Miami is already without strong safety Reshad Jones, who went on IR after just six games. When Jones and Abdul-Quddus were on the field together, they offered versatility versus both the run and pass. For a few weeks, the duo looked like it could become the best safety tandem in the NFL.
Owner Stephen Ross has made his share of hiring mistakes since taking over in Miami, but with coach Adam Gase running the show the Dolphins finally have reason to believe the future will be different. Ross can smell what Gase is cooking.
“I think we’ve come a long way from where we started,” Ross told reporters in the locker room at Heinz Field after the game, via the team’s official website. “Certainly unhappy right now. But I’m happy with the direction we’re going. I think we have the right coach, the right people in place and I have the basis for something. Everybody is smelling it. They want it more and that gives you optimism for next year.”
MIAMI — There are still plenty of questions for the Miami Dolphins to answer in a schedule that only gets tougher. They will be doubted and challenged, and it won’t be nearly so easy to find supporters outside the confines of South Florida. This is what happens when a team blossoms so quickly. That rapid evolution will leave many people stunned, as if progress is only believable when it’s easier to see coming.
The reality is that the Dolphins are legitimate enough when considering no team in the AFC is without its share of flaws. They’ve won six straight games after a 1-4 start and they would qualify for a wild-card spot if the postseason started today. So it really doesn’t matter if they’ve defeated only two teams currently above .500 on the way to their 7-4 record. It’s more important that they’re beating the teams set in front of them, and doing that in clutch situations.
Timmons has appeared in fewer than 16 games just once during his career, back in 2009 when he made appearances in 14 of 16 games. His stunning longevity has provided a bedrock in Pittsburgh’s swarming 3-4 defense for years and 2016 may have been one of his finest seasons to date.
In 2016, Timmons picked off a pair of passes, broke up five more, forced a fumble and logged 2.5 sacks to go along with a team-high 78 solo tackles, which is 23 more than the next highest player on the roster, Ryan Shazier.
Once he’s eligible to take the field for games, the hard-hitting cover man should have the opportunity to earn a large role down the stretch, in what should be another playoff push for the Dolphins.
Miami lost both starting safeties to injury last season. Reshad Jones returns as one of the best all-purpose safeties in the NFL, but 2016 free-agent signee Isa Abdul-Quddus was released this offseason after suffering a neck injury that jeopardizes his NFL career.
Branch compiled 5.5 sacks in 2016 and took over as the starter over the final 11 games of the season as Miami made its playoff push. He spent the previous four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. In five seasons, Branch compiled 19.5 sacks and 140 tackles.
After struggling to start his career, Branch played well last season, proving he can become a reliable veteran who can eat up snaps — even if he’s not dominant in any one facet. Branch played the best football of his career last season and the Dolphins paid to keep him off the open market. The hefty tag for a former second-round disappointment displays a market bereft of pass rushers. Miami is betting Branch won’t regress after getting paid.