New Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer is only 43 years old, but his appreciation for the game, and the great defensive coordinators of the NFL, pre-dates that 1977 birthday. Boyer, born in one of America's most bustling football pockets in Heath, Ohio, was inundated with the esoteric nature of football from an early age.
"My father's a high school coach and he's still coaching, so I guess when I was a little kid and they had the film projector on, I thought it was the coolest thing in the world when the players went backwards," Boyer said. "That kind of sparked my interest there."
Bill Arnsparger, the architect of two Super Bowl winning defenses in Miami, took home the prestigious Dr. Z Award for lifetime achievement in June. Just six month earlier, Boyer was promoted to his first defensive coordinator job in the NFL, a lineage he's thrilled to join.
"I was really excited about and in fact it just so happened that Bill Arnsparger was awarded the Dr. Z Award this year, which I think he's more than deserving," Boyer said. "Arnsparger's book is one of those – if you have a pretty good knowledge, you'd think it's a pretty good book. If you're a little bit novice in it, it could be a tough read. I think there's things that you can pull from everything."
The game is always evolving. And though Boyer's appreciation for the history of the game is refreshing, his defensive implementation is a modified version of the knowledge he's gained from those that did it first.
Boyer acknowledged his desire to adapt and evolve. He started a theme, in which each of the defensive assistants followed suit, discussing the vision for a collaborative effort with the 2020 Miami Dolphins defensive scheme.
The themes echo through the walls at the Dolphins facility; and special teams coach Danny Crossman is no exception. Miami added a slew of players with accomplished special teams backgrounds. Crossman relayed the team's message when he was asked about the key traits he searches for in a core special teamer.
"It all starts with getting our kind of guys – smart, tough, team-first, Crossman said. "Then (it's) having the athleticism to be a multi-faceted player. Everybody talks about the core teams and the four phases, but the more guys that we have that can play multiple spots on those four phases are the guys that really end up being your core guys."
Boyer and Crossman were joined by four Dolphins defensive assistants on a Saturday morning press conference. Defensive Line Coach Marion Hobby, Linebackers Coach Anthony Campanile, Outside Linebackers Coach Austin Clark and Defensive Backs Coach Gerald Alexander shared a variety of viewpoints. Here are the highlights, categorically.
Weekly defensive evolution
Boyer: "I would say it's not really a 'Flores Defense.' It's not a 'Boyer Defense.' It would be kind of a 'Miami 2020 Defense,' and again, Coach Flores will have influence on it, I'll have influence on it, our assistant coaches will have influence on it and importantly, our players will have influence on it. Again, I think there's core fundamentals that we believe in that we'll implement, but the defense itself will evolve over time."
Clark: "I'd say it's a collaborative effort. We've got 'Coach Cam' (Linebackers Coach Anthony Campanile),(Defensive Coordinator) Josh (Boyer), 'Coach Hobbs' (Defensive Line Coach Marion Hobby), myself. We all coach defense together so I wouldn't say it's specifically certain people or anything like that. I'm really excited about where the season is going.
Hobby: "Playing as a unit. One guy gets a great rush and the other guy is not in the right position. This guy gets a great rush and it seems where we didn't really play together. When you usually have four-man rushes, everybody has a rush lane, everybody has a responsibility. I think if we can improve there, where everybody is counting on the man next to them to do his job and produce."
Offseason additions to the roster
Campanile on Kyle Van Noy: "One of his great abilities is he's got a lot of multiplicity to his game. I think him bringing that to our system, and we're a system where I think Coach Flores has done an incredible job and Coach Boyer has done an incredible job in their careers of playing to the strengths of all of their players throughout their entire career. We're obviously really, really excited to have him here, and I think he's going to be a great addition to our defense and he's a great fit to what we do."
Hobby on Shaq Lawson: "We were looking for those smart, tough players that love football and team-first attitudes, and he fits it. It's something that he's been a leader all his career, even in college going into the pros with his energy level, and I thought he would be a really good fit for us."
