I went looking for Ndamukong Suh in the Dolphins’ locker room Monday at the team’s Davie, Florida, headquarters, but there was no sighting. Before the locker stall bearing his name, the cushioned seat was as empty as the start of his Miami career has been.
Where does a 6-foot-4, 325-pound man go to hide?
(“On the Dolphins’ defensive line,” the cynic might answer).
The venom doesn’t wait.
Not for the Dolphins, now 1-1 after the temerity of a loss at “lowly” Jacksonville. To many Dolfans quick to wring hands, who thought this would finally be the season their team bloomed all over the field, it’s now instead just another heap of S.O.D. — Same Ol’ Dolphins.
And certainly the venom won’t wait for Suh, of the $114 million contract, including more than half of that in guaranteed money. He has a meager three tackles and zero sacks in two games, a whisper where we demanded an instant roar, and so blame (which must go somewhere) has found its easiest, largest target. All those commas in your bank account will do that for you.
Suh already is a “bum” and “wasted millions,” according to some of the kinder, more rational comments on social media, where impatience is always king. Heck, for the money he’s making, Suh should have five sacks by now, scored a couple of touchdowns, saved somebody from a burning building and personally lifted that giant shade canopy onto the stadium.
Honestly, can we relax?
Does anyone insisting on prematurely writing off the Dolphins really want to go all in with Suh’s slow start as the major cause?
How about blaming an offense that forgot about its running game on Sunday?
How about blaming a criminal collapse in poise that resulted in 13 Miami penalties, including eight in the fourth quarter?
How about realizing that, in this coming Sunday’s home opener vs. Buffalo, Miami blocking the Bills’ excellent defensive line is of far greater concern than any so-called early slump by Suh.
It is Suh, though, with the quarterback-size microscope on him.
So it was reported by the Miami Herald on Sunday that the club’s big offseason signing may have “freelanced” some on defense, veering from the game plan and doing his own thing, perhaps a self-initiative borne of frustration over the way early opponents had bottled him up.
Linebacker Koa Misi, though not singling out Suh by name, blamed “guys out of position, not fitting right,” to the Palm Beach Post, mentioning “a couple plays where guys weren’t where they’re supposed to be, so (the Jaguars) gashed us.”
July and August should have been when they figured all this out, but September isn’t too late. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle must find a way (a scheme, a plan) to allow Suh to be the dominator he was in Detroit.
Monday’s reaction to Suh “freelancing” was far more interesting, to me, than whether he had.
Coach Joe Philbin opened his day-after news conference with it, unprompted, saying, “I just watched the entire tape with the entire defensive staff and didn’t see anything of the sort.”
Coyle later flatly called the report inaccurate.
That doesn’t mean it was. What it means is Dolphins coaches are publicly rallying around Suh to take the early heat off him, as they should. They are not calling three tackles in two games an issue. And they are not calling their best defensive player a rogue who’s going off-script.
This is smart.
Two games into an NFL season is way too early to have panic or controversy.
That’s coach-speak. But it’s the truth, too.
Now things do move quickly when you only get 16 games, granted. Should Miami lose its AFC East opener at home Sunday with Suh quiet again, something closer to warranted panic may visit.
For now, though, resist, please.
“You gotta take a step back,” as Coyle put it. “Know we have 14 games left. Know we haven’t played our best yet.”
This is not to absolve Suh of his enormous responsibility, one borne of talent and salary too.
Leaders must lead.