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How good can Emmanuel Ogbah, Jaelan Phillips and Dolphins’ pass rush be in 2022? | Countdown to camp

With the 2022 NFL season fast approaching, the South Florida Sun Sentinel takes a look at 10 storylines to watch for in a 10-part series ahead of the Miami Dolphins’ first day of training camp, which is set for July 27.

What makes the Miami Dolphins defense so exciting, aside from all the game-changing plays cornerback Xavien Howard is capable of making, is the way the unit blitzes.

The Dolphins blitzed on 39.6 percent of opposing quarterback dropbacks in 2021, according to Pro Football Reference, which ranked second in the NFL to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 40.8 percent. But nobody is willing to bring more pass rushers than Miami, daring to dial up that patented zero-blitz with the safeties attacking the quarterback and cornerbacks left in single coverage with no help over the top.

Even better than the 48 sacks the Dolphins recorded last season, which were good for fifth in the NFL, Miami led the league in quarterback knockdowns per pass attempt, doing so at a 12.7-percent clip.

The ingredients all return for the Dolphins to have just as effective of a pass rush, if not better. Adding to defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and outside linebacker Jaelan Phillips, the team added veteran three-time Pro Bowl edge defender Melvin Ingram.

Defensive coordinator Josh Boyer is back to orchestrate it with the same pieces, but he’ll also have to prove he can call the defense on his own without former coach Brian Flores supporting him. It’ll be his responsibility now with new coach Mike McDaniel coming to Miami with an offensive background.

The nature of this pass rush is for it to not be dependent on any one defender to provide pressure, which is evidenced by another season where no Dolphin posted double-digit sacks. It can come from anybody at any time with the various defensive fronts, stunts and exotic blitzes the defense dials up.

Ogbah’s nine sacks led the Dolphins defense in 2021. Beyond the mere sack numbers, Ogbah has become one of the NFL’s best at affecting the passer even when he doesn’t get to him before the throw. He also had 24 quarterback hits, and his 12 pass deflections at the line of scrimmage were most by a defensive lineman since 2016. It helped get Ogbah a four-year, $65 million deal with the Dolphins that includes $32 million guaranteed in the 11th hour as free-agent negotiations with other teams were minutes from beginning.

Opposite of Ogbah, there is the high-motor Phillips entering his second season after setting a Dolphins rookie sack record with 8 1/2 in 2021. The University of Miami alum got over a shaky start to his first professional season to become a valued pass rusher when asked to simply put his head down and get after it instead of being versatile in Miami’s complex fronts. Phillips got leaner in the offseason as he looks to contribute as an all-around outside linebacker.

While most of the Dolphins’ top offseason acquisitions came on offense, the team’s one major defensive boost was provided in Ingram. The 33-year-old brings 55 career sacks between regular and postseason play with him to Miami. Making his mark in his prime with the Chargers, Ingram saw a resurgence in the second half of last season with the Chiefs, becoming a consistent starter and providing persistent pressure in Kansas City’s run that ended a game shy of the Super Bowl. Ingram, who has played both defensive end and outside linebacker in his career, figures to rush the passer more standing up in the Dolphins’ scheme.

Outside linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel returns his four sacks from last season, which was a small dropoff from 5 1/2 in 2020, but he also recorded a career-high 62 tackles and seven pass deflections. Fellow linebacker Jerome Baker, a leader on the defense, had 5 1/2 sacks last year. In the second half, his potential on the outside was unlocked by sending him out on the edge more often to utilize his speed as Duke Riley consistently contributed inside linebacker reps alongside Elandon Roberts. That tandem returns while Miami also drafted speedy Georgia inside linebacker Channing Tindall in the third round.

On the defensive line, aside from Ogbah, Christian Wilkins became as complete of a defensive tackle as he has been in his third NFL season, recording a career-high 4 1/2 sacks while posting 89 tackles, which is tied for the most by an NFL defensive lineman since 2013 with Pittsburgh’s Cameron Heyward also doing it last year. Wilkins and Zach Sieler are pivotal components to the pass rush, both in their own right and in opening things up for the speed rushers.

The X-factor of the Dolphins’ pass rush over other NFL teams, though, is that willingness to blitz the safeties. Brandon Jones led all NFL safeties with five sacks. Second-year free safety Jevon Holland is capable of either being left alone deep playing center field in those instances or come in on the blitz himself after registering 2 1/2 sacks as a rookie.

It all comes full circle with the cornerback coverage and how allowing Howard, Byron Jones and Nik Needham play man-to-man grants Boyer that ability to blitz extra linebackers and safeties on passing downs.

Previously addressed

Can Dolphins get same production from Tyreek Hill in Miami?

Will Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer be able to prove he doesn’t need Brian Flores’ help?

In what ways can Mike McDaniel’s coaching style, offensive mind benefit Dolphins?

Can wide-zone scheme jump-start Dolphins’ run game?

How much improvement can be expected from Tua Tagovailoa after everything Dolphins put around him?

Will Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki compliment Tyreek Hill to give Dolphins a dangerous offensive trio?

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Source: Berkshire mont

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