Dolphins moving from 3-4 to pressure-based 4-3 defense

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Primarily a 3-4 team for the better part of the last decade, the Dolphins are undergoing a fairly dramatic defensive shift under first-year coordinator Kevin Coyle. Coyle brought from Cincinnati to Miami a 4-3 alignment, with an emphasis on pressuring opposing quarterbacks.

“Obviously, applying pressure to the quarterback and disrupting the rhythm of the passing game is a huge part of defense in the NFL these days,” coach Joe Philbin explained, per Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post. “The scheme should be flexible enough that it takes advantage of what our guys can do.”

And the Dolphins believe the defensive front-seven members in place will adequately fill the newly assigned roles. Outside linebacker Cameron Wake is now a Dwight Freeney-style right defensive end. Jared Odrick, a “five technique” end in Miami’s old 3-4, is now a 4-3 left end who will likely kick to defensive tackle in sub-packages. Randy Starks and Tony McDaniel, formerly defensive ends, are now full-time defensive tackles.

Third-round rookie Olivier Vernon is a wildcard. He has explosive edge-rushing potential, and Volin says he’ll likely replace Odrick at end in nickel packages.

Volin expects Wake (pictured) to be the biggest beneficiary of the new pressure-based scheme as he’s “going back home” to his natural position. Odrick is on board with that:

“He bends better than anybody in the league, in terms of getting around the edge and to the quarterback.”

And that’ll be the goal of the Dolphins’ new defense.

45 responses to “Dolphins moving from 3-4 to pressure-based 4-3 defense

  1. This is going to take them years to change over, Buffalo just switched as well & look to be ready to dominate today.

  2. Luckily Joe still had a copy of the clubs press conference from when they originally switched from 4-3 to 3-4, so he was able to use the same script, and simply reverse the order.

  3. You forgot to mention Paul Soliai. The defensive line looks like this right now:

    LE: Odrick
    DT: Soliai
    DT: Starks:
    RE: Wake

    When they do sub-packages or in passing situations it will look probably like this:

    LE: Vernon
    DT: Odrick
    DT: McDaniel/Starks
    RE: Wake

    The front four of Odrick, Soliai, Starks and Wake in my opinion is arguably the best in the league. I know the Bills front four is getting a lot of buzz this offseason, but Miami’s four is going to be scary good also. Wake, Starks and Soliai are Pro Bowl players and Odrick(who missed his rookie year do to injury) is entering his third season and is coming off a 6 sack season as a 3-4 DE. We all know 3-4 defensive ends don’t get a lot of sack opportunities, so that is very impressive.

  4. Coyle’s strength is the secondary. That fit’s into our need for much better play and turnovers particularly from the saferty position.

    Not real concerned about our front seven with the exception of the battle between Misi and possible Guyton at OLB.

  5. Seems as if more and more teams are switching from the more powerful 3-4 alignment to the quicker and more non-QB-friendly 4-3.

  6. As opposed to an NFL defense that does not focus on pressuring the quarterback? I suppose the offensive coordinator will say something crazy like they are going to focus on scoring points. The revelations are like a tidal wave.

  7. “Ok good – but who is gonna catch the ball?”

    ==================

    Opposing secondaries…

  8. miriam- Read the headline. This is an article clearly about our Defense. Take your pills. Concentrate. Stay on track. If you want to talk offense, it’s stupid to enter a post about defense.

  9. miriam45,

    The new west coast offense will spread the ball around to multiple wide receivers. There is no true #1, and there doesn’t need to be. The Dolphins didn’t have a #1 wide receiver in 2008 and they won the Division title. That year their top three receivers were Ginn Jr., Camarillo and Bess. Are you telling me that Gates, Hartline and Bess are any worse than those top three?

    Naanee is also competing for a spot, they have Wallace and Moore coming back for another training camp to compete in, and they drafted two receivers in Cunningham and Matthews. They also have some intriguing undrafted free agents in camp such as Jeff Fuller(Tannehill’s WR in college) and Derek Moye.

