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Vic Fangio talks vision for Miami Dolphins defense in 2023

SPORTS-VIC-FANGIO-MAKES-CLEAR-DOLPHINS-1-FL Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins shook up their coaching staff this offseason, headlined by the addition of Vic Fangio as the team’s new defensive coordinator. The hiring gives Miami a top defensive mind to improve a unit that has a ton of individual talent, but seemed to underperform last year. Heading into his second season as the team’s head coach, Mike McDaniel targeted Fangio as his top choice for the position and he was able to hire a highly-coveted coach for his staff. On Monday, the team introduced Fangio to the South Florida media.

“Well, I think the Dolphins have a good thing going here,” Fangio explained when as why Miami was the right fight for him. “I like Mike (McDaniel) and his staff that he already has in place here. I think there’s good components to the coaching staff, led by Mike, that made it intriguing to join that. I think there’s a good nucleus of players here. And the allure of South Florida.”

When asked about how he maximizes a player’s talent, Fangio pointed to the simple things. “Well, I’ve always believed you just try and improve every player as an individual,” he said. “And then hopefully you do that well enough to where their position group improves. And if their position group improves, then the defense is improved. So you really do it from the ground up. And there’s a lot of good young players here that I think have room to grow. And hopefully, myself and the staff will get that done.”

Fangio was asked about spending 2022 away from the game for the most part and how he studied film throughout that time. What did he see from the Dolphins defense and where does he think he can make improvements? “Well, I didn’t study the Dolphins defense per se that much,” he explained. “Basically what I did with all my time was I kind of treated it like a college professor on a sabbatical and was watching a lot of NFL tape, more from a situational standpoint rather than studying a team per se. So I never actually studied the Dolphins in its entirety. Now, obviously, their games would come across these situational studies that I was doing. And I think there’s some good young talent there. Obviously, just from two years ago in the draft with (Jaelan) Phillips and (Jevon) Holland, those are two really good players that I really liked in the draft. Bradley Chubb is here, who obviously I know about. And several other guys. Christian Wilkins is here, another guy I liked in the draft. Christian’s greatest honor, is the Bill Campbell Award trophy, which is the ‘Academic Heisman.’ Bill Campbell was a good friend of mine. So when I see him, I always think of that. But there’s a good nucleus of players here. For me to give you a great answer schematically, I’d be stretching it.”

Holland is a rising star at the safety position, an area where Fangio’s defenses usually have a lot of success. Asked specifically about Holland after the coach mentioned him, Fangio stated, “I haven’t studied him enough since he’s gotten (to) the NFL as far as what can I teach him, but I do know I really liked them the year he came out in the draft. I like his physical ability, his combination of size, speed, quickness, he’s got good instincts. I think he’s smart from a football standpoint. And you’re right, we’ve had some good luck with safeties over the years in the last few stops, and I’m hopeful and confident that he can be one of the top safeties in the league.”

He did admit that the film study and year away from coaching gave him an opportunity to design some new things that he will want to try with the Dolphins this year, saying “Yeah, there’s a few things that I came up with that I’m anxious to try. We’ll try them in OTAs at some point and then in training camp as a good fit for the other things we do. But what’s going to be most important is tailoring what we do to our players and to the opponent that we’re playing for that week. So there may be things that we did at previous stops that we won’t do much here because it doesn’t fit our players and vice versa; we might do something a lot that we didn’t do other places because it’s a better fit for our players. And sometimes it’s a better – you might think it’d be great to do something because it fits a certain player really good, but you really have to think about how it fits all 11 and what’s the best way to stop somebody from scoring too many points.”

Fangio’s defensive system is not one that he defines in any way other than simply trying to stop the opposing offense. “Not a buzzword if that’s what you’re looking for,” he answered when asked about his defensive philosophy. “We’re in charge of not letting the other team score and we will do anything and everything to do that. I’ve been places in the past where we pressured a lot. I’ve been places where we didn’t pressure very much. You’ve got to fit the scheme to the players that you have while also factoring in the opponents that you’re playing. So hopefully we’ll be a team that will keep the points down, make it hard for teams to score a lot of points and put our offense in position to score points for us. So I’m not a buzzword guy as far as that goes other than we want to play good defense and what’s good defense? Keep them out of the end zone.”

The Dolphins defense over the last few years has been one designed to blitz, sending more players after the quarterback than the offense can block, while leaving the cornerbacks in man-to-man coverage. Fangio was asked how he views the blitz and how often he uses it. He laughed while answering, saying, “As needed and when I want to versus having to. If you have to, that’s not a great feeling. You want to do it when you want to on your terms. Now, having said that, I can’t tell you what that means from a percentage standpoint.”