The game-changing potential of Dolphins linebackers Bradley Chubb, Jaelan Phillips and Melvin Ingram has been on display on and off the court in recent weeks. You see them getting sacks and doing their sack dances on the field, you see them laughing and joking with one another in the post-game locker room.
“We all understand football and we all rush the passer so let’s build the chemistry, the chemistry was really already there when we arrived [together]”, Ingram said. “We all play against each other, and it’s been amazing.”
The Chubb-Phillips-Ingram line, which has a combined 13.5 sacks, is increasing its quarterback pressure after four games together. They made an impact on the Dolphins defense, a group that could use hard-hitting play and group leadership. The Dolphins’ 28 sacks are 17th in the league, and the opponents’ 95.7 passer rating against the Dolphins’ defense is fifth-worst for a defense.
The Dolphins are hoping their pass-rushing trio of Chubb, Phillips and Ingram, an intriguing mix of speed, strength and experience, can make a big impact on opposing quarterbacks, starting with the quarterback. Los Angeles Chargers Justin Herbert on Sunday night, and continues with Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen next Saturday night.
If all goes according to plan, Chubb, Phillips and Ingram will become a dominant trio for the rest of the season and lead the Dolphins defense into the playoffs.
“We’re super tight, man, super tight,” Phillips said of the Dolphins’ passing-rushing trio.
“We’re good friends. They’re my homies. I love them boys, man. I got a lot of appreciation and I’m really grateful to the guys we have in the room.
The Dolphins need the combination of Chubb, Phillips and Ingram to be a major force.
The Dolphins defense made a living last season with a front-to-back plan, which meant it all started from the back, taking advantage of the lock coverage talents of cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, and the skills security flash Brandon Jones.
But with both Jones sidelined by injuries, the defense must now attack from front to back.
This is where the revolutionary potential of the Chubb-Phillips-Ingram trio comes into play.
The trio’s impact was evident in last week’s 33-17 loss to San Francisco. And despite the game’s outcome, the trio showed what the Dolphins had in mind when they acquired Chubb from Denver in a blockbuster trade on Nov. 1.
San Francisco had possession for seven games to open the second half. On third-and-six from the San Francisco 49-yard line, the player’s fourth play, and at a time when the 49ers were 5 of 9 on third-down conversions, the Dolphins had Ingram lined up outside of right tackle Mike McGlinchey, Phillips lined up in front of left guard Aaron Banks and Chubb lined up outside of left tackle Trent Williams.
All three got penetration and controlled potential escape routes for quarterback Brock Purdy. Phillips was in the middle, Chubb was on the right, and Ingram was on the left. Eventually, Chubb sent Purdy to Ingram for a sack, which forced a punt and kept the trailing Dolphins, 17-10, in the game.
But that wasn’t the only thing the trio did.
On first down from the 49ers 45-yard line, the fourth play of the drive, Chubb is lined up outside left tackle Williams and Phillips is lined up outside right tackle Mike McGlinchey. San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy comes under pressure from defensive lineman Zach Sieler and runs into Chubb, who hit Purdy’s arm and forced the incomplete pass.
On second down, Chubb tackled running back Christian McCaffrey after a 4-yard gain.
It wasn’t an ideal possession, but the Chubb-Phillips-Ingram trio contributed to a save in ways other than a sack, which is another way of demonstrating their impact.
Ingram, the team’s sack leader with 6.0 and the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for September after recording seven tackles, 2.0 sacks, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries, including one came back for a 6-yard touchdown, was revitalized by Chubb’s addition. But Ingram said he wasn’t doing anything different.
“I’m rushing, man, just doing what I did, just trying to earn rushes and get to quarterback,” he said.
Phillips, who had 8.5 sacks last season as a rookie, has 5.0 sacks and won his 1-on-1 battles even when not recording sacks.
Chubb, who has 2.5 sacks, has gotten more comfortable and had more impact each week.
If the Chubb-Phillips-Ingram pass-rushing trio becomes as impactful as other combinations in franchise history such as Jason Taylor and Trace Armstrong, who combined for 31 sacks in 2000, or Cam Wake and Olivier Vernon, who combined for 14.5 sacks in 2015, is irrelevant.
The key is whether this trio can have enough impact to lead the defense and the team to the playoffs.
“All these guys in different ways affect the quarterback,” defensive coordinator Josh Boyer said of Chubb, Phillips and Ingram. “And I think the more they play together, the more they work on each other. [the better they’ll get]and then obviously as a team we get better at figuring out what they do well together and try to put them in position to be successful.