Dolphins taking advantage of Ndamukong Suh's versatility
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DAVIE, Fla. — With the Miami Dolphins desperate to make a game-clinching stop in the closing minutes, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh moved around from snap to snap, even sliding his 305-pound frame to end for one play.
"The final series, I was all over the field," Suh said.
That he was, flushing quarterback Colin Kaepernick out of the pocket on the last play Sunday and then running him down from behind 2 yards short of the goal line as time expired to give Miami a 31-24 victory.
Suh's a four-time Pro Bowl tackle who almost always gets double-teamed, so the Dolphins are doing what they can to free him up. And he's doing what he can to make the strategy work.
Along with his normal left tackle position, he lined up at right end and even middle linebacker against the 49ers. Typically impassive, Suh grins when talking about how the Dolphins are making the most of his talents.
"Within the scheme, within the situation, we find the right time to switch," Suh said. "I don't really want to give you the ins and outs of why I do it. But yes, I have opportunities where I can put myself in a particular place.
"It comes from the trust and confidence your coaches have with you, and them agreeing and seeing the things that you can do."
Left unsaid is that it wasn't that way last year, Suh's first with Miami, when the team went 6-10 and his impact went largely unnoticed. Suh clearly relishes his revised role under first-year head coach Adam Gase and new defensive
"Vance is one of those great coaches that allows his players to find ways to be successful," Suh said. "He gives us freedom within the scheme."
On the final series last week, for example, Suh said he came up with the idea of lining opposite left tackle Joe Staley on one play.
"There was a conversation on the sideline, and I was allowed to go and do that," he said.
Joseph said he's receptive to such suggestions because Suh's a consummate pro who understands the game. The Dolphins' plan for rushing the passer is based on Suh because he's always the focus of the opponent's blocking scheme, Joseph said.
"Every week, we try to do one thing different for him just to get him off the double-teams," Joseph said. "It's usually on pass rush downs. He enjoys it, obviously, and it helps us win."
Suh's unit hasn't been dominant, ranking 20th in yards allowed and 30th against the run. The Dolphins gave up a season-high 475 yards against the woeful 49ers.
But the bottom line is that Miami (7-4) has six consecutive victories heading into Sunday's game at Baltimore.
"Unfortunately this is the NFL, and we're going to have bad times," Suh said. "We're going to give up plays. We want to be able to squash it and get an answer to the problem very quickly. Communication is key, and obviously it's up to us as players to go out there and implement."
Suh made the video highlights with his victory-clinching play last week, but often his contribution is difficult to measure as he draws two and even three blockers. His 51 tackles and five sacks may look like modest totals, but he ranks in the top three in both categories among interior defensive linemen.
Joseph rates Suh's impact comparable to flashier defenders, such as Denver's four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller.
"He has been a dominant force for us inside — run and pass game alike," Joseph said. "He's not going to have Von Miller's numbers, but for us, he's Von Miller. He's that important to us."
The coaching staff also praises Suh's relentless effort, which was evident on the final play last week.
"When you get double-teamed all game, I'm sure that's got to be frustrating," Gase said. "And he never wavers."
That's the case wherever Suh lines up.
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