Midseason Report: Defense

The stunning victory over the Chicago Bears was a great way to close what otherwise was a tremendously disappointing first half of the season for the Dolphins. We take time out to look back at that first half, with this installment reviewing the performance of the defense.


Overall performance: Coming into the season, we all thought this would be the strength of the team, and that's pretty much how it's played out. The Dolphins have been very good at stopping the run, and major kudos need to go to Keith Traylor, who is having a tremendous year at nose tackle. Jason Taylor has led a pass rush that is not quite as formidable as last year, but still is potent.

Best player at the position: This one is terribly easy, with Taylor the obvious choice.

Most disappointing player: Since everybody up front has done pretty much what was expected and performed well, we'll have to go back to the preseason and go with Manuel Wright, who is in California instead of contributing to the team.

Position grade: B+


Overall performance: Zach Thomas and Channing Crowder rank 1-2 on the team in tackles, and Coach Nick Saban talks every week about the good job Thomas is doing, but from the press box it's looking like the linebackers simply aren't making many big plays, whether it be turnovers, sacks or tackles for loss.

Best player at the position: Thomas is the one leading the team in tackles, but the feeling here is just that Crowder has made more things happen, particularly when it comes to blitzing.

Most disappointing player: It might not be a popular choice to knock Thomas, who really isn't playing that badly at all and is among the leading tacklers in the league. But the truth is we've come to expect more of an impact from Thomas, and too many of his tackles have come after gains of, say, 5 or 6 yards.

Position grade: C+


Overall performance: This was the one area on defense where there was a lot of concern heading into the regular season, For the most part, those fears materialized. It's not that the pass defense was porous, it's just that the Dolphins seemed to have a knack for giving up the big play at bad times or to commit bad penalties. We have to say the run support has been pretty good, though, much better than it was when Sam Madison was playing cornerback for the Dolphins. The Dolphins are coming off their best performance in the secondary against the Bears.

Best player at the position: It's interesting because the two players who had the best performances in the first half of the season weren't starters at the beginning, and that would be Andre Goodman and Yeremiah Bell. Think about it, how many of the bad plays in the secondary have come against Goodman? As for Bell, he just has made play after play, regardless of how much playing time he's gotten.

Most disappointing player: It's pretty obvious this has to go to first-round pick Jason Allen, who is only now starting to get playing time on defense and had his first interception against Chicago. Of course, it didn't help that Allen missed the start of camp in a contract dispute.

Position grade: D+


Overall performance: The Dolphins were very good in that department last year, but not so much this season. Donnie Jones led the league in net punting average a year ago, but is down to a mediocre 35.5 yards this season, while Olindo Mare is only 12-for-19 on field goal attempts. Wes Welker has a good average on punt returns (10.2), but hasn't done all that much on kickoff returns (21.0).

Best player at the position: This has to be Welker because nobody else really has stood out, although Travis Minor has done some good work in coverage.

Position grade: C-

DEFENSIVE MVP: This is not even close. Jason Taylor has far and away been the best player on the Dolphins defense -- the entire team, actually.

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