Each evening, on his 40-minute drive home, Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer calls his father, Jeff, back in Ohio. The son was on a football sideline before he could walk or talk and grew up in the game through the prism of his father, a high school coach for four decades.
So there are two conversational topics on those nightly phone calls: Family and football. That means this week, they talked of Boyer’s 3-year-old daughter and her taekwondo classes. And football?
“We’ve probably talked more about the Granville Blue Aces this week than the Buffalo Bills,’ Boyer said.
His father is defensive coordinator at Licking Heights High School, who Friday night play the 5-0 Blue Aces and their 6-5 quarterback, Tyler Ernsberger. Maybe somewhere in that car-drive talk the son’s dilemma with Sunday’s 6-5 quarterback, Josh Allen, also came up.
Allen is this week’s Lamar Jackson before next week’s Joe Burrow on this Murderer’s Row of opposing quarterbacks for the Dolphins. Each is different. All have shown a rare ability to slice up defenses. Allen is the new Tom Brady as the gold standard of AFC East quarterbacks and maybe the larger league.
He’s certainly a problem for the Dolphins, who have lost seven straight games to Buffalo dating to their first matchup in 2018. Allen has thrown 19 touchdowns against four interceptions with a 110.4 rating in that stretch. He’s also run 32 times for 334 yards and three more touchdowns.
He’s so big 340-pound Dolphins defensive tackle John Jenkins says, “You’ve got to make sure you get all your weight into it when you hit him.” He’s so different linebacker Jerome Baker says, “He runs hard, throws hard, stiff-arms, gets dirty, talks at you and plays the right way but also in a way a lot of quarterbacks don’t play.”
Maybe Boyer has an idea to slow Allen. Maybe Boyer is the idea, because the way for the Dolphins to supplant Buffalo over the coming years is to be organizationally better as much as hoping Tua Tagovailoa plays near Allen’s level.
That’s because the proviso to Allen being the next Brady is that his organization is superior like New England under Bill Belichick. Allen didn’t get to the Super Bowl last season because Buffalo coach Sean McDermott mismanaged the lead, the kickoff and final 13 seconds of the AFC Championship Game against Kansas City. It happens in sports. It just didn’t happen to Belichick’s Patriots in the biggest games.
So under all the numbers and talent and words, the reality chess match between coaches sometimes decides things. Boyer has a coaching resume as interesting as any in the league: Played at Division III Muskingum (Ohio) College, worked at the likes of Kent, Bryant and South Dakota School of Mines before his boss at Kent, Dean Pees, brought him to the New England Patriots.
For three years Boyer was the Dolphins defensive coordinator for Brian Flores, whose specialty was defense. The question around him isn’t any different than with Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel, who was the offensive coordinator of offensive-minded Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. Could they fly solo?
Boyer’s defense gave up one touchdown — and scored one — in the New England opener. Jackson was dynamic for three quarters in building a three-touchdown lead Sunday before the defense stopped him for a field goal on the final four possessions. That allowed the Dolphins’ offense to win it.
He’s covered for the loss of cornerback Byron Jones. He’s tweaked the defense so tackle Zach Seiler’s production last year resulted in a more prominent role this year. He still has this stretch of quarterbacks staring at him. After Jackson’s flash-and-dash, now comes Allen’s tower of power.
“Both of them can run like running backs and both of them can throw the ball 80 yards.,’ Boyer said. “But schematically, I would say they’re two different systems, and they try to attack you in different ways. So yeah, we’ll have a big challenge for sure this week.”
The challenge for the elder Boyer this weekend is the Blue Aces and their 6-5 quarterback. For the son, it’s the Bills and their 6-5 quarterback who has given the Dolphins fits in recent years.