The grand linebacker experiment the Dolphins took to the offseason lab is over and, as the team gets ready to open training camp practices Friday at their Davie training facility, it is possible to say the experiment worked.
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin tells me Koa Misi is the middle linebacker and will be in that spot when practice starts Friday -- much as he was during the offseason. Dannell Ellerbe is moving outside after spending last year in the middle. And Phillip Wheeler will man the other OLB job.
So as far as the Dolphins are concerned that's how they're going to camp and only a disaster will make them change course.
"I would say unless something really, let's just say Koa can't get us lined up or can't make a left call or right call, then we'll look at it more. It looks like it's going to be OK," Philbin said. "If the roof caves in we can always go back and those guys can be the same. The defense hasn't changed that much. But I think we're looking forward for it to work.
"I think the position change has been good. I like the position change."
Unlike most snarks and cynics (me sometimes) Philbin doesn't view the move in terms of Ellerbe failing as the MLB. He looks at it from a positive standpoint and that is that Misi earned more trust from the coaches and more downs on the field.
"I think Misi was good. When you talk grades and we grade every game, he was one of the guys that graded out highest on our defense," Philbin said. "So from my chair and, I'm throwing out 500 snaps but maybe it was 480 or 520 for him, but here's a guy that graded out highest of anybody on our defense so why wouldn't we try to get him on the field a little bit more?
"When watched the film he flies around. He tries to play football the right way. I think he's a good example of how you want to play defense. I just think so far that has gone well."
Wheeler, who at times struggled in coverage, is showing hopeful signs of getting better, Philbin said.
I think Phillip Wheeler looks more comfortable right now," the coach said. "He played in the OTAs with better body control than he did last year. He had good production last year, it's just at times we felt he was a little out of control and it hurt him at times. He was better."
The idea of the Dolphins shuffling their linebackers obviously came about after the team struggled (at times) to stop the run. The team yielded an average of 124.9 rushing yards per game, which ranked them 24th in the NFL.
Yes, some of those problems were up front. But too often when Ellerbe or Wheeler got to the football, it was five, six or seven yards down the field. That's one reason teams averaged 4.1 yards per carry against Miami -- ranking the Dolphins 18th in the NFL in rush average allowed.
So maybe this works. Maybe it doesn't.
But for now this is the way the Dolphins are going to address the issue.