DAVIE, Fl. The Dolphins rank 30th in the 32-team NFL in pass defense. Conversely, they rank No. 1 in the league in rush defense.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin has a pretty good idea what that means.
Some offensive coordinators in the league, or some head coaches, are going to say, Why are we running the ball against these guys? he theorized.
Hes right. Teams have attempted 172 passes against Miami, most in the NFL.
In light of such damning evidence, itd be fair to say the Dolphins secondary of cornerbacks Sean Smith and Richard Marshall, and safeties Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones, are struggling.
The Dolphins have allowed three 100-yard receivers in four games Houstons Andre Johnson, the New York Jets Santonio Holmes and Arizonas Andre Roberts and theyve allowed three others more than 80 yards.
There havent been too many big plays, its been yards after the catch, guys have been catching the ball and running, Jones said. We just have to do a better job tackling guys.
On Sunday, Miami travels to Cincinnati to face the Bengals passing duo of quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green, one of NFLs most dangerous up-and-coming combinations. They rank seventh in passing offense at 279 yards per game. Dalton is the leagues fifth-rated passer and Green is second in receiving yards (428) and second in yards per game (107).
Hes very explosive, Smith said of Green. Hes constantly winning 1-on-1 battlesHes somebody whose featured in their offense and just like Fitzgerald and Andre (Johnson) you have to be aware of where hes at at all times.
The secondarys problems are enough to make some wonder why Miami traded cornerback Vontae Davis, a four-year starter, to Indianapolis during training camp. The answer, however, seems obvious.
Davis, a first-round pick in 2009, under-performed for years, and apparently its still going on now. ProFootballFocus.com has Davis rated as 83rd in the NFL, two spots behind Marshall.
The problem is Miamis answer to Davis absence cornerbacks Nolan Carroll and safety Jimmy Wilson has been inadequate. They play mostly in the nickel (five defensive back) and dime (six defensive back) formations and although both have flashed good cover skills neither is consistent.
For now the best coverage plan for Miami is good pressure up front. If the pass rush makes Dalton, or any quarterback, feel their presence the secondary has a chance for success. Miami is tied for 12th with 12 sacks, and largely because of that, is tied for ninth with five interceptions.
Outside linebacker Cameron Wake (4.5 sacks) has been effective at causing nightmares for right tackles, and defensive end Randy Starks (three sacks) has been pressing interior linemen.
But things get dicey if theres no pass rush.
Smith is having a good year. He has two interceptions, both coming in last weeks 24-21 overtime loss at Arizona, and he did a good job limiting Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald (eight receptions, 64 yards, one touchdown), one of the NFLs best.
Marshall, who has been battling back problems all season and didnt practice Thursday, is a different story. Holmes and Roberts got the bulk of their yardage against him. Marshall, not Clemons, was largely to blame for Roberts 46-yard touchdown last week. Philbin said he needed to be in better position.
Obviously, (he) got beat deep, said Philbin, who hasnt been shy about naming the guilty party on many plays. The guy made a little hint to the outside and got by him.
The safeties havent been much better as theyve consistently allowed receivers to get behind them, which is a sin at that position.
Miami has allowed 16 passing plays of more than 20 yards, which is tied for sixth-worst in the league, and three plays of 40 or more yards, which is tied for third-worst.
Two of those 30-plus plays are for more than 60 yards.
There are going to be some pass completions, you have to realize that, Philbin said, but you just have to limit the explosiveness of those passes.