Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton began his career with the Redskins and coached in Detroit, and Cincinnati. But the stop that molded him most was unquestionably the seven seasons he spent with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
That's where he picked up the zone blitz. That's where he learned from Dick LeBeau, considered among the best defensive minds in the business. That's where he got his coaching philosophy of attacking 3-4 defense.
And that's the reason the Cleveland Browns the Dolphins will face on Sunday will try to come with the same snarling, angry, zone blitzing, pressure-on-the-quarterback approach as what the Steelers generally use.
Horton wants Bllitzland.
That means two things:
The Dolphins will encounter a major challenge up front to block for quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
But they will also have significant opportunities for big plays if they can get Cleveland's attacking front blocked.
So Miami center Mike Pouncey has to perform well before the snap as well as once the ball is snapped.
"No question, but that's how it's supposed to be," Pouncey said Tuesday afternoon. "The center is supposed to be the guy that sets the stage for the quarterback. You need a smart center against them to know what's coming.
"This is head on. We're playing a great defense. They have a big defensive line. They have good pass rushers. They got a good coach over there that tends to mix up a lot of different blitzes so we can't wait to see what he brings."
Horton is new to the Browns. But Pouncey nonetheless called his brother Maurkice Pouncey for help in figuring out what might be coming. Maurkice, a center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has familiarity with some of the Browns personnel. And he does see a lot of the Pittsburgh defense in practice.
So did the call to Maurkice benefit Mike?
"A lot," Mike Pouncey said. "He plays them two times a year so I called him up and asked him how those guys play, their tendencies. It's good having a brother who plays in the NFL, especially the same position."
Pouncey might want to refer back to last year's Dolphins game versus Arizona. Horton was the Arizona defensive coordinator the last two years. If you recall, in that game, the Dolphins lit up the Cardinals for 480 yards.
So you see the opportunity for big plays against Horton's defense.
But the Cardinals also had two interceptions, forced and recovered two fumbles, and sacked Ryan Tannehill four times.
The Cardinals brought the A-gap blitz a lot so I assume Pouncey is ready for that this week. He says he's definitely ready for the zone blitz.
"What I do is I study film and watch the linebackers and safeties and how they roll coverages," he said. "That's how I know from where the blitz is coming -- where it's coming from so I can help my guys on the offensive line be a step faster."
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