    Also in this new offense, Clay, Fasano, Egnew, Bush and Miller will have big roles in the passing game.

    Is the WR position in great shape? No. Will it likely be a high priority offseason? Most likely. Can the Dolphins have a successful passing game in 2012? Absolutely

  10. almighty- so you don’t know football huh? Some defenses would rather sit back and take away as much of the field as possible and play to fill holes rather than have a concentration on rushing the QB. Usually zone defenses. Some defenses main focus is stopping the run and they play players that are more stout at holding up OLinemen instaed of rushing the QB. It’s not too late to learn though.

  11. Never been a fan of the 3-4 so this is great news to me. 4 d-lineman will help stop the run too, making the LB’s look even better. 3-4 is ok once in a while to disguise blitzes but only if you have freakish-LB’s like Pittsburgh does. It’s all about controlling the line-of-scrimmage, and Miami seems to be focusing on that. Great news for Dolphin fans.

  12. Randy Starks was a DT originally, I believe. He did so well at it that there was criticism regarding moving him to DE. So this isn’t the change for him that is being portrayed above.

    A Jets Fan

  13. I’m excited bot Vernon. He has a ton of potential, hopefully he flourishes. If he does, our defensive front will be good to great.

  14. Sounds like a lot of great moves. Dolphins fans will have plenty of time to get to know their new defense when it’s on the field all game as their offense 3-and-out’s their way through the season.

  15. Doesn’t matter what defense they use…May optimism doesn’t translate to Sept wins.

    Dolphins roster is weak, top to bottom. Ireland hasn’t addressed bottom 25 since he’s been there…and it’s shown.

    They need 15-20 castoffs from other teams during fall camp…and any veteran is going to shy away…unless he wants to be on Hard Knocks w/Ross, Jlo, Marc Anthony & Fergie.

  16. The front four of Odrick, Soliai, Starks and Wake in my opinion is arguably the best in the league.
    Miami’s four is going to be scary good also. Wake, Starks and Soliai are Pro Bowl players.
    ==================================Dude, seriously?

  17. To all haters, yes the Fins have sucked, but meatball is now gone to the jets (double victory for us) and it’s time to develop some guys from the past two drafts.
    I’m not calling Superbowl this year, but we are on the right track. Fresh coaching will translate to wins.
    To the confused people who question our receivers, Green Bay does not have a defined no. 1. The spread the ball around to some good hands and they make plays. It’ll be on our QB to get that ball there.

  18. The NFL is a copycat league. The Giants have won a couple of Super Bowls employing a 4-3 D that uses strong pressure from the D-line. The fact that teams are trying to emulate them shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.

  19. Last year the ‘Fins had a good D and and a bad O. So of course, they blew up the D, let the coordinator walk and started over.

    They do seem to have a lot of lineman but who’s going to play linebacker?

  20. @ nublar7 – you do understand that you won the division title in a year when Brady was out the entire season right?

    Successful passing game with Bess and Hartine asyour top 2 WR’s? Those names do little to worry D coaches in the league. There is little to “respect” or fear on that Offen.

  21. “This is going to take them years to change over, Buffalo just switched as well & look to be ready to dominate today.”

    Please child… the word “dominate” and Buffalo should never be used in the same sentence… Just try and avoid the sweep

  22. Dolfans got the fever @ this announcement.

    The 4-3 will guarantee them 6-7 more wins,,,even though they have 1 nFL caliber LB

  23. @jetstizzi85

    “you do understand that you won the division title in a year when Brady was out the entire season right?”

    Matt Cassel filled in fairly well as I recall

    “Successful passing game with Bess and Hartine asyour top 2 WR’s? Those names do little to worry D coaches in the league. There is little to “respect” or fear on that Offen.”

    I bet the Dolphins score more points this year than your Jets.

  24. tedmurph,

    Yes I am serious. Wake is an elite pass rusher, Starks and Soliai are great players and Odrick(who had 6 sacks last year) looks to be on the verge of becoming a great player. Wake, Starks and Soliai HAVE been to the Pro Bowl, so yes I am serious when I call them Pro Bowl players.

