Written by Matthew Cannata | Twitter: @PhinManiacs
The Miami Dolphins defense is evolving and transforming into an elite squad and are making a case for being the best defense in the entire NFL. This success hasn't come by accident and it hasn't come without hard work and preparation. Credit is due to improvement in all areas of the defense and of course, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle for putting it all together and putting everyone in the best possible situation to succeed and do their job with 100% confidence and effort.
Another reason for that is because of Koa Misi and his transition middle linebacker. Misi has provided stability in what was a shaky linebacker group and has helped the younger guys around him improve and get better.
“I like what (Koa) Misi has done," Joe Philbin said. "Like I have said on a number of different occasions, I like the way he plays the game. I think he is decisive. He’s physical. I think he tackles well. I think he plays with a lot of effort. He’s a good all-around football player. I like (what I see) so far. He’s not perfect yet. He really doesn’t have a ton of reps yet at that linebacker position. I obviously like what Jelani (Jenkins) is doing. Philip (Wheeler), sometimes doesn’t get as many snaps based on where we are in a game, what personnel grouping we are featuring that week, but he’s done a solid job when he’s been in there. (Jason) Trusnik has contributed. So it’s been a good group.”
The Dolphins have also been using more nickel and dime packages, leaving two linebackers on the field and filling the field with more defensive backs. Philbin said that's all part of the natural evolution of the NFL and at this time, a lot of teams are going with 3 and 4 WR sets so that's what they do to counter it.
“I would say from a defensive perspective, when I first came into the league, it seemed and maybe it was just in the background I had where I was at, that everybody, those nickels were kind of Tampa-2 guys and they played halfway between the slot on first and second down. They were great tacklers. I’m thinking of (Antoine) Winfield and guys like that in Minnesota. They obviously had to have coverage skills. They were great blitzers. Ronde Barber, we played a bunch of different times. I don’t know. When I originally broke into (the NFL) those were the guys I thought of, good cover guys, tough guys, tacklers, blitzers, those types of things."
"Certainly, there are still a lot of those guys around, but there’s probably more variety now 11-12 years later in that front. I think there are a lot of different kinds of slot receivers from an offensive perspective that I’ve seen and been around. Some are the prototypical, quick change of direction guys, great yards-after-the-catch guys, but there are some teams that utilize bigger guys who attack the middle of the field and the seams. I think it’s evolved.”
Probably the biggest reason for the Dolphins success though is because of the fact that the defensive line has been extremely dominant and is one of the best lines in the NFL. Every player on the line has been able to apply pressure on the quarterback and in the pocket without help from linebackers blitzing, which has allowed the rest of the defense to sit back in coverage. Jared Odrick has been on the field for the vast majority of every defensive snap this season and Philbin said it's not by accident.
“He’s a versatile guy. He has good enough size to handle the run snaps on first and second down that you are going to get. He’s got enough athleticism and pass rush ability we feel to contribute on third down. I guess he’s a real three-down player. I think, at the end of the day, he’s probably ended up with more snaps than some of the other defensive tackles.”
The Dolphins will need everyone to step up on Sunday and will need everyone to take their game to the next level. If that happens, they will be able to keep the game close and have a good chance of coming away with the victory.