Written by Matthew Cannata
The Miami Dolphins linebacker unit has been blamed for many of the defense's failures last year but Philip Wheeler, one of the most criticized members of the defense, disagrees with that assesment.
"The total defense did," Wheeler said. "It wasn't just us."
Joe Philbin and Kevin Coyle have blamed the poor run defense on poor tackling and poor technique, but haven't specifically pointed out a certain position that was at fault for allowing an average of 124.9 yards per game.
The Dolphins made changes in the offseason, moving Koa Misi to the middle and moving Dannell Ellerbe back to the outside along with Philip Wheeler. According to Chris Perkins, the linebackers appeared to be in the right spots against the run on Sunday. Misi got caught up in traffic a couple of times but overall he seemed to flow comfortably toward ball carriers. The linebackers also seemed a bit more athletic. Ellerbe made a nice play on the sideline to break up a pass intended for running back Daniel Thomas. A couple of tight ends got loose against Wheeler in pass coverage drills, but he did OK.
"We look at those type of things and we say even if we would have been No. 3 stopping the run we still would have wanted to be No. 1," Ellerbe said, "so anything but No. 1 is not good enough for us and we want to get better at it. I'm at weak, same thing I played at Baltimore. As long as I get to stay at one position, like I've been saying, and master that position and learn that position in this defense, I feel like I'll be good. Right now I feel like we're all doing good. We don't have too many mental errors and we're getting to the ball. Now we just have to get our hands on some balls."
We can only hope the linebacker unit is much improved as they will be a huge key to the team's success in 2014.