Dolphins wary, respectful of Saints' defense

DAVIE, Fla. -- When it comes to the New Orleans Saints, the first thought that comes to mind usually is their high-powered offense led by quarterback Drew Brees.

So why is there so much chatter about New Orleans' defense from the Miami Dolphins' players and coaches?

The Dolphins are very mindful and wary of New Orleans’ revamped defense led by new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Through three games, the Saints -- yes, the Saints -- are ranked fourth in total defense and fifth in points allowed. Opponents are averaging just 12.7 points per game against New Orleans, which is a huge reason why the Saints (3-0) are undefeated.

“They’re playing very well,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said Wednesday. “They’re very multiple from a front standpoint, a personnel standpoint and a coverage standpoint. [Ryan] probably has a great reputation as a pressure coach, and that’s certainly true. But they are fundamentally sound.”

The Dolphins will have their hands full with the Saints on “Monday Night Football.” New Orleans could be a Super Bowl contender now that its defense is playing just as well as its offense. They are plus-32 in point differential, which is tied for third in the NFL.

The Saints’ defense is blitzing well, forcing turnovers and keeping teams out of the end zone. The blitz, in particular, could be an issue for the Dolphins. Miami has allowed 14 sacks on quarterback Ryan Tannehill in three games, and there’s plenty of blame to pass around. At various times, the issues have been with the offensive line, running backs picking up the blitz and the quarterback holding the ball too long.

“It’s an offensive stat -- it takes 11 guys to protect the quarterback,” Dolphins right tackle Tyson Clabo explained. “There’s no one reason for any number of sacks. When you put them all together, it’s always a multiple thing. We just have to get better. There’s no doubt.”

Miami’s sluggish running game will play a big role against the Saints. If New Orleans has shown a weakness on defense through three games, it’s stopping the run. The Saints are 20th in stopping the run and allowing 5.3 yards per carry.

On the other end, Miami is getting little production running the ball and is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry.

“It’s not to our standard in our locker room and with our coaches,” Dolphins fullback Tyler Clutts said. “So we have to improve that. But we’re winning games.”