Jaelan Phillips has the potential to become a star pass rusher in his second season. Emmanuel Ogbah is fresh off his new long-term contract. Melvin Ingram was the big defensive acquisition in the offseason. And don’t forget about Andrew Van Ginkel.
The Miami Dolphins, who send blitzers as creatively as any other defense in the NFL, could have an already fierce pass rush only get better in 2022.
Phillips comes off a 2021 season where he set a Dolphins rookie record with 8 1/2 sacks. He thrived when asked to put his head down and get after the quarterback, closer to what he was predominantly asked to do in his final college season at the University of Miami that led him to be selected in the first round of his draft. He has worked this offseason to become a more balanced outside linebacker while getting leaner.
“Never satisfied,” was one way Phillips described his approach heading into Year 2 in the first week of training camp. “Last year was a great learning experience. I’m definitely looking to build on that.”
Phillips’ eagerness was evident from the opening practice of camp last week when he had multiple sacks.
“Definitely at a further starting point than they were a year ago,” said defensive coordinator Josh Boyer on Monday, speaking of both Phillips and fellow rising second-year defender in safety Jevon Holland, “which is naturally to be expected, but I think the fact that both of those guys have grown physically, mentally and emotionally, has been great for us.”
Phillips went from struggling through camp at the same time last year and early in the season to providing a second-half boon. Now, he’s taking that momentum of seven sacks in his last nine games into his sophomore season in the same defense but with a new position coach.
“He’s made a ton of strides,” said new Dolphins outside linebackers coach Ty McKenzie. “He’s adapted to the new coaching, adapted to the system that we’re running here. He’s really pushed himself to try to be the best he can. He knows it’s not easy. He may make mistakes and I may jump on him, but he knows it’s coming from a good place.”
Ogbah, at defensive end, had nine-sack seasons each of the past two years for the Dolphins before finally getting the four-year, $65 million deal he desired. He’s still going into 2022 just as motivated, according to defensive line coach Austin Clark.
“The exact same,” Clark said of Ogbah’s approach. “I wouldn’t know how much a guy gets paid if you’re out here working.”
Ingram, 33, is the savvy veteran with three Pro Bowls on his resume. Phillips mentioned him as someone who has imparted wisdom on the youngsters, but Ingram has also looked to expand his game, even at this stage in his career.
“He’s been open to learning new things, learning new techniques in the run game and pass game,” McKenzie said, “so just going to keep working with him and he’s going to keep getting better. Seeing how good we can get this guy come season time.”
Van Ginkel’s role is not to be undermined just because the Dolphins brought in Ingram. He played a key role in Miami winning eight of its last nine games in 2021, where he averaged playing 82.67 percent of defensive snaps in those contests.
“Anything that we can do to build camaraderie,” said Van Ginkel about his reaction when Ingram signed to the Dolphins. “His leadership, experience, just how he attacks every day, it’s great to have him here. Energy that he brings, you know that he’s going to give everything he’s got.”
Van Ginkel, who had a pair of sacks at Saturday’s practice, also feels having greater depth on the edge can allow pass rushers to rotate more frequently and play with a high motor over fewer snaps.
The Dolphins also have Jerome Baker, coming off a 5 1/2-sack 2021 campaign, able to be versatile and play both inside and outside on the linebacking corps. Brennan Scarlett, an outside linebacker last season, said during the team’s offseason workout program that he has been receiving practice reps on the defensive line.
And Miami’s pass rush, of course, can extend as far back as the secondary with the safety tandem of Brandon Jones and Jevon Holland always a threat to blitz.