Hobby on Raekwon Davis: "Raekwon is different athletically, but he's really a more conscientious football player. Football is important to him.
Hobby on Emmanuel Ogbah: "He's just been a pleasure to work with. Just visiting with him early, I didn't know him beforehand; but just evaluating him off tape, asking other coaches about him, his work ethic, his smarts and all that, he's proven to be exactly what they said. He's very conscientious. He likes the game. He's got a good football IQ. He's smart. Man, he'll work."
Hobby on Christian Wilkins: "He really looks good out there. We want to see him step up a little bit more as a leader. Last year he came on at the end, stepped up a little more as a leader. It's his second year in the scheme and knowing what's expected of him, I'm looking for great things from him."
Crossman on Kavon Frazier, Clayton Fejedelem, Kamu Grugier-Hill: "Kavon Frazier, Clayton, Kamu – we've added some guys that when you look at their history and their experience and what they've put on tape in the National Football League … (they) have veteran leadership, have made plays and have made big plays in several different phases."
Alexander on Noah Igbinoghene and Brandon Jones: "We knew those guys have great athleticism coming in and great tools to develop in our program, but (also) just getting a chance to meet them throughout the process. You knew that they were guys that had the football character that we are looking for in our building. We haven't really had the chance to see that on display on the field – we're just getting to start practice – but you can tell just by their football character and their makeup that they are willing to be coachable and improve on a day-to-day (basis)."
Communication, a critical element
Alexander: "Communication is a must in our defense. All guys have to be on the same page, especially at the safety position. We have the depth of the defense and we're responsible to really get everybody in line, so it's very important that whether you're young or an older vet, that the communication is on point. We know that big plays always run through the secondary. Whether it be in the pass game or the run game, the easiest way to give up an explosive play in the backend is lack of communication. What I tell those guys is lack of communication leads to disaster."
Boyer: "I think the one thing that's consistent with all those (coaches) is they're good teachers, they're good communicators and they work hard. I would say the other thing that's important in coaching is they don't have egos. It's amazing what you can get accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit. I think our head coach, Coach Flores, he exemplifies that."
Impressions of Flores
Clark: "He's a hardworking guy. When I came down here to meet with him, I looked him up and researched him and saw his path through coaching. That immediately to me was like, 'Hey, this is someone I want to work under and learn from.' Just how he came up and the grind and where he's come from, his story, all of the obstacles he's gone through. Then on a first impression basis, I would just say he's a teacher. To me, coaching is teaching. There's an element of how he interacts with players and coaches. He's got a mission. He's a tough guy and we want tough people that are smart and love to play and are physical."
Campanile: "I was at Boston College. Coach Flores was a Boston College graduate and was coaching in New England at the time. I knew a lot of people that knew him very well, and everybody spoke so highly of him, not just as a football coach, but as a person. For myself and for my family, to this point in the time that I've spent here, he's been phenomenal to us. He's just a great person in that regard. He cares about people's family. Football is what we do. It's a huge part of all of our lives, it's a huge part of all of our families' lives."
Crossman: "To watch how he handled the good, the bad, the ugly throughout the season, he was the same guy. I think as a player and as a coach, when you know what you're getting on a daily basis and where that person is coming from and their values and what they're teaching, I think it's invaluable because no matter what happens, when you walk in the building, you know what you're going to get from a leadership standpoint."
Alexander: ""I got a chance to meet 'Coach Flo' and these guys really through Tiquan Underwood, who I played with in Jacksonville. I was here really locally and visiting Blake Baker, who I coached with at Arkansas State and who was the defensive coordinator at the University of Miami. While I was in town, I came and visited Tiquan and got a chance to meet some guys in the building and got an opportunity to be here and really kind of shadow in training camp last year during an internship. Going back and taking some of that information to Cal, where I was coaching at the time, it was valuable information just being here for a week. I learned a lot from this coaching staff."