The Miami Dolphins, winners of seven straight, will participate in the playoffs if they win their next two games. This comes after Miami lost seven in a row in a slew of injuries, disappointments, and lack of chemistry.
Now, as they found their groove, many look for players and units to credit. Tua Tagovailoa has looked much improved from last year, rookies Jaylen Waddle, Jaelan Phillips, and Jevon Holland look like stars in the making, and the defensive backfield looks just as deadly as last year.
Although, a name that needs some recognition is Dolphins defensive tackle Zach Sieler. The fourth- year pro, while only having two sacks, has generated eight pressures, per Pro Football Reference, and has been a stalwart in the run game.
Being in rotation with the likes of Christian Wilkins and Raekwon Davis, Sieler has only appeared in over 50 percent of snaps in five of Miami’s 15 games. Those snaps, however, have been productive. Sieler has excelled at holding his gaps, stopping the run, and making timely hits on opposing quarterbacks, and his all-22 from the last few weeks shows exactly that.
Although Pro Football Reference only registers eight pressures, Sieler has been impactful and timing on that end. His ability to get off blocks quickly and get after the quarterback has complemented edge rushers Emmanuel Ogbah and Jaelan Phillips nicely. While also having two sacks, he has been able to set up for teammates and make impact plays.
As shown on this play against the Giants, the game appears easy for Sieler at times. His combination of speed and power, as shown here, gets him into the backfield in time to influence the throw.
By batting the linemen’s hands to the side, he allows himself to use his unusual speed. He is then able to pull away from the guard and pursue his target. His impressive closing speed is enough for Mike Glennon to put up a dangerous throw, which nearly is intercepted by Jevon Holland.
A Simple Move
Although simple, he thrives in his ability to keep offensive linemen from getting their hands on him. With quick slaps, he is able to remain untouched and keep his forward momentum. The perfect combination of these two factors was on display on Monday Night Football against the Saints.
On this play, shown below, Sieler takes an outside route to the quarterback. To avoid contact with the guard, he runs outside of him. With his quick get-off and speed, he’s able to do his quick swat away and leave him in the dust.
Although it doesn’t register as a sack for Sieler, he was able to pressure Book out of the pocket, and into a sack for his teammate. While his big plays don’t always show up on the stat sheet, they leave the same impact.
Although sacks and pressures are typically more flashy, Zach Sieler makes the Dolphins run defense fun to watch. His combination of speed and power that I referenced earlier show up even more on run plays. His ability to maintain gap integrity while stopping playmakers in the backfield is one not found in many interior defensive linemen.
Sieler’s game against the Carolina Panthers is one that perfectly displays his run defense in action. On this play, his goal would typically be to push McCaffrey out to the edge, while allowing linebackers to come up and make hits on the cutback lanes. What he ends up doing, however, is much more impressive.
He starts by getting outside, as he typically does, when he notices McCaffrey cut back in. Without losing his place, he is able to swallow him up for a loss on the play. He does so by throwing the lineman completely out of the play, which shows just how much power he has to disengage.
Another impressive part of Sieler’s run defense has been his implementation of counters into his game. On film, it is clear that he likes to go outside, which is typically to the left, and he has found a way to use that to his advantage.
On this play from his great performance against the Giants, he sells that he’s going outside, getting the lineman to leave his backside unprotected. In doing so, this allows Sieler to use a swim move to get back inside and stuff the run, potentially preventing a big play.
With limited snaps, linemen don’t have much tape to check out on Sieler. Thus, when they find a trend, it becomes much more important to identify and stop it. If not, Sieler will find a way to ensure they’re wrong every time.
High Effort Plays
In a Brian Flores defense, it’s clear that the fundamentals are preached as necessary for playing time. The coach who once dedicated a wall to the phrase “takes no talent” looks for players who show their love for the game on the field. It’s clear through his high motor that no Dolphins player exhibits that more than Zach Sieler.
As a lineman, it’s typically your job to get into the backfield and make stops like the ones I’ve shown thus far. However, Sieler works far outside his responsibilities, such as on this play shown below.
Sieler recognizes that New York is running a screen to Saquon Barkley, and he is able to, from his IDL spot, get over to the back, track him down, and stop him for only a short gain. His speed is on display here and it’s truly fun to watch.
Sieler typically finds himself around the football, which is a common trait among star defensive players, and a prime example of that is Miami’s game vs. Carolina.
Here, he is able to see that Cam Newton is passing his way, perfectly timing his jump and getting his hands in the air to bat the ball down.
The most impressive part about his timing on this play is that he gets Cam to throw it there and gets his hands up late enough. Although, they still get up in time to make the play.
Knowing Your Responsibility
This last play, which is one of my personal favorites this year, comes against the Jets. After noticing that a reverse is coming, Sieler sees Zach Wilson begin to slip out.
Realizing that his responsibility is the quarterback, Sieler disengages and takes off. As the receiver lets the throw go, Sieler is tracking down Wilson to the end zone. With impressive closing speed, he is able to get his hands up and knock the ball down.
Without Sieler’s high football IQ and effort, this play very well may have resulted in a touchdown.
The Bottom Line
Zach Sieler, although not regarded as a top defensive lineman, has far exceeded expectations set by fans and the Dolphins coaching staff.
His ability to defend the pass and run, while always giving 100 percent has been special to watch, and it pops on film every week.
It will be interesting to see how the former seventh-round pick continues to improve, but it’s clear that his story is just beginning to unfold.