For some, it may be hard to imagine that a first time defensive coordinator like Kevin Coyle could get better results than longtime d-coordinator Mike Nolan. The Miami Dolphins are counting on it. Word is that Coyle will install a 4-3 base defense. Miami has been in the 3-4 base defense for the past 7 seasons, but many of their players do have 4-3 experience.
Coyle comes over from the Cincinnati Bengals where he spent the past 11 seasons running their defensive backs units. When looking at what sort of ship he will run we can look at who he has learned under. That list includes defensive minds like Dick LeBeau, Mike Zimmer, and Marvin Lewis. The Bengals use the 4-3 base defense. The NFL split for teams who use 4-3 or 3-4 defenses is right around 50-50
Coyle notes that the 2011 Miami Dolphins were only in a traditional 3-4 base defense around 12% of the time. This is an era in the NFL where the ball is in the air. More and more offenses use 3 (or more) wide receiver formations on a regular basis. 4 of the 6 biggest QB seasons ever for passing yards were recorded in 2011. We are in a passing era, big-time. That leaves defenses in nickel and dime defenses on the regular. That will still be the case for Miami, but switching to 4-3 will allow Coyle to better utilize the talent/speed in his front 4.
Basic stunts, double twists, different/better gap assignments. These should all be on display for the 2012 Dolphins. The potential for talent and speed on the d-line is a reason to be excited about the 4-3. Miami should have a much better 2012 as far as applying pressure to the opposing QB, thus creating turnovers. This is a team that has been in the NFL Top 10 for sacks the past 4 seasons, but the last 3 of those has seen them in the bottom 5 in the AFC for creating turnovers. Coyle has a history of creating interception opportunities for his defenses.
Another likely change is the safeties will have be strong at running downhill, and attacking ball-carriers. Any running back that gets past the first wave of defense now has less linebackers in a 4-3 to clean up the play. That leaves the safeties needing to step up quickly/aggressively as they are often the last chance to make a tackle.
Time will tell if a switch to 4-3 will help with the linebackers covering the quality tight ends they will face in 2012. Rob Gronkowski, twice. Scott Chandler, twice (career-best game for Chandler was vs Dolphins last season). Dustin Keller, twice. Vernon Davis. Owen Daniels. Jermaine Gresham. Coby Fleener. Kellen Winslow. Looks like the safeties will have increased duties helping with the tight ends too.
NFL rules allow extra classroom time for the Dolphins (because Joe Philbin is 1st-year head coach) and word is that Coyle is utilizing that time to go over his playbook/changes with the players time and time again. The transition to the 4-3 should be fairly seamless for the ‘Phins, but time will tell if it is the right move. Putting in a new system that they believe in will be a challenge, but the good news is the talent on defense surely has potential to perform for Coyle/Philbin. Most of the defensive players on Miami are under contract for a while, so this is a group that can grow and learn a new system together.
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