Two seasons ago, the Miami Dolphins were the sixth ranked defense in the league, and second ranked inside the redzone. Last season, they fell to fifteenth overall, but remained stingy in the redzone, ranking sixth. This year, the defense is looking to out perform both of those units.
"We've got a chance to be great," middle linebacker Karlos Dansby told Izzy Gould of the South Florida Sun Sentinel recently. "We have a chance to be great in this defense. We have enough skill set. We have enough talent. We can make this defense work for us."
The Dolphins are transitioning from a 3-4 scheme to a new 4-3 system under first year defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. Back when Coyle was first hired, we talked to SB Nation's Cincinnati Bengals blog, Cincy Jungle, about what to expect from their former former defensive backs coach. Josh Kirkendall wrote:
"Since Kevin Coyle was promoted as the team's secondary coach in 2003, Bengals defensive backs have posted 133 interceptions, including Pro Bowl players like Deltha O'Neal, Tory James and alternate Pro Bowlers in Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall. Coyle, who has some defensive coordinator experience in college at Holy Cross, Syracuse, Maryland and Fresno State, is good at identifying a player's strength and where he can contribute. In the past four years Cincinnati has started a seventh-round safety, a re-tread Reggie Nelson and an aging Chris Crocker, all of whom contributed within a top-ten defense two of the past three seasons."
With that pedigree as a coach, and a defense ready to rebound after an extremely poor start to the 2011 season, the Dolphins could be on the brink of something great. But, it's not going to be easy, and the players know it. "We want guys who want to come in and work," cornerback Vontae Davis told Gould. "That's all that matters because throughout the season we have to get better, and better, and better."
So far through the offseason workouts, the defense has outplayed the offense, and it really hasn't been close. Of course, this is during non-contact workouts, and the players are only wearing helmets, and sometimes shoulder pads. The real test will come in the preseason and the start of the regular season.
Is this defense ready to step up? Will they be "great?"