FRONT FOUR ON FIRE

There were many observers who questioned this summer whether the Dolphins defensive line was good enough after Lorenzo Bromell and Kenny Mixon left via free agency and Daryl Gardener was waived. You don't really hear much complaining anymore.

The defensive line actually has been one of the most productive units on the team through the first seven games of the season and the three departed veterans have been replaced and forgotten.

Really, Gardener's name hasn't been mentioned around these part since early in the regular season. That was a far cry from July and August, when all you heard was concern about the ability to replace him and criticism about the Dolphins making the wrong move in getting rid of him.

But the defensive line hasn't missed Gardener in the least. The run defense is better — by far — than it was last year, with only Edgerrin James and Travis Henry burning the Dolphins on the ground.

Against the Colts, the entire defense was at fault because defenders were overpursuing and James made a killing cutting back against the Dolphins.

But Henry's success came on runs outside, and the responsibility for that falls mostly on the outside linebackers and cornerbacks and not so much on the defensive ends.

When it comes to the pass rush, the Dolphins have been relentless ever since they got dissected by Kansas City's Trent Green.

That day, they couldn't generate any pressure on the quarterback and paid dearly for it.

Since then, the Dolphins have harassed Tom Brady, Brian Griese and Drew Bledsoe, recording a season-high five sacks against Buffalo last Sunday.

And that's fact is even more impresssive when you consider that Jason Taylor – obviously the team's best pass rusher — didn't get a sack.

"The last three weeks I thought they've played as well as they've played here in the last couple of years," said Coach Dave Wannstedt. "People haven't been able to run inside and we have really increased our pressure and sacks the last couple of weeks. I'm pleased. The defensive line has been one of our strong points."

If you think Wannstedt is surprised at how well the defensive line is playing, think again. He said all along the defensive line would be fine, even after Gardener was released.

And he made it a point to tell reporters when he was asked this week whether he was ever concerned about his defensive line.

Said Wannstedt with a grin on his face: "Pull out the articles from July."


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