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Dolphins 4-3 defense is good, but is it better?

HOUSTON -- The Dolphins tonight will get their longest look of an outstanding opponent this preseason will offer because the playoff-good Texans are likely going to keep their starters in the game at least one quarter and probably longer.

And while many people will continue to focus on the offense because fans are interested in QB Ryan Tannehill's progress and his chemistry with new WR Mike Wallace and the progress of the running back competition that Lamar Miller has yet to fully win, I will also be looking at the defense.

Yes, the defense.

The Texans, you see, will provide the Miami defense its best test of the preseason. (New Orleans might have done so in the preseason-finale but everyone knows the starters in that game will play perhaps one series and be done).

So this will be Miami's longest view of a solid offense that not only has playoff potential but is considered among the elite units in the NFL.

So why my focus on defense?

Well, I have to admit sometimes when you cover a team, one can overlook the forest from the trees. I admit I did that with this defense. It wasn't until reader Kareen Troitino asked for a critical study of Kevin Coyle's defense that I began to really question this unit.

Now, let me be clear: Last season the Dolphins defense under Coyle as their first-year defensive coordinator was good. They were probably good enough to get a team to the playoffs and if it wasn't for an offense that was bottom-of-the league bad, the Dolphins might have ended up in the postseason.

But the Dolphins defense was good before coach Joe Philbin arrived and hired Coyle to turn the unit from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 scheme. And, in truth, the change in staff and scheme was actually a step backward last year.

That's not an opinion. It's fact.

In 2011, Miami's 3-4 defense was No. 6 in the NFL in scoring, allowing 19.6 points per game. Last year, the Dolphins 4-3 unit was No. 7 in scoring, allowing 19.8 points per game. Slight difference but ... Worse.

In 2011, Miami's 3-4 defense gave up an average of 345.1 total yards per game. That was No. 15 in the NFL. Last year, the 4-3 unit gave up an average of 356.8 yards per game. That was No. 21 in the NFL. Worse.

In 2011, Miami's 3-4 defense was No. 3 against the run, allowing 95.6 yards per game. Last season, the 4-3 was No. 13 in the NFL, allowing 108.4 rushing yards per game. Worse.

The 2011 unit had 16 interceptions. Last year's unit had 10 interceptions. Worse.

The 2011 unit had 19 takeaways. The 2012 unit had 16 takeaway. Neither is very good. But 16 is less than 19 so ... Worse.

The only area where Coyle's 4-3 defense showed improvement over the previous 3-4 defense was in passing yards per game and even then, the improvement was modest. The 2011 Miami defense gave up 249.5 passing yards per game, which was 25th overall in the NFL. The 2012 Miami defense gave up 248.4 passing yards per game, which was 27th in the NFL. So even as the pass defense got one yard better per game, it lost ground in the rankings.

The point?

I'm not convinced this 4-3 approach is an upgrade. It's good. But it was good before. And if the Dolphins are looking to be a "first in class organization" as owner Stephen Ross likes to say, the defense needs to be better than merely good. It needs to be great.

It needs to be better than it was.

It needs to be Super Bowl good.

By the way, last year's Super Bowl teams -- San Francisco and Baltimore -- employed a 3-4 defense. The NFL's No. 1 unit overall (yards per game) was Pittsburgh. The Steelers run a base 3-4.

I'm not saying the 3-4 is a better approach than the 4-3, but the facts suggest Miami's personnel might be better suited for the 3-4.

Remember: Paul Soliai went to the Pro Bowl while playing in the 3-4 as an NT, not the 4-3 as a DT. Randy Starks had his most productive season and went to the Pro Bowl playing in the 3-4 as a DE, not the 4-3 as a DE. Jared Odrick was drafted by Bill Parcells as a 3-4 DE.  Koa Misi was drafted for the 3-4.

Dannell Ellerbe played the 3-4 in Baltimore.

"I'm still getting used to being in the middle," Ellerbe said this week.

A good player is a good player is a good player. And many good players will be good regardless of scheme. 

Cameron Wake is good as a 4-3 defensive end although he started out as a 3-4 OLB for the Dolphins. And once he gets healthy, I assume rookie first round pick Dion Jordan will be comfortable as a 4-3 DE although at Oregon he was often utilized and seems tailor-made for 3-4 OLB work.

