From Day 1, Brian Flores harped on versatility, multiplicity and the moniker "the more you can do." That pillar of the program he envisioned building in Miami bled into the roster. It shaped the way General Manager Chris Grier and his scouting staff addressed free agency and the draft. It led to the signing of a player like linebacker Kyle Van Noy, a figure whose absence in any given scenario requires a village to replace him.
"He plays a number of roles – linebacker, defense end, he's inside, he's outside, rusher, in coverage," Flores said Thursday. "It's almost you've got to get a couple of guys to say 'hey, you're Kyle on this play. You'll play Kyle's role on this play.' It's by committee."
Van Noy's versatility means he rarely leaves the field. Even without playing in the Week 6 win over the Jets, and coming out of the game for a couple of series in Sunday's 29-21 win over the Chargers, Van Noy still has 467 snaps under his belt this season. That's 75.8 percent of the defensive workload. Only one linebacker has logged more snaps than Van Noy.
Jerome Baker is no stranger to playing every snap. He's played every down in 10 of the 25 games since Flores took over in 2019. This year, Baker's 520 snaps are more than any defender sans cornerback Xavien Howard (554) and safeties Bobby McCain (571) and Eric Rowe (531).
What do all of those players have in common? You guessed it. Versatility. Rowe and McCain are former cornerbacks converted to safety – though both are capable of and asked to fulfil a variety of roles on this defense.
"We're just football players," McCain said. "We play where needed. We can do it all in the back end. We can play corner, we can play nickel, we play safety now; and we're just trying to get better each and every week."
Back to Baker. Miami's amoeba package has been the talk of the league this week. The CliffsNotes version of an amoeba defense reads as follow: nobody lines up with their hand in the dirt and defenders bounce from gap to gap before the snap in an attempt to befuddle the opposing quarterback and his pass-protection scheme.
"I get excited," Baker said about how he feels when the amoeba look is called. "You don't know who's coming. For me, it's a mind game. You just have to have fun with it. That's one of my favorite calls because you don't know who's who. We're all moving around, we're all talking and jumping around."
"(Defensive Coordinator) Josh Boyer and our defensive staff, they do a really nice job of trying to come up with different schemes, ideas that we can handle, but we also feel like will be an issue for the offense," Flores said. And again, we try to promote creativity really on all three sides of the ball and I try to be open to any idea from a football standpoint. If we can get it and we can execute it, we'll give it a shot."
Not everything in football is quantifiable. Without combing through and charting every snap, every player and every alignment, it's difficult to truly appreciate the creativity and adaptability of Flores and Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer's system.
Fortunately, we can track personnel usage. The official SportsRadar site has Miami in their dime defensive package (six defensive backs on the field) 21.5 percent of the time, 10th-most in the NFL. Four teams dial up quarter (seven defensive backs) more than Miami and nobody has utilized dollar looks (eight defensive backs) more than Flores' Dolphins.
Chris Simms had this to say on yesterday's episode of Pro Football Talk when discussing the best coaching jobs of 2020.
"They're winning games with their defense," Simms said. "Not totally, but every game they make a few plays where you go 'wow.' He's really toyed and messed with some the offensive coordinators of late with some of the things he's done schematically."
It's not just Flores. Far from it. Miami is not a one man show, as the head man himself will be the first to tell you.
"I think our staff on all three sides – Chan (Gailey) offensively, Danny (Crossman) in the kicking game and Josh defensively – I try to let them be as creative as they can be and not try to hold them back from anything; but obviously we've got to be able to execute it," Flores said.
Rookie safety Brandon Jones is working hard each week to further grasp the complexities of the defensive system, but he's having a blast along the way.
"It's exciting how versatile we can be and how many packages we have," Jones said. "It's always fun to see what my certain job description is this week compared to last week and just being able to adjust. That's one thing I'm still learning. I'm trying to master my job description and be able to carry that on a consistent basis from week-to-week."
It's a South Florida Sports Thing
The Florida Panthers made history on Wednesday with the announcement of Brett Peterson as the franchise's Assistant General Manager. Peterson, the first Black assistant GM in National Hockey League history, has a big fan in fellow Boston College alum and Miami Dolphins Head Coach, Brian Flores.
"I was looking for my Florida Panthers' hat this morning," Flores said. "I couldn't find it. Yeah, I'm excited for Brett. We went to school together. This is a smart, talented – I think they got a great hire there. (Florida Panthers President & CEO) Matt Caldwell is someone I've been in contact with also. I support the teams down here in South Florida. I've been to a couple of Panthers games. I look forward to going to a few more. They have all of my support and I'm excited in the direction they are moving."
Business is booming in Miami professional sports. The Dolphins are in the midst of a five-game winning streak, the Marlins made history of their own by hiring the first female General Manager in Kim Ng (to go along with a trip to the postseason for the first time in 17 years) and the Heat were just two games away from a fourth NBA title. Heat guard Duncan Robinson showed off his new threads Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.
Thursday Injury Report
Dolphins: Linebacker Kyle Van Noy (hip) and offensive guard Solomon Kindley (foot) were limited participants in Thursday's practice.
Broncos: Inside linebacker Joe Jones (calf) did not practice on Thursday. Quarterback Drew Lock (ribs), offensive tackle Jake Rodgers (shoulder), tight end Noah Fant (ribs), offensive tackle Calvin Anderson (ankle), cornerback A.J. Bouye (hip) and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (ankle) were all limited participants in Thursday's Broncos practice.
For the rest of the Dolphins-Broncos Week 11 injury report, click here.