Vic Fangio has a problem. The Miami Dolphins defense has talent. But they don’t play close to their ability. And after Sunday’s 48-20 humbling at the hands of the Buffalo Bills, it’s fair to say the Dolphins have the AFC East’s worst defense, and the gap is widening.
Can Vic Fangio Fix Miami Dolphins’ Defense?
Skeptical? Trust the numbers.
Here are the Dolphins season stats and NFL rankings in the major defensive categories:
- Points per game: 29.8 (28)
- Yards per game: 374.5 (T-25)
- Yards per play: 5.7 (27)
- Yards per carry: 4.3 (20)
- Yards per pass: 7.3 (27)
- Interception rate: 1.5% (21)
- Sack rate: 7.3% (T-18)
- First downs per game: 23.3 (28)
- Third down conversion rate: 46.2% (T-24)
- Red zone TD rate: 70.6% (27)
- EPA per play: .06 (26)
The Dolphins rank last in the AFC East in six of these categories and third in five. They’re the only team in the league to be bottom two in each.
Put bluntly, these are not championship-caliber numbers. And if it wasn’t for Tua Tagovailoa having an MVP-caliber season, the Dolphins would struggle to win eight games with this defense.
Certainly, the Dolphins have dealt with injuries. Jalen Ramsey was supposed to shore up Miami’s pass defense, and he might not play until December.
Plus, Jaelan Phillips is Miami’s best pass rusher, and he’s missed two of the team’s first four games.
But every team deals with injuries. The Dolphins’ problem extends beyond one or two players.
They replaced Josh Boyer with Vic Fangio in the offseason and have somehow gotten worse — substantially so.
“I would be lying if I was pumped about anything from our team today,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said after the game Sunday. “I think the National Football League is a very humbling game. If you’re not on your stuff and you’re playing a team that is, this will happen.
“My view is that there are natural curves of learning as you install any system,” he added. “However, there is nothing to be justified with the point differential for our team. So to say that I’m happy with anything would be false. I think we have a capable team. You win and lose in this league by one score at the end of the game. I think it’s a disservice to our team to lose by four, and that I made clear to the team.”
Certainly, the schedule has done Miami no favors. They’ve played the Chargers and the Bills, who have dynamic quarterbacks. With the Giants and Panthers next up, they should presumably get some relief.
But already there are questions about whether Fangio is making the best use of his talent.
Stefon Diggs roasted Kader Kohou for three touchdowns Sunday. Why wasn’t Xavien Howard on Buffalo’s WR1? It’s a question even Howard gave voice to Sunday.
“It’s a mentality for me,” Howard said, per the Palm Beach Post. “I want to go at the best. Let me make my money on the top guy. You pay me this money to go do what I do. But it’s a new defense. A new scheme. I just have to control the stuff I can control.”
Xavien Howard said he wanted to cover Stefon Diggs. “It’s a mentality for me. I want to go at the best. Let me make my money on the top guy. You pay me this money to go do what I do. But it’s a new defense. A new scheme. I just have to control the stuff I can control.”
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) October 1, 2023
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