Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill are setting the world on fire, and a gritty 121-yard rushing performance by Raheem Mostert against New England led the way in the Week 2 victory. However, these great performances were somewhat expected. The biggest surprises for the 2023 Miami Dolphins may be from their defense.
The 2023 Miami Dolphins Defenses Biggest Surprises
Three players on the defensive side of the ball are playing above expectations so far this season. Coincidentally, all three of these overachievers were all sixth-round draft picks. According to a 2015 study, the average NFL career for a sixth-round pick was 3.3 years. The first of the three players has surpassed the average for a sixth-round pick by just over eight years.
The former two-time All-Pro may have done what Ponce De Leon failed to do in Florida; find the fountain of youth. Justin Bethel is seeing a bit of a career resurgence. Bethel has six tackles including five solo. He also was credited with half a sack to end the game against the Los Angeles Chargers. While far from his glory days with the Arizona Cardinals, Bethel is playing beyond what the Dolphins and maybe even he expected at this point in his career.
Though he had an injury-riddled tenure while with the Baltimore Ravens who drafted him in the sixth round in 2018, DeShon Elliott was the starting free safety for the Detroit Lions last season. So far this season Elliott had a monster game against the Chargers where he made a total of 13 tackles, eight of which were solo. Against the Patriots, Elliott added four more tackles, three of which were solo, and also defensed a pass. Elliott and the Dolphins are hopeful he can stay injury-free and maintain this type of production.
The third and maybe the least surprising of this trio, in terms of play production, is the former Tennessee Titans sixth-round selection David Long. The 2023 Dolphins free agent signee has also put up impressive numbers in the early stages of the 2023 season. After only recording a single tackle in the season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers, David Long went off against the Patriots. He had eight tackles, including five solo. Of those five tackles, one was a sack and two were quarterback hits. While playing up to expectations, Long Jr.’s efforts against the Patriots have Dolphins fans hoping for more or more of the same for the remainder of the season from Long.
While players on the offensive side of the ball are meeting and exceeding expectations, depth players on the defensive side of the ball are having a big impact on the Dolphins early season success. From Justin Bethel showing flashes of his former All-Pro self, to David Long showing the player he can, be and DeShon Elliott showing that hopefully his past injuries are behind him, this group of overachievers is playing an integral role in the Dolphins success this season. Fans are hoping this is only the tip of a three-headed iceberg that will continue to remain solid throughout the Dolphins 2023 NFL season.
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