Dolphins' "Speed" Package On Defense Creates Headaches

Posted Sep 10, 2013

Athletic front seven gives defensive coordinator Coyle options.

Some teams have a jumbo package and others have creative blitz packages on defense, but there can’t be too many that can boast the “speed” package the Miami Dolphins debuted in Cleveland last week.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, who likes to keep opposing offenses guessing, has been working like a mad scientist on ways to exploit the athletic talents of defensive ends Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon, rookie Dion Jordan and linebacker Koa Misi at the same time. Once he saw the freakish skills of Jordan, Miami’s first-round pick in April’s NFL Draft and third overall pick, Coyle envisioned limitless possibilities for his schemes.

“We’ve got some real athletic guys on the field there, and the good news is they are all pass rushers because they are all linebacker hybrid type guys, yet they all can cover,” Coyle said. “That’s a good thing. We feel fortunate to have that group. We’ll be able to do a lot of things. There’s a lot of versatility with that speed group on the field. We just scratched the surface with that.”

The Cleveland Browns had their hands full all afternoon in the season-opener at FirstEnergy Stadium trying to figure out which direction the pass rushers were coming from and how many there were. As a result, Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden was sacked six times and hit 16 more while being hurried throughout the game.

Wake, a two-time Pro Bowler who racked up 15 sacks last season, led the way with 2.5 sacks and another six hits, Misi and Jordan each had one QB hit and Jordan picked up his first career sack near the end of the game. Vernon had the tough task of going up against six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas of Cleveland, but even though he didn’t get a sack Coyle singled him out Monday for the constant pressure he managed to create from his side of the line of scrimmage. The second-year Miami native out of the University of Miami likes being part of the new “speed” package.

“This is a little switch-up that Coach Coyle’s been trying to throw in for this season,” said Vernon, who is coming off a stellar training camp and preseason after a solid rookie campaign. “We’ve got the players to do certain things with their speed because we’ve got a lot of speedy, athletic guys on the defense. Coach Coyle is just trying to use us to the best of our abilities.”

When Coyle talked about having a bunch of hybrid linebackers, Misi is one of the truest examples he can point to. The fourth-year player out of Utah has proven to be one of the more reliable coverage guys both in the middle against tight ends and down the seam and sideline against running backs and wide receivers.

Speed always has been one of Misi’s most recognizable assets and he feels like in Coyle’s system, especially in the “speed” package, he is at his best. He was the fourth-leading tackler against the Browns with five (three solo) and is a fan of the new look.

“A couple of other teams in the league have done it and it kind of mixes things up for the other team,” Misi said. “They don’t know who’s coming, who’s dropping and it just kind of throws something else out there in the defense. I think Coach Coyle just wanted to have something else that we could use in our defense that will throw the opponent off and I think it works pretty well.”

And just in case offensive coordinators with any of Miami’s future opponents – starting with the Indianapolis Colts this Sunday – have designs on focusing their energy on the “speed” package, Coyle has a fair warning for them.

“We’ve got big packages. We’ve got speed packages. We’ve got a lot of different looks,” he said. “We have nickel and dime, big base and regular base. There are a lot of different things you don’t necessarily see with the naked eye. You’ve got to be behind closed doors to know exactly what is going on with that.”

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