When the Miami Dolphins decided to shift Koa Misi to the middle of the field instead of contuining on with now departed linebcker Dannell Ellerbe, there was a lot of skepticism as to whether it would work out or not. The results were nothing special, but they were good enough.
Now, going into his second year at the middle linebacker position, Misi is feeling much more comfortable where he's at and he's aiming to improve upon an injury-riddled 2014 season.
“I feel good,” Misi said on the last day of minicamp. “Last year was kind of a bust because I was hurt all the time. I feel good coming back healthy this year. Since we started, compared to last year I feel 110 percent better already. I’m just trying to make things different than what I did last year and trying to get better at things that I wasn’t as good at."
As a former outside linebacker and defensive end, Misi's strength is his ability to rush the passer as opposed to stopping the run and covering tight ends and running backs. Moving over to the middle has forced Misi to focus on his coverage skills, and he feels that the dedication he's made towards learning the position has paid its dividends.
“Right now my reads are real good." Misi said. "I can blitz and my coverage is getting better. All around, I’ve improved a lot more in things that I did last year.”
Misi has a little help in his mission to become a good middle linebacker this year though, and it's coming from a couple different factors. First and foremost is the addition of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, whose presence instantly makes the entire defense better, and makes his job much easier.
"Suh's an animal." Misi said. "I mean hands down, one of the best in the league, the way that he gets off the ball, disrupts the offensive line's blocking schemes, he takes up another guy, so basically it allows us to move around a little bit better, get through blocking schemes different, be able to read things faster, I think it'll help us out a lot."
The other factor working in Misi's favor is the fact that defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has decided to simplify his defense so that it's easier for young players to make the necessary adjustments to the scheme. It also helps the veteran Misi at the unfamiliar position.
“It just makes it a lot easier to know what we’re doing,” Misi said. “We have our plan. We have our calls. Everybody doesn’t have to think, oh, is another call going in? We have what we have right now, and that’s all it’s going to be.”
I recently wrote that with all factors taken into consideration, the Miami Dolphins were set with Koa Misi at middle linebacker, and with the comments made by Misi himself regarding his own comfort levels and health, fans should rest easy knowing that the linebacker corps are good to go with Misi as the man in the middle.
“I feel good, a lot better than I did last year,” he said. “Just being out here playing the same position I did last year is that much of a difference. I’m able to learn from things I did last year. I know the defense now, so I don’t really have to study anymore. I know all the plays and all the calls. I don’t have to second-guess myself during practice and it’s helped me a little bit more.”
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater