Heard, not seen: Dolphins defense making noise at all levels

Charles Harris and Davon Godchaux, shown making a sack against the Jets' Sam Darnold last Sunday, are part of a Miami defense that ranks fourth in the NFL in points allowed through two games. Bill Kostroun/AP Photo

DAVIE, Fla. -- Posted in the deep back corner of the Miami Dolphins' practice bubble, far away from centralized quarterbacks, skill guys and defensive backs, resides the defensive line.

If you're not looking around, you'll likely miss them. But you'll hear them. Maybe it's a symbol for their first two weeks of play.

On this Thursday practice, they're hitting the sleds, racing off the line and working on their hand fighting. They're yelling -- loudly -- and it's not clear whether this is due to the competition, individual exertion or an overall attempt to match defensive line coach Kris Kocurek's volume and intensity.

“Swagger and energy he brings to each and every game. It gets us fired up," defensive tackle Davon Godchaux said. "He brings that energy and you have to follow up with that same energy.”

The biggest name in the room the last three seasons -- Ndamukong Suh -- is no longer here. Every defensive tackle is trying to make a name for himself. Previously assumed to be one of the weakest units on the team, a mix of rising talent and steady veterans are out to redefine how this unit is perceived.

Godchaux is leading the surge for an interior defensive line that is shutting down the run. They are giving up just 79 yards per game on the ground, which ranks eighth in the NFL.

On the edge, it appears Robert Quinn has turned back the clock to 2014. He was the first Dolphins player, unsolicited, that Raiders coach Jon Gruden named on his conference call with Miami-area reporters Wednesday.

What is true in the defensive-line room is true throughout the Dolphins defense and roster: A lack of stars doesn't mean there's a lack of talent.

"People see the guys leaving, but they don't see the guys who stayed," Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones said. "We got a lot of underrated dudes who don’t get respect across the league, including myself."

Jones, safety T.J. McDonald, rookie Swiss army knife defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, cornerback Xavien Howard and cornerback Bobby McCain form a strong nickel crew that has more than held their own so far.

The only newcomer to this group is Fitzpatrick, who is not playing like a rookie. Coach Adam Gase said he's exceeded their expectations and concludes that "he's built different." Miami believes it has a star in the making in Fitzpatrick.

The Dolphins allow a NFL-low 56.6 passer rating from opposing quarterbacks. They were tied for the NFL's lead with five interceptions following Week 2.

Four of those five interceptions came from the defensive backs room, but the fifth was made by Kiko Alonso -- the Dolphins sixth-year linebacker who has been one of the Dolphins' top players so far this season.

"He had probably one of the more productive games I’ve ever seen by a linebacker, at least that I’ve been around," Gase said of Alonso. "I mean, he was all over the place."

Sunday, the Dolphins play a Raiders offense with a quarterback (Derek Carr) who excels at accuracy and completion percentage, but Oakland hasn't has much luck scoring points. That works right into the Dolphins' strength pass defense. They have been the epitome of bend-but-don't break thus far.

That was apparent last Sunday against the Jets, when the Dolphins allowed them to drive all the way down the field before halftime, then stopped them at the 1-yard line as time ran out.

Miami is allowing just 16 points per game, fourth-best in the NFL. That number would drop to 12.5 points per game if you don't include the kickoff-return touchdown the special teams unit gave up against Tennessee.

"This is just the beginning," Quinn said. "We have a long way to go before we are at our finished form."

The lingering question is will it continue? The Dolphins hope that you'll continue to hear them, even if you don't see them.