    Name any other front four in the NFL, and you can make a legitimate argument that the Dolphins four are better.

  25. jetstizzi85,

    Yes I know it was when Brady was hurt. Guess what? The Bills and Jets had just as much shot at winning that division title as the Dolphins did. The difference is Miami capitalized on its opportunity. Maybe instead of trying to degrade what the Dolphins did, you should ask why the Jets and Bills couldn’t move in front of the Brady-less Patriots?

    The Dolphins receivers are more talented than they were in 2008. Do they strike fear to defense on paper? Maybe not, but this new offense will spread the ball around so much it doesnt matter that they don’t have a 1,000 yard receiver on the field. Go ahead and underestimate and predict a bad season for the Dolphins. Will just be that much sweeter when you are proven wrong.

  26. The less 3-4 teams, the more top 3-4 players for the Steelers. Dolphins make it 3 teams moving from 3-4 to 4-3 in the last 2 seasons (browns and someone else did it last year). Ever wonder why Woodley fell to 2nd round? It’s because he was a tweener (undersized DE) that most thought wouldn’t work well in a 4-3.

    Thanks,
    Steelers Draft Board

  27. mbhcu98 says: Jun 1, 2012 11:43 AM

    almighty- so you don’t know football huh? Some defenses would rather sit back and take away as much of the field as possible and play to fill holes rather than have a concentration on rushing the QB. Usually zone defenses. Some defenses main focus is stopping the run and they play players that are more stout at holding up OLinemen instaed of rushing the QB. It’s not too late to learn though.
    ——–
    Um…I do know football. I also specialize at recognizing half-wits. Besides your flawed idea of “focusing” on the run or the pass, which all teams do depending on the situation, where is the new concept? Your overly simplistic view of things tells me you don’t know too much about what you’re talking about. Some teams run more blitzes, some teams shoot gaps to create havoc, some players are just space eaters, and some teams run zone defenses, but a major component of EVERY SINGLE ONE is getting to the qb. How many passers had 4000 yards the last couple of years? There is no team that just sits back and runs a zone hoping they can cover the field. Way too many qbs would still pick that sh!t apart all day long.

  28. The Dolphins in 2011 were 3rd against the run and 25th against the pass (unacceptable with the offensive emphasis on passing). This strategy should tighten the latter up without compromising the former. Even though the number of sacks should increase, the real winners may well be the secondary (which was also unacceptable last year).

  29. jetstizzi85 – Suddenly you can use injury as an excuse to why one team lost over another?

  30. Think about this… Just because you “never heard of their names” doesn’t mean the Dolphins don’t have a Receiver Corp.” If you posted that crap last year then Victor Cruz, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Jimmy Graham, Torrey Smith and even Gronkowski would have a problem with that. The Dolphins are loaded with speed Gates, Bess, Miller and Bush all out of the backfield or slots. I hope NFL Defenses are thinking the same thing as uneducated Fans. Mismatches with a bunch of No-Names= Wins!

  31. nublar7 says:Jun 1, 2012 3:06 PM

    tedmurph,

    Yes I am serious. Wake is an elite pass rusher, Starks and Soliai are great players and Odrick(who had 6 sacks last year) looks to be on the verge of becoming a great player. Wake, Starks and Soliai HAVE been to the Pro Bowl, so yes I am serious when I call them Pro Bowl players.

    Name any other front four in the NFL, and you can make a legitimate argument that the Dolphins four are bettr
    ==================================
    How about the Giants? Or the 49ers? Or Houston? Just off the top of my head. You’re a delusional homer. The Dolphins are one of the worst teams in FB and will have another top 10 draft pick next yr.

  32. Poor little tedmurph, someone needs to give the guy a hug, he needs one.

  33. The phins secondary will become the biggest benefactor of the pressure that will assuredly be there with the amount of speed the defense has in the rush.

    Not having wr’s blow by Yeremiah Bell will also help

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