Miami's Secondary Intent On Containing Colts' QB Luck

Posted Sep 11, 2013

Last year’s No. 1 overall pick faces a new look this time around.

Quite a bit has changed in the Miami Dolphins’ secondary since the last time they faced the Indianapolis Colts and then-rookie quarterback Andrew Luck in Week 8 of last season. Of course, Luck also has come a long way since then, which makes Sunday’s matchup very intriguing.

When the two teams meet at Lucas Oil Stadium, the setting will be the same, as will Miami’s defensive coordinator (Kevin Coyle), his two safeties (Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons) and the core of his front four. Luck wound up setting a rookie record for passing yards in Indy’s 23-20 victory that day with 433, connecting with seven different receivers on a 30-of-48 performance.

But more than what the first overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft is capable of doing with his arm is how effective he can be with his feet. Even though officially he had just one rush for five yards, he also was only sacked once while eluding a handful of others and throwing on the run. It’s that dual threat capability that the Dolphins’ defensive backs know they have to be wary about.

“We definitely have to be careful back there in the secondary. He got us last year for over 400 yards so that wasn’t good on our part,” said cornerback Nolan Carroll, who had one of Miami’s three interceptions in last week’s season-opening win at Cleveland. “This year we’ve got to pay attention to detail. We’ve got to cover those guys man-for-man and we’ve got to keep him in the pocket. He won the game last week by running so we’ve got to contain him and try and get him off rhythm. When he’s in a rhythm that’s when their offense is unstoppable.”

The Dolphins were credited with six hits on Luck in that game, with two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake getting two of them and the only sack for a 14-yard loss. Now Wake is being utilized in a more dangerous “speed” package by Coyle, which helped him get 2.5 of the team’s six sacks against the Browns.

Luck knows he’s also going to see two different starting cornerbacks on the other side of the line of scrimmage from him in Pro Bowler Brent Grimes and Dimitri Patterson, who had the other two interceptions at Cleveland. So while he knows he can benefit from taking a look at what worked against the Dolphins last year, it’s going to be a little more complicated than just trying to repeat everything.

“We have and we’ll continue to go back and watch and see maybe some things we did well last year,” Luck said. “Obviously, they’re a different team with one more year under their belt. This is their second year with Coach Coyle as their coordinator so they’re probably a little more comfortable with everything and they obviously had a great Week 1 performance. They did a heck of a job but yeah, it’s going to be a tough game.”

This is the first in a stretch of four games that Miami will face an elite quarterback, with Atlanta’s Matt Ryan coming to Sun Life Stadium the following Sunday, Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints awaiting on the road in a Monday Night tilt after that and Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens hitting South Florida in the last game before the bye. So there is no better time to show some moxie as a secondary and as a defense than against Luck and the Colts on Sunday.

Grimes, who played on the same team as Ryan with the Falcons and went against Brees twice a year in the NFC South, is well-versed on what needs to be done in order to prevent those types of quarterbacks from putting up big numbers. Just as Wake and the other pass rushers will say how much they rely on good coverage from the defensive backs to help them get pressure, Grimes understands the importance of what that front seven does to help him and do his job.

“Anytime you’re facing talented quarterbacks like that you can’t let them be comfortable back there, that’s the key,” said Grimes, who has 13 career interceptions and is bouncing back from an Achilles’ injury. “If you give them tons of time they’ll pick you apart. So if you can affect them and get them thinking about the rush and not just thinking about their reads and stuff like that, that’s a big deal.”

Jones, who was the third leading tackler for the Dolphins last season and also led them in interceptions with four, actually was one of the few defensive backs to have some success against Luck last year. He made four solo tackles, had one quarterback hit, one pass breakup and one forced fumble.

The fourth-year safety is also well aware of the deep threats Luck has at his disposal in T.Y. Hilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey, not to mention perennial Pro Bowler Reggie Wayne. Jones has a lot of respect for Luck and does not want to see the quarterback go off the same we he did the first time around.

“The margin of error is very small when you’re facing a guy like that,” Jones said. “He’s a good quarterback and he’s a dual guy – he can run and pass, so you’ve just got to be on your keys and know what you’re going to get out of the guy. I think he can make all the throws and different things like that so you’ve just got to raise your level of play up. If he gets out of the pocket we want to make a great tackle on the guy but you just need to be aware of it and know what you’re going to get out of a dual quarterback.”

Miami’s secondary certainly saw enough last year to ensure it will not be caught off guard come Sunday.

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