What an unusual development! The Dolphins were hyped as contenders over the summer and are now underachieving due to poor coaching. This is completely out of the ordinary! Oh wait, its the same story we’ve heard for the past ten years or so. And yet it continues to perpetuate… Dolphins fans are among the most tortured in sports with consistently talented teams on paper not playing like it on the field. This year is the same as the end of last year thus far with the incompetence of Kevin Coyle sinking a potential playoff team.
To start off, let’s give credit where credit is due. The Redskins and Jaguars are both playing far better football than they were last year, and they are underratedly solid teams. Nonetheless, a playoff team does not struggle mightily against the Redskins and lose to the Jaguars. There is no excuse. The Dolphins simply have more talent and experience than both those teams, and should be playing like it. Examining the tape of these first two games reveals the problem is mostly on the defensive side of the ball where the Dolphins are getting out schemed and outgunned close to every play. Miami has weaknesses on defense, mainly at the linebacker and free safety spots, but all in all, they are (talent-wise) a top 10 defense in the NFL. Their defensive line is arguably the best in the league, and that is where they should be winning defensively. It starts at the line of scrimmage where you have the best defensive tackle of the past 15 years, an elite edge rusher, and excellent (borderline star) surrounding pieces. Miami should be able to blitz conservatively, and just get pressure and containment with their stud front four. This lack of excessive blitzing will also allow linebackers and secondary players to roam around and make plays on the ball. This has not happened. Instead, Coyle has designed convoluted blitz patterns, stunts, and gap play that has prevented the defensive line from pinning their ears back and roaring forward. And in domino effect, has compromised the entire defense. There is a place for complicated schematics in football, but it is not on the defensive line. It shouldn’t be complex, Suh will occupy a double team close to every play: that should allow Earl Mitchell or Jordan Philips to penetrate up the middle to get to the quarterback or stuff the run. Meanwhile, Cameron Wake will no longer be double teamed often (as he’s been in past years) which would allow him to work on an island against the left tackle, and he should be another excellent pass rushing threat. Lastly, the emerging Olivier Vernon should be free to be schemed diversely for inside or outside rushes, setting the edge against the run, or to even drop back in coverage at times. This is what should be happening with the front four. Instead, Coyle is over complicating things tenfold by dialing up complicated blitz and rush patterns that prevent a talented front four from simply attacking. Keep it simple, stupid.
Also due to the Dolphins bland linebacking core, Miami should be playing a good deal of the 52 defense in addition to their standard 4-3 alignment. Adding in a third defensive tackle like Jordan Philips allows for more physical front seven to combat the power run game, and forces the offense to line up in mostly big formations (not allowing them to fully utilize their talent on the outside). It neutralizes the weakness at linebacker and at cornerback, and allows a deep, stud defensive line to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. Yet again, this has not been utilized significantly by Mr. Coyle.
Miami’s roster moves this offseason have not built a well rounded defense. They still desperately need linebackers, a #2 cornerback, and a free safety. This isn’t a top 5 defense right now, and you can expect them to get torn apart by passing heavy offenses with talented quarterbacks. But Miami should not be losing at the line of scrimmage. They should be able to dominate opposing run games, and pressure the quarterback into making poor decisions and turning the ball over. If Miami can do that, they win defensively. But getting dominated in the trenches by a horrific offensive line like Jacksonville’s and a mediocre one (at best) in Washington clearly shows that the defensive coaching is not achieving this. What happens when we face an actually talented offensive line? This defense can be a very solid one, but they must free the shackles of this idiotic scheming by Coyle and win in the trenches. If that happens, Miami will win big this year with an improved offense on the other side of the ball. If that doesn’t happen… Fire Coyle, maybe Philbin too.