Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dolphins' 'D' has been there most of season

While the Miami Dolphins struggled to put points on the board early in the season, the defense quietly kept them in games.

Now that the Dolphins are scoring, they’re winning.

The Dolphins (3-7) are sixth in the league in points-against, giving up just 20 points combined in their last three games, which were all victories, while the offense put up a staggering 86 points despite being ranked 23rd in points per game at less than 20.

Miami has quashed the run as well, ranking fifth in yards-per-rush average against and forcing eight fumbles, second-best in the league.

A big part of the defensive success has come from the linebacker tandem of Cameron Wake and Jason Taylor, who are No. 1 and 2, respectively, on the team in sacks. Coach Tony Sparano named Taylor a team captain before Miami’s first win (in Kansas City) and they haven’t lost since, with Taylor tallying two sacks and a forced fumble in the last three games.

“He’s meant a tremendous amount to the team and to me personally,” Sparano told reporters Tuesday. “The guy’s a leader, he’s a pro. I can use him a bunch of times as an example to younger players... I enjoy my time with Jason here and I’m glad he’s with us.”

With Miami preparing for their Thanksgiving game against Dallas, Wake probably has the most to be thankful for on the squad. From being cut from the Giants after being drafted to regaining recognition via the CFL, Wake has proven the past two years he is an elite NFL linebacker, finishing third in the league in sacks last year and gaining a spot on the Pro Bowl roster.

“He’s a kid that obviously fell through the cracks that had to fight, scratch, claw, to get his way into this league,” Sparano said. “To see him have the success he’s having, he’s a very humble guy, he doesn’t forget how he got here... everyday he goes about doing his work; he does it with that kind of passion.”

Taylor mirrored Sparano’s comments about his teammate, saying that the road into the NFL isn’t always pretty, but “the destination is great.”

The Dolphins will have their hands full on both sides of the ball Thursday against Dallas, as the Cowboys come into the game averaging 25 points per game and have the league’s second-leading pass rusher in Demarcus Ware, who has 13 sacks this season, including two forced fumbles.

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