Misi A Mainstay In Miami’s Revamped Linebacking Corps

Posted Aug 20, 2013

Former second-round pick in the 2010 draft is the only starting linebacker left from last season.

Koa Misi hasn’t changed much since he first joined the Dolphins a little more than four years ago.

He’s still low-key both on and off the field, soft-spoken and non-controversial when giving interviews and quiet but efficient when he’s in the middle of the action.

He’s one of those guys who’s easy to take for granted, actually, because there’s nothing really flashy about him and he quietly goes about his business.

Just don’t think he’s underappreciated around the Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University. All anyone needed to know about what the Dolphins think of him could be found in Jeff Ireland’s words Saturday night when he gave an interview to CBS4’s Kim Bokamper prior to the preseason game against the Houston Texans.

Ireland was asked why it was he wanted linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler in free agency.

“Really, the thought was that we needed to get faster and more explosive and more physical at the point of attack,” Ireland began before throwing Misi into the mix. “And we really looked a lot at Koa Misi in that regard, and Koa was a very physical, downhill player. We really wanted to emulate a lot of what Koa was doing, so during the free agency process we felt like we identified Ellerbe, we identified Wheeler, they’re two guys that get their hands on a lot of balls, they play on all three downs, they’re physical and they can run. Just made good sense to us.”

As if on cue, Misi made a great play against the Texans, a typical Misi effort in that it was effective yet didn’t show up on the stat sheet.

On Houston’s third possession of the game, Matt Schaub rolled to his left and threw deep to his right hoping to take advantage of Garrett Graham going one-on-one with Misi. But Misi forced an incompletion with blanket coverage, the kind of coverage that’s difficult to surpass without drawing a pass-interference penalty.

Clearly, there was a reason the Dolphins kept Misi when they revamped their linebacking corps in the offseason.

As the Dolphins head into their fourth of five preseason games, Misi is the only starting linebacker left from last season. Part of his training camp, then, was about building some chemistry with Ellerbe and Wheeler.

“It’s been good so far,” Misi said. “Dannell and Wheeler, they’re both good linebackers and they picked up the defense quick. It’s been fun playing with them so far. The season is going to be good for us. It’s a lot different than it was last year. These guys are picking up the defense quick, they’re moving. Wheeler is making a lot of plays on the ball. Dannell is real smart playing that Mike (middle) linebacker position.”

A second-round pick in the 2010 draft, Misi has been a starter pretty much throughout his NFL career, with 12 starts as a rookie, nine in 2011 when injuries limited him to nine games, and 14 last season.

Misi hasn’t put up big defensive numbers for the Dolphins, but part of that can be attributed to the roles he’s been asked to play. Misi does a little bit of everything at linebacker for the Dolphins and he even has lined up with his hand on the ground as a defensive end in obvious passing situations.

“I’ve always played both, D-end and linebacker,” Misi said. “I did the same last year. It’s always nice to get in there and play on third downs, too. Play the run at end and be able to play linebacker as well. I don’t really have a choice where I want to play. I’ve just got to know both and be ready for when they need to put me in.”

When the Dolphins switched to a predominantly 4-3 scheme last season with the arrival of a new coaching staff, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle pointed out Misi as the one player on defense with the toughest adjustment to make from the previous 3-4 system.

Misi responded to the challenge in fine fashion, putting together his best season in a Dolphins uniform. Misi finished 2012 with a career-high 60 tackles, a career-high four passes defensed, 3.5 sacks and one forced fumble.

With a year of experience in Coyle’s system, Misi is hoping to be even more effective this season.

“Right now I’m way ahead of where I was last year, just being able to feel comfortable in the defense, not think about things and just be able to go with the play and just move,” Misi said. “Last year I was thinking too much and making mistakes. This year I feel a lot more comfortable in the position that I’m playing. I just feel that I’m able to move around a lot better.”

There are high hopes for the Dolphins defense in 2013, and the reason is the presence of several high-profile players, such as Cameron Wake, Paul Soliai, Brent Grimes and Reshad Jones.

Misi most definitely isn’t high profile. But the Dolphins most definitely should be able to continue counting on him to produce in his own efficient, understated way.

“What I’ve always been trying to do myself is come out, play hard, never give up on anything,” Misi said. “My whole life I’ve always pushed myself, pushed myself to win, never to get beat or lose a battle. That’s something that I take to heart is do my best and playing my hardest, and hopefully the coaches see that.”
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