‘Heartbroken’ Miami Dolphins DT Zach Sieler on Life After Christian Wilkins

    After a big contract and a career year in 2023, Miami Dolphins DT Zach Sieler tackles a new role in a new defense -- without his close friend Christian Wilkins.

    New dad Zach Sieler is getting new dad sleep while preparing for his fourth season with the Miami Dolphins.

    But it’s not like Sieler can nap during position meetings this spring. He’s set to be, for the first time as a pro, his team’s DT1. Plus he’s learning a new system for the third time in four years.

    So yes, a lot’s being asked of Sieler in 2024. But that’s to be expected.

    With close friend — and self-described Pepper to his Salt — Christian Wilkins now in Las Vegas, Sieler is not only his position group’s highest-paid player but also its most accomplished.

    Miami Dolphins DT Zach Sieler’s Role Has Never Been Bigger

    “Obviously it’s one of those bittersweet [situations],” Sieler said of Wilkins’ decision to sign a four-year, $110 million free-agent contract with the Las Vegas Raiders.

    “Love playing with the guy, but I’ll tell you: It’s great to see him get paid, go somewhere else, and make an impact over there.

    “But in reality, this defense and this D-line [isn’t] just him or him and I or whoever inside,” he added. “It takes a whole rotational front, it takes everybody up front. So it’s been really cool getting to know [and] getting to play with these new guys coming in and learning how their techniques and habits and how we can play off each other this year.”

    There’s little Sieler didn’t know about his previous running mate. Sieler and Wilkins had a rare bond. They became more family than friends.

    (Sieler said his wife Hannah “was super heartbroken too” by Wilkins no longer being a Dolphin.)

    Their dynamic was a charming part of Hard Knocks. When Sieler signed his own big-money contract (three years, $30.8 million) last summer, no one was happier than Wilkins — even though it might have hastened his exit.

    Sieler set career highs in sacks (10) and quarterback hits (22) in 2023. But now that Wilkins is gone, there has never been more expected of Sieler. Plus, he can expect far more double teams than he has before. Can Sieler make the leap from being a very good player to one of the league’s best?

    “I think with or without Christian, no matter what, that’s the goal every year,” Sieler said. “So that’s my plan. I don’t care who’s next to me. I’m gonna find a way to make it work, and we’re gonna make it right.”

    Instead of spending big money or using a high draft pick on a replacement, the Dolphins and their new defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver are taking a by-committee approach.

    They signed or re-resigned eight veterans at the position in free agency, and the competition to start next to Sieler has already begun during the team’s voluntary spring program and will run all the way through training camp.

    “We’re still learning,” Sieler said. “It’s early. It’s been really cool to learn these first these couple of weeks, three weeks now, learning the system and kind of how [Weaver is] working.

    “How we work through things and his vision on how offenses attack us and his defense. It’s been the last three years, it’s been kind of different guys, and now it’s just kind of growing as another step in the process, and it’s been really incredible to see how he grows and just how he approaches the game, being an ex-player and coaching for so long and what he did, it’s really, really interesting.”

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