Coyle Excited About Possibilities for Defense

Posted Jul 30, 2014

The defense has the same man in charge and most of its same cast of characters from last season.

With a new coordinator, a new system, a lot of mixing and matching along the line, it’s the offense that has attracted most of the attention for the Miami Dolphins early in training camp.

The defense, meanwhile, has the same man in charge and most of its same cast of characters from last season. So for defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, training camp is about continuing to perfect what his players have been doing and making the occasional tweak, all with the goal of being as stingy as possible once the regular season arrives Sept. 7.

“We’re always looking for different things that might help us improve both in how we do things and what we’re actually doing schematically, but thus far we’re really been focusing more on what our core things are, things that we’ve been doing, the foundation that we’ve put forth over the last couple of seasons,” Coyle said after practice Wednesday. “Really, the bottom line at the end of the day, it’s us executing our defense and not so much what the offense is doing. We believe in our scheme, we believe in trying to utilize our players’ strengths within the scheme and I think we’ll continue to do that.

“There are going to be some things that we’ll take a look at here during camp, maybe some during preseason, maybe some you won’t have a chance to see until we’re lining up against an opponent, but certainly the core of what we do is in place.”

In terms of personnel, the two significant veteran additions this season came in the secondary with cornerback Cortland Finnegan and safety Louis Delmas. The draft also brought defensive back Walt Aikens, linebacker Jordan Tripp and defensive end Terrence Fede.

Coyle says the additions and the additional experience of some of the team’s younger players — guys like 2013 draft picks Jamar Taylor and Will Davis, for example — have given him his deepest training camp talent pool since he became Dolphins defensive coordinator in January 2012.

“I think we’ve got competition at every spot basically right now,” Coyle said. “This is the deepest group I think we’ve had in all the positions, guys that as you go down the list have proven that they are capable of competing in the NFL. I think our young corners are really starting to come along. We’ve got some competition at the safety position there, in the defensive line. We’ve got some real quality depth in the younger players that we’re working with right now, and then we’ve got some young athletic linebackers.

“Really, without just singling out one or two guys, I think we have more depth, thus we’re going to have more competition. And the big thing that we want to be able to do is evaluate these younger players early in the preseason, get them in the games, not at the end of the games in cleanup time, but in games where they’ve got to be able to go against the better players on the opponents so that we can really get a feel, are they ready to help us?”

The one change of note on defense, and one that has been discussed and dissected since the spring, was the switch of Koa Misi to middle linebacker and that of Dannell Ellerbe from middle to outside linebacker.

Coyle says he’s been pleased with Misi’s progress at his new position, giving kudos to new linebackers coach Mark Duffner for helping with the transition.

“I’m extremely pleased with how Koa has progressed taking on the challenge of becoming the Mike backer in the defense,” Coyle said. “There’s very few guys I’ve ever been around that have worked as hard as he has to get ready. In the building early. Coach Duff has done a phenomenal job tutoring him, working with him on an individual basis getting him ready. Koa has a real tremendous competitive nature about him. He wants to succeed. He’ll do anything he can to help the team. He’s totally unselfish in that regard. There’s always been the question of how vocal he can be; I think if you listen and you watch our entire group right now, we have better communication than we’ve had ever since we’ve been here together and he’s a big part of that. I think we’re on target with that and we’re pleased with where Koa is through five practices.”

The Dolphins ended the 2013 season ranked 21st in total yards allowed, 24th against the run and 16th against the pass, but did finish an impressive eighth in the NFL in fewest points allowed.

Coyle is looking for his defense to take a big step in 2014 and the two specific areas where he wants to see improvement is the run defense and creating more turnovers.

“Those things, if we can do that, we’ll put ourselves in position to be very, very difficult to move the ball against,” Coyle said. “We’ve got guys that can make plays. We’ve got very good speed on defense. We’ve got a lot of good athletes. We’ve got a group of guys that are hungry and I really like the chemistry of these guys, the way they approach the meetings, the way they come out here on the practice field each and every day, not just through camp but through the OTAs. I think if we keep building it, we have a chance to do something special.”
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