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

Cameron Wake Pic Getty Images

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.

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45 Responses to “Dolphins moving from 3-4 to pressure-based 4-3 defense”
  1. amaf21 says: Jun 1, 2012 10:51 AM

    Maybe K-los was right. Super Bowl here we come!

  2. wildbillesq says: Jun 1, 2012 10:56 AM

    Sounds like a great use of personnel. Nice move Dolphins!

    Signed,

    A Dolphins Fan

  3. kane337 says: Jun 1, 2012 10:56 AM

    Go Dolphins!

  4. thingamajig says: Jun 1, 2012 11:07 AM

    Changing from a 3-4 to a 4-3. Looks like a year of rebuilding (another).

  5. skoobyfl says: Jun 1, 2012 11:08 AM

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

  6. thegreatgabbert says: Jun 1, 2012 11:10 AM

    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.

  7. nublar7 says: Jun 1, 2012 11:11 AM

    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.

  8. 8drinkminimum says: Jun 1, 2012 11:12 AM

    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.

  9. miriam45 says: Jun 1, 2012 11:13 AM

    Ok good – but who is gonna catch the ball?

  10. EJ says: Jun 1, 2012 11:19 AM

    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.

  11. citizenstrange says: Jun 1, 2012 11:19 AM

    Any and every defensive coordinator in the entire NFL:

    “We’re going to be very aggressive and pressure the quarterback.”

  12. cantonbound13 says: Jun 1, 2012 11:21 AM

    Sounds good, but for the last decade our problem has been OFFENSE!

  13. almighty1 says: Jun 1, 2012 11:21 AM

    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.

  14. deadeye says: Jun 1, 2012 11:29 AM

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

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

    Opposing secondaries…

  15. bearsrulepackdrool says: Jun 1, 2012 11:39 AM

    Isnt’ Koa Misi moving inside now? From a 3-4 OLB.

  16. mbhcu98 says: Jun 1, 2012 11:39 AM

    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.

  17. nublar7 says: Jun 1, 2012 11:42 AM

    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

  18. 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.

  19. rodge1 says: Jun 1, 2012 11:49 AM

    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.

  20. markeyh says: Jun 1, 2012 11:56 AM

    I think 4-3 better suits what they need to start to slow down New England

  21. paleandpasty says: Jun 1, 2012 11:56 AM

    How do you forget a 300 pound pro-bowl nose tackle like Solia?

  22. khuxford says: Jun 1, 2012 11:58 AM

    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

  23. southbeachtalent says: Jun 1, 2012 12:15 PM

    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.

  24. Patskrieg dot com says: Jun 1, 2012 12:22 PM

    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.

  25. mistrezzrachael says: Jun 1, 2012 12:33 PM

    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.

  26. londonfletcher says: Jun 1, 2012 12:51 PM

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the Fins have a pretty good defense last year?

  27. tedmurph says: Jun 1, 2012 1:20 PM

    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?

  28. tommynatorii says: Jun 1, 2012 1:24 PM

    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.

  29. phinfan says: Jun 1, 2012 1:25 PM

    I hope hard knocks focuses on these new kids from The U, both will be break out players this year imho

  30. pioniere says: Jun 1, 2012 1:26 PM

    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.

  31. cuda1234 says: Jun 1, 2012 1:34 PM

    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?

  32. jetstizzi85 says: Jun 1, 2012 2:11 PM

    @ 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.

  33. truthhurtstoo says: Jun 1, 2012 2:33 PM

    “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

  34. mistrezzrachael says: Jun 1, 2012 2:40 PM

    Dolfans got the fever @ this announcement.

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

  35. silverhornet says: Jun 1, 2012 2:58 PM

    @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.

  36. 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 better.

  37. nublar7 says: Jun 1, 2012 3:11 PM

    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.

  38. cbass59 says: Jun 1, 2012 3:16 PM

    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

  39. almighty1 says: Jun 1, 2012 3:19 PM

    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.

  40. jrcoop says: Jun 1, 2012 3:43 PM

    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).

  41. theguywhotoldtimtebowtoshutthefup says: Jun 1, 2012 4:21 PM

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

  42. laxcoach37 says: Jun 1, 2012 6:16 PM

    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!

  43. tedmurph says: Jun 1, 2012 9:46 PM

    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.

  44. theguywhotoldtimtebowtoshutthefup says: Jun 2, 2012 4:36 PM

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

  45. jimmymarlinsfan says: Jun 3, 2012 10:02 AM

    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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