The Miami Dolphins had been running a base 4-3 defense for quite a while prior to hiring former de facto New England Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores after the 2018 season, and selected Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins in the first round a few months later, to help facilitate a move back to the base 3-4 that Flores had so much success with during his time in New England, but how much time does a typical NFL defense remain in its base alignment in today’s throw-on-almost-every-down game?
According to Flores’ former boss, Bill Belichick, not very often. Belichick said as much prior to the 2018 season, at the end of which the Patriots won their sixth Super Bowl. He said that the Pats’ defense typically spends only about 10-15% of its time on the field in a base 3-4, which most of the time is in goal line and short yardage situations. The rest of the time, the nickel is most frequently their go to alignment. The overarching philosophy of a New England style defense is versatility, having multiple players capable of lining up at different spots, with the goal of getting specific players in the right place in a given defensive package. Sure, it sounds simple when we talk about it here, but far too many Dolphin teams in the past have either failed to grasp this concept or failed to execute it effectively. Whether it’s a zone blitz package, with a lineman dropping into the flat and a defensive back rushing the passer or a relatively simple coverage assignment for three corners to cover three receivers on third and long, Miami has been betrayed by a defense that simply wasn’t up to the task when it mattered most, which is one of the reasons Flores was hired.
In addition to already having changed the composition of the Dolphins’ locker room, Flores looks to field a substantially more talented defense this season than he did a year ago. One of the ways he apparently intends to accomplish this is through what is known, in football vernacular, as ‘coverage sacks’. Instead of relying on a Cameron Wake, Jason Taylor or Chandler Jones type pass rusher, the Dolphins appear to want to try and make opposing quarterbacks hold the ball a second or two longer than usual, to allow one of the rushers an opportunity to get free. On paper, at least, every move Miami has made on defense this off-season looks solid. Like most fans, I’m excited to see the on field results. That’s the wrap for today, have a great week, everybody.