As football season fast approaches, Pro Football Focus is publishing its rankings for every team's positional units. The Miami Dolphins find themselves near the top of of the league for their defensive line. PFF ranked it the fourth best in the NFL and best in the AFC.
When talking about Miami, most people go straight to their offense. When you deploy a dynamic duo like Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle at receiver, it's easy to understand why. But the Dolphins goal of making a deep playoff run and hoisting their third Lombardi Trophy may come down to the continued growth of their defense — especially the D-line.
In addition to Wilkins and Phillips, the line is anchored by ironman Zach Sieler, who came in No. 1 on PFF's list of underrated Dolphins, and Bradley Chubb, whom the Dolphins traded for in November to improve their pass rush.
After eight games with Miami last season, Chubb returns to a scheme in 2023 that saw him make the Pro Bowl in 2020 with his former head coach and now new defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio.
The unit should benefit from the return of defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, who was limited to 328 snaps last season due to a triceps injury. Ogbah led the defense in sacks in 2021 with nine. When he's not getting to the QB, he's often knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage. He ranks top 20 all time in passes broken up by a defensive lineman.
The Dolphins suffered greatly from the injury bug on defense last season, losing multiple defenders for the season. That helped contribute to a bottom-half ranking in points allowed.
However, a big reason for optimism for not only the defense but their season as well is the addition of Fangio. His defenses have ranked in the top 10 in points allowed in 10 of his 22 seasons and on six different occasions they've been top three in that category.
While additions such as CB Jalen Ramsey grab headlines, this defense's ability to play like a dominant unit looks to start up front.
Analysts around the league are taking notice.
.@LRiddickESPN sees the Dolphins as the best threat to the AFC East crown— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) May 10, 2023
"Vic Fangio is the number one prize landing for any football team. ... That's gonna push them over the top. That's what I think makes them the favorite in the East." pic.twitter.com/fzHQXONpGS