The Miami Dolphins are in the middle of a year of change, a year where the team is getting younger, and adjustments are being made all across the roster. The systems the team will be running in 2019, on both offense and defense, will also be changing, as the new coaching staff, led by former New England Patriots linebackers coach and de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores who was hired as Miami’s tenth full-time head coach.
How will those changes manifest themselves? The answer on defense is pretty simple, with a 3-4 defensive front, three down lineman with four linebackers, expected to be much more prevalent this season.
“Last year, we were attacking,” defensive tackle Davon Godchaux told the media this week about the challenges a lineman faces when making a change like this. “Now you have to read the blocks. That’s probably the biggest challenge for me. (I am) used to getting off the ball, trying to attack the offensive line. Now you have to read and watch where they’re going and playing more with your hands out in front of you.”
When asked about the 3-4 system itself and how comfortable he is in playing that way, Godchaux explained, “I’m very comfortable. The first couple days, (I was) a little rusty. Each and everybody was a little rusty. Speaking of myself, a little rusty. I’m coming out here each and every day, getting the techniques, going through the growing pains of the 3-4, 4-3 defense.”
Godchaux has been working as a nose tackle in the 3-4 lineups for the Dolphins, a position with different responsibilities than a 4-3 defensive tackle would be asked to do. “The ultimate goal is to be a team player (at) my nose position. If I’m in 1-tech, play A-gap, 2-I, play the A-gap, if I move to a three-play B-gap. It’s the same thing we’re doing. We’re playing the same gap. We just went from attacking to read.”
As for being ready to be a 3-4 defensive lineman, Godchaux matter-of-factly stated, “I don’t have another choice. This is the team I play for. (Head) Coach ‘Flo’ (Brian Flores) is doing a good job of emphasizing (and) ‘PG’, (Defensive Coordinator) Patrick Graham and the d-line coach (Marion) Hobby, are doing a great job of emphasizing techniques.”
The Dolphins have not abandoned the 4-3, and there will still be elements of that system in play as well. The coaches just want to be able to switch between systems without needing to rotate players and give away where the matchups could be. Players like Godchaux being able to slide into a nose tackle role, then out to a defensive tackle, or even a defensive end, spot will be key to that. With players like Charles Harris and Minkah Fitzpatrick, both of whom could see playing time at linebacker despite being a defensive end and safety, respectively, the Dolphins appear to be set up to meet the coaches’ expectations.
It seems, at least in Godchaux’s case, the players are ready to meet the challenges that versatility will bring.