The Dolphins defense last year was bland. Can we agree on that?
It was mostly the same-old-same-old, snap after snap, quarter after quarter, game after game. It took defensive coaches weeks to decide that cornerbacks Sean Smith and Vontae Davis should match up with receivers rather than putting them in the same spot every down -- thus allowing offenses to dictate matchups they wanted.
While I watched the Jets bring safeties and drop linebackers and sometimes play as if they had 13 guys on the field, the Dolphins definition of surprising was the same slot cornerback blitz with Nate Jones. While other teams overmatched quarterbacks with six guys on the attack, the Dolphins rarely brought that many.
Deposed defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni repeated time and again that he wanted to get a lot of pressure. But he wanted to get it with his four rushers.
Well, the days of the Dolphins vanilla defense might be coming to an end.
Word on the NFL grapevine is that Tony Sparano wants 33 flavors not the same steady diet of vanilla. And Sparano, apparently recognizing there is no super dominant player on the defense right now, believes the way to get better (aside from adding more talent) is to become more aggressive.
We'll see if this is true or not. But I would tell you that the hiring of Bill Sheridan as a linebacker coach is good in the regard that his roots have been pressure defense. The interviewing of Pittsburgh linebacker coach Keith Butler is good in that his days in Pittsburgh have been filled with fire zone blitzes and other means of freaking out offenses.
I am, however, left scratching my head about Miami's flirtation with Al Groh as it pertains to becoming more aggressive. I remember watching Groh's defenses with the Giants and Patriots and there was nothing exceedingly exotic about them -- unless Lawrence Taylor playing like a crazed dog qualifies.
The University of Virginia, which Groh coached until being fired in 2009, fielded a sound defense but it was by no means cutting edge.
Perhaps Groh, at age 65, can embrace an updated approach to slowing down today's modern-day, rocket-fueled offenses. But I'll have to see it to believe it.