But sometimes one scheme turns a good player into a dynamic one. Remember that Jason Taylor was an outstanding 4-3 defensive end. But his best season when he won the Defensive Player of the Year award came when Nick Saban used him in the 3-4 as an OLB.

My points is if the Dolphins are going to be a base 4-3 team, they need to prove that's really the best approach. They need to improve on what they were as a 3-4 unit not just keep pace or, as they did last year, lose ground.

The Texans last year scored 26 points per game and that made them the NFL's sixth-most productive offense. Tonight is a good night for Miami's defense to start showing it is ready to take another step.

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BY THE 3RD SERIES THE GAME WILL NO LONGER BE FUN

I did not say we will lose.
I'm just saying that by the end of the 3rd series we will have to just grind the whole thing out. Like a job.

Mando,
Are you still looking for some Mexican food? If so try one of those burrito trucks on the corner; the goat meat is best.

Watching Brady run the Pats 1st offensive series against Tamp last night. It was liking watching the way it's really supposed to be done.

It was liking dreaming of what you would feel as a dolfan if Tannehill could come to looking even remotely close.

Im sure there wasn't a Pat fan alive needing to make excuse for Brady's preseason performances. We can only dream of that kind of play with Tannehill, awaken to reality, then become green with envy. At least, s a dolfan, that's what I felt.

I sooooooo.................... miss the days of Griese/Marino, seeing the qb play a couple preseason possessions, and looking laser sharp.

Just saying.......................................

With the starters our oline can become like a pay turnstile. Once the starters sit, its just turnstile for free...............


Just saying.......................

Mando your subject sounds so familiar of my post this morning about the Phins defense. Excited to see if this defense can be elite. Coyle needs to let our guys loose on the Texans and see how good this defense can be this year.

The best Team we ever fielded here, the eventual 1974 SB Champions no player there looked sharp in the Preseason. We lost all the Games there.

The Dolphins are strictly a minor league franchise. Stephen Ross is selling hope that will never happen.

ohoh, you finicky.

Tannehill needs to settle down. What he lacks is not athleticism or intelligence. He lacks that calmness that comes with poise.

Maybe, hopefully isoon, the game will slow down for him. For now though he still plays more like a nervous twitch than an in-control general.

Of the last two years new QB's, the one that had the most natural poise from the get go is Luck. He has that calmness that came so naturally to Montana and Brady.

Asinine and Preposterous.

Weak.

The game is today and instead of talking about that you want to give your commentary on the Base Formation of the Defense.

Without stating we had 3-4 personnel running the new Hybrid Defense.

The Biggest thing you need to change from the 3-4 to the 4-3 are the LBs. Coyle finally has the LBs to run his defense. You need more athletic LBs in a 4-3, since you only have 3. While you need bigger LBs in a 3-4 since you only have 3 D-linemen.

Don't get me wrong, Good topic, Bad article.

If you were objective, you would state how the Fins have upgraded the Defense this season. Grimes, Ellerbe, Wheeler, D.Jordan, Vernon Developing, Odrick Moving In.

And you would also talk about how we Added by Subtracting. Dansby, S.Smith.

The Defense got a couple Upgrades, to think that Defense will be the same or worst than 2012 is Horrifyingly Wicked.

Asinine and Preposterous.

Weak.

The game is today and instead of talking about that you want to give your commentary on the Base Formation of the Defense.

Without stating we had 3-4 personnel running the new Hybrid Defense.

The Biggest thing you need to change from the 3-4 to the 4-3 are the LBs. Coyle finally has the LBs to run his defense. You need more athletic LBs in a 4-3, since you only have 3. While you need bigger LBs in a 3-4 since you only have 3 D-linemen.

Don't get me wrong, Good topic, Bad article.

If you were objective, you would state how the Fins have upgraded the Defense this season. Grimes, Ellerbe, Wheeler, D.Jordan, Vernon Developing, Odrick Moving In.

And you would also talk about how we Added by Subtracting. Dansby, S.Smith.

The Defense got a couple Upgrades, to think that Defense will be the same or worst than 2012 is Horrifyingly Wicked.

Thanks for posting it Twice, but Once was good enough.

Glad I'm meeting friends for drinks and dinner tonight so I won't be watching yet another useless, boring, and utterly meaningless preseason "game."

