HAPPY DAYS ON DEFENSE

The Dolphins defense has been good for the last several years, but it might reaching a new level this season.

The defense, in fact, might be making the jump from good to very good — or even excellent.

The Dolphins are ranked third in the league in total yards allowed, they are second behind Denver in rushing defense and they have jumped up to sixth in passing defense.

The only two other defenses that rank in the top 10 in all three categories are those of Tampa Bay and Philadelphia.

Here's a stat that should tell you all you need to know about the Dolphins: They have held eight of their 11 opponents under 300 yards of offense.

Zach Thomas isn't ready to call this the best defense he's ever played on, but he did say, "We're playing good right now. We started out one year when the first five games we hardly gave up any points. But we do have more talent and more depth than we've ever had. Guys are clicking and it's not just a few guys making plays, it's spread out. If guys get double-teamed, somebody else is stepping up."

It's easy to see some guys having tremendous years, starting with defensive end Jason Taylor and cornerback Patrick Surtain.

Thomas has done what he's always done at middle linebacker, which is make a ton of tackles.

But this defense has been succeeding because so many guys are contributing. Taylor always mentions the rest of the defensive line whenever he gets an NFL award, and he's right.

Defensive tackles Tim Bowens, Larry Chester and Jermaine Haley don't get a lot of recognition, but they do their job of clogging up the middle almost to perfection.

Morlon Greenwood hasn't made many highlight plays, but he was singled out by both Thomas and Dave Wannstedt this week for the season he's having.

And on and on and on it goes.

"Derrick is playing great, Morlon is really playing awesome; he does a lot of the dirty work," Thomas said of Greenwood and fellow starting linebacker Derrick Rodgers. "He doesn't get much credit, but he blows stuff up, he blows those guards up and I run free and Derrick runs free."

Whatever the reason, the Dolphins have become equally adept at stopping the run and defending the pass in recent weeks, with Wannstedt saying this is the best the team has played the run since he arrived in Miami in 1999.

The only question now is whether the Dolphins can keep this up the remainder of the season. If they can, who knows how far this team can go.


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