kansas City, and replacement Travares Tillman isn't considered a great coverage guy. This position stands as perhaps the biggest priority of the offseason after getting a quarterback. Grade: D


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