Dolphins' David Long Emerges as Defensive Tone Setter

Inside linebacker David Long Jr. drives Dolphins' resurgence.

by Nouman Rasool
Dolphins' David Long Emerges as Defensive Tone Setter
© Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

In the heart of the Miami Dolphins' defensive resurgence, inside linebacker David Long Jr. has emerged as a key figure, showcasing his prowess and adaptability in Vic Fangio’s strategic defensive plays. Long, who signed a two-year, $10 million contract with Miami, replacing Elandon Roberts, has been instrumental in the team's recent defensive upswing.

The 27-year-old's impact is evident in his impressive statistics, leading the team with 63 tackles, surpassing even free safety Jevon Holland. His ability to read the opposition's offense quickly and execute gap shooting tackles for minimal gains has been crucial for the Dolphins.

This skill set is a testament to his comfort and integration into Fangio's defensive system, a significant leap from his initial challenges with the new defensive coordinator's demands for consistency.

Dolphins' Defensive Upswing

Long's contributions come at a time when the Dolphins' defense, initially struggling at the season's start, has made significant strides.

Under Fangio, the team has improved to 12th in total yards allowed per game (322.4), 13th in rushing yards (106.2 per game), and 12th in third-down conversion rate (36.8%). This progress is pivotal as the Dolphins prepare to face the Las Vegas Raiders, a team buoyed by a two-game winning streak and a roster featuring top talents like Devante Adams and Josh Jacobs.

Despite Jacobs’ underwhelming average of 3.3 yards per carry this season, Long and Jerome Baker's roles in containing the Raiders' potent rushing attack will be vital. However, challenges remain for Miami’s defense, notably in red zone effectiveness and points per game allowed, where they rank disappointingly low.

Long's increased familiarity with Fangio's system and his teammates has seen him involved in more plays, leading to more significant contributions on the field. Fangio acknowledges Long's continuous improvement, critical for the team's defensive cohesion.

The return of key players like All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard, and Jaelan Phillips from injuries only strengthens Miami's defensive unit. Christian Wilkins, Dolphins' defensive tackle, praises Long's on-field energy and presence, highlighting his transformation from a quiet off-field personality to a dynamic force during games.

This season, Long is not just filling gaps; he's setting the tone for the Dolphins' defense, a vital component in their quest for higher rankings and more robust defensive showings in the latter half of the season.