It's no secret that the Miami Dolphins defense has been a disappointment early in this preseason. Fans and media personalities have all felt the Dolphins strength this season would be the defense, with the offense learning its news style and developing young players. But, through two preseason games, the defense has been almost as non-existent as the running game.
And, sure, this is just the preseason. And, any concern should be scaled down because it is just the preseason. But, still, the absolute inability for the Dolphins defense to tackle, or cover, or pressure a quarterback is disheartening at least right now. And, fans aren't the only ones complaining about the situation right now.
"Well, we certainly aren't pleased with the way we played the first two preseason games," Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said yesterday. "It seems like we haven't been able to get off the field early on. Each play there is a breakdown, not as a result of effort. The first play of the game for example we had two, almost three unblocked players at the point of attack and the guy makes a cut, we miss him, and he gets 14 yards on a play that you really should have a pretty good handle on.
"My concern right now," Coyle continued, "is that we have to be able to, if something negative happens, put it behind us and go out and play like I know we're capable of. This group, form the day that I came here with Coach Philbin, I've been super impressed with these guys in terms of the way they handle themselves, the way we practice, the way we prepare. So it's not really translating, but we're talking about it. We had a good meeting today looking at the tape, reviewing everything, and hopefully it's all part of the process of going through the preseason, but we need to get it fixed."
Across the board, the Dolphins defense seems to be struggling. And, again, Coyle is seeing the same thing as the rest of us. Asked if there was any part of the defense with which he was comfortable, Coyle responded, "No, I'd say right now that we haven't demonstrated that in the preseason games. Going into the games I felt we were really heading in the right direction, and I still think we are. That's basically the message that I've sold and told the players here of late. I said, ‘I've got faith in this group. I know what it takes to play good defense. I know we have enough talent to be a good defensive team.' We're not a defense that's going to be loaded with superstars. We're going to have a bunch of guys that do their job at a high, high level each and every day."
One of the major concerns for the Dolphins heading into the offseason this year was the safety position. The team had let Yeremiah Bell leave, and fans were unable to see where the team was headed at the back of the secondary. The team set Reshad Jones as one starting safety early in minicamps, and had Chris Clemons, Jimmy Wilson, and Tyrone Culver fighting for the other starting position.
Speaking about the safeties, and how Jones was progressing as a starter, Coyle stated, "Reshad, throughout training camp, has really, I think his overall play has been very, very good. He's making plays in practice. Making plays on the ball. We haven't had a lot of opportunities on balls down the field that he's had a chance to make plays on to be quite honest with you. A lot of the throws that we got the other night were perimeter fade balls, nine-routes, go routes down the sidelines. There was quite a few of those thrown the other night, but very few thrown in the center of the field. I'm pleased with his progress.
"I thought Chris Clemons had his best performance of the preseason the other night. (He) tackled well, with the exception of that one in the very beginning of the game. So I thought he took a step forward and there's a talented group of backups that are competing for playing time at the safety spot, starting with Jimmy (Wilson) and Ty Culver and right on down the line with Tyrell Johnson and Anderson Russell."
The one bright spot on defense so far this preseason has been undrafted free agent Derrick Shelby. The rookie has been listed as the second team defensive end on both depth charts the team has released, and was thought to be closing in on a guaranteed roster spot prior to this past game. Then, during the game, he recorded four tackles, two for a loss, with a sack and forced fumble. Shelby has become a force on the defensive line already, and Coyle commented on him as well.
"The thing that impressed me the most about Derrick, whether it be the drills or when you put him out there in the preseason game, he's not performing like a young rookie, inexperienced. He plays physical. He makes plays. He does things, I think as Coach (Kacy) Rodgers would attest to, you know what you're going to get from him each snap, whereas some of the younger players at all the positions, there's a really good play and then there's a play like you look and say, ‘What were you thinking on that play?' With Derrick, he's very steady. He's a smart player. He understands what we're asking him to do and he competes and he's performing at a good level. I'm very pleased with him."
The Dolphins will use this week to try to get the defense straightened out before Friday night's third preseason game against the Falcons. With the team planning to use the game as the customary dress rehearsal for the regular season, Coyle has to get the defense ready if he, and the fans, are to have any sort of comfort heading into their week one match up with the Houston Texans.
This week could be a critical one for the defense, and for the Dolphins as a whole. Hopefully we will see the progress this weekend.