By Matthew Marczi
For the first time in his professional career, outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley started a game on the right side of the defense. While he did shift over to the left side here and there, he stayed put on the right side for the vast majority of the game—that is, when he wasn’t rotating out for rookie Jarvis Jones.
Indeed, it appears as though the team has collectively decided that Jason Worilds’ play over the past month on the left side merits the change, though we’ll see later tonight if that remains true for this week.
In his first game back in three weeks, Woodley put together a representative game, even with certain factors—such as the snowy conditions and the unfamiliarity of playing on the opposite side, not to mention rotating out—working against him.
It was a good day for him, chiefly as a pass rusher, even if he didn’t notch another sack in the game and remains at five for the season.
He nearly had one early in the first quarter, but instead he just ended up helping Cameron Heyward get his fourth sack of the year. He got around Bryant McKinnie and was able to get a hand on Ryan Tannehill, which was enough to rattle him but not bring him down. With Worilds closing in on the other end, Heyward collapsed his avenue of escape and brought him down for the sack.
Later, early in the second quarter, he was able to get the better of McKinnie again, rushing from the right side. This time, he worked the left tackle to the outside, creating space for him to cut back inside. While he was able to get a hit on Tannehill again, it doesn’t seem as though the quarterback was fully aware of his presence, so it’s hard to say whether or not he influenced the pass.
Late in the game, a third of the way through the fourth quarter, Woodley was able to take one of his few rushes from his more familiar left side. This time the Dolphins sent Tannehill on a naked bootleg with a fake handoff, but Woodley didn’t bite and instantly pressured the quarterback, bringing him down and nearly forcing a deep intentional grounding penalty.
Overall, it was a good showing for Woodley in his first game back from injury, especially considering the other factors at play. While he may require some more adjustment when it comes to the proper angles to take against the run while playing on the opposite side of the formation, I saw nothing in his pass rush that would suggest that he can’t continue to play at a high level on the right side.