Fresh off a postseason appearance, the Miami Dolphins have shaken up the NFL landscape by building a star-studded team in the past year, trading for players like wide receiver Tyreek Hill, linebacker Bradley Chubb, and most recently, cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
With these moves, Miami’s expectations seem to be as high as they’ve been in decades. And those expectations translate down to the players, as well. They are expected to perform at their highest peaks possible in an ultra-competitive AFC East this season. And that list includes premier pass rusher, Emmanuel Ogbah.
It’s safe to say Ogbah, entering his fourth season with the Dolphins and seventh overall in the NFL, has made the most of his time in South Florida. In his first two seasons here, Ogbah finished with a career-high nine sacks, respectively.
However, last year, as the Dolphins fought for playoff positioning, Ogbah suffered a Grade 3 triceps tear in his right arm. The injury occurred in the second quarter of a Week 10 victory over the Cleveland Browns, ending his season at a critical juncture for the Dolphins.
Indeed, it was a huge blow to the defense, which ranked toward the bottom of the league metrically already. And Ogbah’s absence didn’t help moving forward, as Miami finished 2-6 without him.
Miami had more depth on defense last year, and some new line combinations, and as such, Ogbah had trouble finding his way at times. He finished with just one sack, and had to watch from afar, as the Dolphins lost to the Buffalo Bills, 34-31, in the AFC wild-card round.
However, with the addition of veteran defensive coordinator Vic Fangio — a former head coach with the Denver Broncos brought in this offseason by second-year coach Mike McDaniel — the possibilities for this Miami defense, and Ogbah, seem endless.
“I am excited for him. He is a great defensive mind and coach,” Ogbah said of Fangio last week during a media availability at Miami’s Organized Team Activities session. “I am just excited to do my part to help this team win.”
Ogbah’s injury was a serious one, but he was open and honest last week in that he was planning an early return, if needed.
“If we had made a deeper (postseason) run, that was my goal: To come back and do my best to help the team,” he said.
About to enter the second year of a four-year, $65.4 million contract with Miami, Ogbah seems committed to the future of this team, and he figures to be a key cog in a defense that will be much improved. He’s admitted that last year was a disappointment, and may just have something extra to prove, with so many stars around him in the locker room.
“I have to go out there and put some good juice on tape,” he said. “Obviously, I battled some injuries last year, but I am good to go.”
On paper, Miami’s defensive roster, especially on the front seven where Ogbah roams, is elite. Even Isaiah Wynn, a newly signed offensive tackle who will face that defense in practice, saw enough of that unit in less than a week here.
“These guys move,” Wynn said. “And they are all strong.”
Players like Jalen Philips, Christian Wilkins and Chubb, a Pro Bowl standout, figure to make headlines this season. There may be only so many tackles — and sacks — to be had for Ogbah considering that depth.
“We are all, obviously, a talented bunch,” he said. “I am excited. I am sure Vic (Fangio) is going to draw up some packages that have all of us in there. I am excited about this new defense, standing inside, outside, it is whatever. I will be doing whatever.”
Ogbah is clearly excited to start the season and optimistic about what the future can look like at Hard Rock Stadium. Returning to his 2020 and 2021 form will not be easy, and the Dolphins have to gauge what version of Ogbah they indeed get. But if he can match the expectations of his teammates, and stay healthy, it appears he’ll have a chance to thrive in this new system.