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Osi Umenyiora: Dolphins defense issue 'on defensive coordinator'

LONDON -- English-born former NFL defensive lineman Osi Umenyiora will be among the hosts at the NFL fan rally at Trafalgar Square here on Saturday as both the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets will gather before an expected crowd of approximately 40,000 to raise the curtain on the International Series that begins Sunday.

Umengyiora obviously has been doing his homework on both the Dolphins and the Jets and he discussed Miami's defensive line struggles (only one sack in three games, none in the past 11 quarters) while appearing on NFL Network's NFL HQ Thursday.

And in that discussion, Umenyiora put the line's struggles squarely on defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.

"Ndamukong 'the beast from the east' Suh, from what I've seen he's still playing very well," Umenyiora said. "Cameron Wake is one of the best pass rushers we have in this league. I am going to put this squarely on the defensive coordinator's shoulders.

"What I've seen is Olivier Vernon dropping into coverage, I've seen Cameron Wake two-gapping, I've seen Ndamukong Suh two-gapping which is what you can't have with these perennial All-Pro pass rushers. You have to let them rush up the field. You have to let these rushers rush and the defensive coordinator hasn't done that.

"That's why they're underperforming. But I think they're going to get back to that this weekend."

The Dolphins run a base 4-3 defense that should typically use one-gap concepts for the four defensive linemen. That means a lineman is responsible for one gap. He must try to stop running plays there. He often rushes the passer from that gap.

The Dolphins do switch things up. And they do run two gap concepts. And in that regard, the defensive lineman is responsible for gaps on either shoulder. That means he must first read the play (pass or run, and to what side it is going if a run) and then react to the play through the appropriate gap.

Two gap defensive linemen typically read and react by definition.

And the problem with that?

The Dolphins are asking aggressive up-field rushers to think first and then react to the play in front of them rather than attack one gap and let everyone else fill the other gaps which are their assignments.

And so here are the issues:

This is not new to the Dolphins. They've done this to a degree or another since Coyle became the defensive coordinator. Indeed, when they ran a 3-4 defense, the Dolphins used the two-gap approach because that's how it had to be with the linemen.

So now -- four years into Coyle -- this is a problem? I can see that it might be an issue for Suh. He's new. I can see it might be an issue for maybe C.J. Mosley. He's new. But Wake?

I don't like a two-gap read and  react approach out of the 4-3. The Dolphins have tigers on the defensive line and the two-gap approach effectively keeps them on a leash. But it is not new to the vets on the team.

Another thing: Umenyiora is not around the Dolphins. So he doesn't know if they're going to change things up this week for sure or not. Indeed, if he were around, they're going to tell him about strategic changes?

But suppose he's right. Suppose a change is coming this week. So after three years and three games this season, now we change?

Think of what that would say about Coyle? It would tell me he used an approach on defense for years because he believed in it and was confident about it, and then four years in decided to change things suddenly because things weren't working?

Oh boy.