49ers DE Nick Bosa is the sort of dominant puss rusher the Dolphins desperately need. (Craig Davis for Five Reasons Sports Network)

Pressure Point: Bosa’s impact illuminates Dolphins’ need for pass rusher


Five Reasons Sports Network at Super Bowl 54

The flip side of the Miami Dolphins’ obvious need at quarterback is the void they have to fill on defense for a pass rusher.

Someone like Nick Bosa, the South Florida native who will play in his hometown Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday in Super Bowl 54 for the San Francisco 49ers.

“I definitely could have dreamed it, but it is happening and it’s pretty awesome,” Bosa, who starred in high school at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, said this week.

“It’s awesome, just being in my hometown where I grew up, where all my friends and family live. I couldn’t pick a better place to be for my first Super Bowl.”

49ers turnaround a model for Miami Dolphins to emulate

Rookie force on 49ers pass rush

The 6-4, 266-pound defensive end is a big reason the 49ers are here and ready to face the Kansas City Chiefs. Selected second overall out of Ohio State in 2019, the rookie defensive end was the last major piece in a three-year rebuilding project that the Dolphins will attempt to emulate.

Bosa didn’t disappoint, registering nine sacks, 25 quarterback hits and 47 tackles in the regular season, then added three sacks in two playoff victories. He is the overwhelming favorite to be named Defensive Rookie of the Year at Saturday’s NFL Honors show at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami — he picked up the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year award on Thursday.

The boost Bosa provided to the 49ers pass rush is credited as a key reason they ranked No. 1 in passing defense (169.2 yard per game) this season. They were fifth in sacks with 48, coincidentally nine more than they had the previous season without Bosa.

Contrast that to the Dolphins’ inability to pressure quarterbacks this past season. They ranked last with only 23 sacks.

Consequently, the Dolphins are expected pick an edge rusher in the first round up the upcoming draft when they have three selections.

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First-round edge rush options for Dolphins

Another dominant pass rusher from Ohio State, Chase Young, is projected to be taken as the No. 2 pick by Washington. The Dolphins, with the No. 5 pick, are expected to address their quarterback need first.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr.’s latest mock draft agrees with the consensus that has Miami taking Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. That is assuming the medical assessment of Tua’s recovery from hip surgery is convincingly positive and that it isn’t necessary to trade up to prevent another team from grabbing him first.

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The Dolphins also have the 18th and 26th picks in the first round. Kiper predicts they will use the former for edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson from national champion LSU.

Chaisson, who profiles as a linebacker in a 3-4 alignment, is rated as the third- or fourth-best pass rusher in the draft by most analysts. Young is unquestioned as the best of the lot, a future All-Pro.

Others, such as Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa and Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos, figure to be gone before the 18th pick.

Chaisson is known for quick burst off the ball. But his college sack totals aren’t impressive — his 4 ½ sacks this past season was a career best. He was known for consistently applying pressure and flushing quarterbacks out of the pocket.

Another rusher who may interest Miami is Boise State defensive end Curtis Weaver, who had 34 sacks in three seasons, including 13.5 in 2019. He is a different type than Chaisson — bigger body, quick and powerful — who was Defensive Player of the Year in the Mountain West Conference.

St. Thomas Aquinas launched Bosa brothers

The Dolphins, of course, once had their own Bosa — the wrong one.

Nick’s father John Bosa was Miami’s first-round pick (No. 16) in 1987. He never performed to expectations and was out of the league after three seasons with seven career sacks in 31 games.

John Bosa’s NFL legacy is the two sons who quickly blossomed into defensive stars. Nick’s older brother Joey preceded him at St. Thomas and Ohio State and was drafted third overall in 2016 by the Los Angeles Chargers. He was Defensive Rookie of the Year and earned his second Pro Bowl selection in 2019.

Maybe the St. Thomas Aquinas connection had something to do with the Bosa brothers’ success.

“I moved up to Fort Lauderdale from North Miami solely to go to St. Thomas, that’s how good of a program it is. [Athletic director and former football coach] George Smith runs everything over there. He’s a legend,” Nick Bosa said.

“I honestly became a man during the time at St. Thomas.”

Impressive force from Day 1

That was never in question from the time Bosa joined the 49ers, as six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley explained this week.

“I will say this, the only time I’ve ever thought ‘Oh, shoot, do I have it anymore?’ was like the first week of training camp going against Nick Bosa,” Staley said. “Honestly, that guy’s so good. And then I saw him go against everyone else in the NFL and was like, ‘Oh, he’s just a really good player. I’ve still got it.’”

That’s the type of young pass rusher the Dolphins need to build a quality defense. It is an objective every bit as important as getting the right quarterback.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

More on the Super Bowl from Five Reasons Sports Network:

Houtz Special: Who’s better QB, Marino or Mahomes?

Former Dolphin Damien Williams’ journey goes full circle

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