Athlon Sports has the Top 100 college players of the BCS Era.
Chad Henne
Pat White
Jake Long
Reggie Bush
Are the active players with a connection to the fins from the list.
No active Phins on list.

Fraud,

College and Pro's are 2 Different Games.

T.Tebow is the Greatest College QB EVER!!

And he SUCKS as a Pro.

Dashi,
Actually Vince Young was #1 and Tebow #2 on the Athlon list. Matt Leinart was top 10.

I'm just trying to get everybody all riled up for the big game tonight.

Peyton Manning did not make the top 100 list but Chris Weinke did so I'm not sure how official the list is.

Fraud,

Those Heretics are going straight to Hell.

I personally can't stand Tebow, but Numbers don't Lie. 145 Total TDs 16 INTs in 4 Years.

Tebow won the BCS Twice. Won a Heisman. 2x Maxwell Award.

He sucks as a QB. But he dominated College Football for 3 Years.

Only 2 people have won the Maxwell Twice. Tebow and some guy in the 1950s (pre-BCS)

I told my gf that we would watch a movie tonight, together.
Wait until she finds out that the Jags-Jets is on NFL network. Whenever Chad Henne snaps the ball she is going to turn on the vacuum right next to me.

Here's the bottom line PROVE IT !! Let's see the dolphins do it on the field. 1.st half of the schedule will be a litmus test where J.Ireland either gets a contract extension or many of you people will finally get your wish he'll be gone by Christmas !!

How are Ari shutting out Dal in the 4th qtr?
There's no way that the Ari D is better than our D, is there?

Yelü Dashi was a member of the Khitan royal family, the founder of the Liao dynasty which ruled by an iron hand of slaughter, massacre, torture and rape. The clan leaders would roam the villages pilfering pretty young girls and boys from their families and in essence maintained their own slave harem. They were one of the most ruthless and devient dynasties in history.

It is believed to have inspired Trujillo's notably cruel dictatorship in the Dominican Republic.

Tannehill should not have to carry the team with a great a defense and a decent running game. The Phins should show both tonight and I'm ok if we have to grind it out with them. This will be a very good test. I expect a lot of this Phins talented veteran defense to play tough against them.


Glad I'm meeting friends for drinks and dinner tonight so I won't be watching yet another useless, boring, and utterly meaningless preseason "game."

Posted by: Wake Me On September 8th. | August 17, 2013 at 06:16 PM


Then the drinks should come in really handy...........

Just saying..........................................

Glad I'm meeting friends for drinks and dinner tonight so I won't be watching yet another useless, boring, and utterly meaningless preseason "game."

Posted by: Wake Me On September 8th. | August 17, 2013 at 06:16 PM


Yet you are glad to be here at the blog of your own volition.

Hi guys...can anyone give me a link where I can watch this one free on the PC...thanks

Hi guys...can anyone give me a link where I can watch this one free on the PC...thanks

Posted by: BigAlfy | August 17, 2013 at 07:00 PM

Just search the blog. It was posted here 19 times every game day of the last 5 years. If you were too dumb to save the link in your browser, well you don't deserve to watch anymore.

Miami's best defenses were between 2001 and 2003... All 4-3 units with great corners and solid safeties. A smartly executed 4-3 won the Dallas Cowboys games for years and isn't too damn bad in the New York Giants World either...
Take a strong look at the numbers provided by Armando as an example and I don't think you could argue simple season to season swings are not just as likely responsible...

Besides.... Like everything else in this game... It is not just the plan... It's the execution.
Execute.... Execute.... Execute......

Do THAT and it won't matter how they are lined up...

dadsmith,

No one's asking Tannehill to carry the team. Right now, we only ask to become more consistently accurate with his passing.

Right now, we only ask he looks like a game manager who actually efficiently game manages. If he successfully does this, then with a great defense, winning at least 10gms would be a piece of cake.

Carrying a team is having a 3-13 team and carrying them to 8-8. It's being able to pencil in 5 wins a year just by the greatness of your qb alone.

Taking a 8-8 team and going 13-3. Pats are a 7-9 win team without Tom Brady. With him, they're a 12 to 14 win team.

Until Tannehill shows more, we're only as good as the talent level, and go only as far as defense will take us.


Just saying..............

