Dolphins linebacker Jaelan Phillips said Jalen Ramsey told him a story about his youth football days recently that earned a pretty appropriate nickname.
“He told me a story the first game he came back,” Phillips said. “It was about him in little league and he called his shot and made the play and someone nicknamed him ‘As advertised,’” Phillips said.
Ramsey continues to prove he’s just that.
Ramsey’s two interceptions - both made with a high degree of difficulty - not only wowed the fans, but proved huge in Sunday’s 20-13 win over the Las Vegas Raiders.
They also made Phillips’ anecdote to reporters postgame resonate even more.
“I’m really hoping they throw at him, honestly,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. “I mean, both interceptions were out of control in difficulty level. You could see him on the first one, see the ball, and he was the aggressor. I think he was behind the receiver on an in-break, and he bypasses him to get that thumbs-together catch that he’s diving for that a lot of receivers don’t make… Then to track the ball down the field and to get contacted in the moment of truth and hang on to the ball, I mean, it’s huge.”
The Dolphins opened the second half clinging to a 14-13 lead and with Tua Tagovailoa throwing his lone interception of the game on a deep throw intended for Jaylen Waddle. It was the Dolphins’ third turnover of the game.
Miami then missed a field goal on its next drive.
With its typically explosive offense struggling, Ramsey ignited the Dolphins’ defense when he jumped in front of Raiders receiver Tre Tucker and intercepted a pass from Aidan O’Connell.
The turnover was one of three the Dolphins forced in the second half including Phillips’ first career interception made thanks to a near sack by Christian Wilkins.
Ramsey then made the game-sealing interception near the back of the end zone on a deep pass intended for Tucker. Ramsey appeared to land on the ball and was down on his back for several seconds before getting up and responding to the ovation from the crowd.
“He got the entire crowd going,” Tagovailoa said. “But he’ll be the first to tell you that all these interceptions, all the things that he’s been able to do has been because of the pass rush and because of the pass lanes that they’ve been practicing throughout practice. Our team is a better team having him in the back there, and like I said, those guys on that side of the ball, they willed us to win today.”
It’s no coincidence that the Dolphins’ play on defense has improved since Ramsey’s return to action on Oct. 29 against the Patriots. Miami posted a season-high for interceptions on Sunday, and the Dolphins have allowed only 17 points per game over their past three games after averaging 26.7 points allowed through their first seven.
“I think the whole team has gotten a little bit better to a degree since he’s been on our team or since he’s been back and that’s the type of effect that players of that caliber can have on people,” McDaniel said.
Ramsey, who returned ahead of schedule after missing the first seven games of the season after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus, said he’s not even 100 percent hitting his stride yet, playing in only his third game since returning from injury.
“It still has room to grow. I got fatigued a little bit in the second half,” Ramsey said. “I do feel great and extremely great, but at the same time the only way to get into football shape and be the guy I am is to play more football. I’m just now really getting my training camp/preseason form.
“When I say fatigued, I don’t mean winded, even though I did get the wind knocked out there [at the end]. But I feel like my muscles and my body. I’m still working my body into that premier shape I want it to be.”