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Where will the Miami Dolphins pressure come from?

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As we keenly await the first appearance of Jaelan Phillips in a Miami Dolphins jersey in a meaningful(ish) game, it is worth considering whether the Dolphins pass rush will be a plus for the 2021 Dolphins.

This off season, we have lost two notable parts of the Miami Dolphins pass rush from 2020 in Shaq Lawson (traded to Houston Texans as part of the Benardrick McKinney trade) and Kyle Van Noy (released and subsequently signed by the Patriots). Between these two players, Miami are losing a sizeable amount of QB pressures. Last year, they accounted for 25% of the Dolphins’ QB pressures. Breaking these numbers down further reveals that, combined, they were responsible for 21% of the Dolphins’ sacks, 33% of QB hits and 23% of QB hurries. This is a pretty big hole to fill in the Miami defense. 

Let’s compare Lawson and Van Noy’s production as individuals to players we still have on the roster. Lawson created pressure on 11% of his pass 351 rush snaps, and Van Noy created pressure on an admirable 13% of his 811 pass rush snaps. 

Emmanuel Ogbah12.6%522
Zach Sieler7.9%318
Andrew Van Ginkel8.9%212
Christian Wilkins5.0%363
Jerome Baker12.6%135
Nik Needham31.0%32
Raekwon Davis5.5%254
Miami Dolphins 2020 Pass rush pressure stats

To give this all a bit more context, league leading pass rusher Aaron Donald made pressure on 17.2% of his 569 pass rush snaps. Of course, he is an exceptional talent, who will undoubtedly find his name in Canton in the not-too-distant future, but his are the kind of numbers we need to be aspiring to individually. Shaq Barrett was at 15.6% and TJ Watt 15.2%. 

Having said that, the Miami Dolphins mantra has largely been about creating pressures as a team without the need for individual stars doing it all by themselves. For example, Nik Needham created pressure on 31% of his 32 pass rush snaps, showing the value of scheming ways to dictate to an opponent’s QB. 

Apart from Ogbah (and Needham exclusively in blitz packages), no other player created pressure with as much success as either Van Noy or Lawson. So there is clearly a void that needs to be filled.

In terms of sacks, Emmanuel Ogbah achieved 10 sacks last season, which equals the combined total of Lawson and Van Noy. It is clear that Ogbah needs to have another big year. He is in a contract year, so hopes are high for him to repeat his feats from last year. Andrew Van Ginkel (6), Zach Sieler (4) and Jerome Baker (8) all contributed with sacks last year and it should be hoped that they can at least match their production from last season if the Miami Dolphins are to dominate offences.


So how do we replace the production of two of our best pass rushers statistically in Lawson and Van Noy?

Let’s look no further than Jaelan Phillips! Regarded by many analysts as the best D-Line prospect in 2021 draft, Philips recorded an impressive 14.7% of pressures in his 284 pass rush snaps in College for the University of Miami. Whilst this was clearly against College players, this bodes well for him to be able to replace Lawson’s numbers. His explosive speed and strength off the edge will be badly needed for the Miami Dolphins this year. 

The Miami Dolphins have also signed Adam Butler from New England, who recorded 9% pressures in his pass rush snaps, Shaqueem Griffin 10.4% pressures and Vince Biegel returns from injury, having posted 10.7% pressures in 2019. 

In conclusion, this situation feels hopeful. Granted, there is a huge need for Jaelan Phillips to hit the ground running this season (pun intended) and hopefully prove that the front office were right to move on from Lawson. But there are also other players who have proven to be effective in pass rush and they need to show up big time this season. Jerome Baker in particular needs to justify his big contract and make another leap this year to mitigate the loss of Van Noy. 

We have to believe Flores and his coaches will work out a way to maintain the pressure on opposing QBs. The Miami Dolphins’ pass rush was graded as worst in the NFL in 2019, with a grade of 56.1. Last season, we moved up to 14th overall with a grade of 72.2. That’s huge progress.

Flores was probably wise in keeping lots of his schemes a secret during the Bears pre-season game and hopefully he will save these pressure packages for the first game of the regular season. I have faith that he will work out a way to get to opposing QBs to give our defence the edge. Between Phillips and Flores, I have high hopes. 

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