Here's the bottom line PROVE IT !! Let's see the dolphins do it on the field. 1.st half of the schedule will be a litmus test where J.Ireland either gets a contract extension or many of you people will finally get your wish he'll be gone by Christmas !!

Posted by: mace taggart | August 17, 2013 at 06:42 PM
--------------------------------------

I disagree..... Last year the Baltimore Ravens were considered all but old and washed up, started the season like crap... Once they hit stride and coaching made necessary changes in game strategy and how they allow Flacco to operate they opened up with big guns got hot and won it all.,...

Just more knee jerk, impatient Dolphins fans trying to settle the gamer before it's ever played...


Numbskulls and Morons have a better clue....

It's a LONG 16 game season... Get to game 8 with 4 wins and you still are looking 9-7 in the face...

Do the world a flavor and stop trying to use your crystal ball.... makes you and the rest of Dolfandom look stupid and uneducated to the game.

My question is this:

Is Philbin a leader of men?

Breeze,

Teams with the great mlb's usually have the most success running the 4-3 d. 3-4 d's were born of necessity because of great sideline to sideline mlb's.

Henceforth, came the 2nd milb, better known as the ilb.

Lack of great mlbs

Correct me if I'm mistaken but didn't Bill Polian say this is a team no one wants to play after October and he had a lot of great things to say about the team? I agree with that take. The defense has to hold steady until the offense is completely clicking..just hoping it doesn't take until then.

There arernt enough great mlb's to go around, so, teams began to improvise by installing 2 ilb's instead.

I'm not convinced this 4-3 approach is an upgrade. It's good. But it was good before. And if the Dolphins are looking to be a "first in class organization" as owner Stephen Ross likes to say, the defense needs to be better than merely good. It needs to be great.

A "FIRST CLASS ORGANIZATION".......
not till Idiot Ross leaves, But you never know, Even a squirrel sometimes finds a nut.
Anyhooooo, GO FINS...............

Polian's statement is based upon his "ASSUMPTION" Tannehill will become better a the season goes on. If you asked Bill, Im sure he would tell you the same.

Look, I want to be as optimistic as the next fan when it comes to Tannehill. But, we've traveled this road many times already post Marino. How did that work out for us?

Im not bashing Tannehill, just want to see him make it all pan out on the playing field. Until then, it's all in the realms of the great unknown...

Just saying...........................................

Also too, I watched the game with the PATS VS the Bucs, You guys predicting Miami going 11 and 5 or better please pass the stuff your smoking, Brady was 12 out of 15 for a 140 yards, You guys saying the PATS are in decline need to WTFU,Not saying I'am a PAT fan but they just keep on Re-Loading every year..
BTW, GO PHINS..

Where is the live blog?
mando are you asleep at the switch again?

This 4-3 approach will all be predicated on if whether or not Ellerbee is truly a great MLB...

Nothing more, nothing less......

Posted by: Cuban Menace | August 17, 2013 at 07:22 PM

I 100% agree!

If Tannehill's still running the offense the way he has the 1st to games, we'll be down 21-0, before our 1st trip to the endzone vs Brady. Brady many times can make even the best defenses look silly.

Just saying................................

17 and 0, And he was a 7th round pick too....
They struck a diamond in the middle of sand...

Polian has some pretty awesome credentials. I'm going to be taking Polian's word for it over...well mostly anyone. I'm in a wait and see it on the field mode too. Really there is not information at this point to bash on Tannehill. 1/2 hour to kick off...!!

Pats went for 2pts after their 1st trip to the enzone last night. Is it a precursor of things to come in 2013?

Seems every year Bellichick adds a slightly new dimension to what he does each season. I mean, with Brady playing lights out, why not go for 2pts instead of 1pts 50% of the td scores? Especially if few teams are ale to stop it.....

Just saying........................................

Mando, Put down the Salsa, When is the LIVE blog starting??

Ireland being interviewed live on the pregame....

Trujillo was inspired by Hitler. He was a Nationalist. Get it right if you are going to talk about one of the Cruelest Dictators Ever. Parsley Massacre.

And what happened to Comandante Trujillo? The Dominican People Killed Him. We don't play. My family was a major contributor to the revolution. We also help smuggle Guns for other Revolutions that were going on throughout the Caribbean and South America at the time.

Again, Dashi is a simple Janitor, who takes public transportation and is a shame to his Family. ;)

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