Kevin Coyle: Dolphins' D can be 'special'

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins will not admit it publicly, but through the first week of camp it is clear the defense is well ahead of the offense. It's also been that way most of the offseason during organized team activities and minicamp open to the media.

Therefore, unless there is a dramatic turnaround over the next few weeks, the Dolphins will be relying on their veteran defense to carry this team to start the regular season. Miami is implementing a new, up-tempo offense under first-year coordinator Bill Lazor and currently experiencing growing pains. Yet, Miami’s defense is a group that’s run the same system the past three seasons and returns most of its starters.

Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle says he's fine with the increased expectations.

“Defensively, we like the challenge,” Coyle said. “We like the challenge of having a veteran group of guys that feel that they can be among the league’s top defenses and if we execute we feel we can do that. We’ve got a lot of work to go through to get to that point, but certainly I think our offensive players and our offensive staff are doing a great job of giving us a lot of problems.”

Miami’s defense was difficult to figure out last season. The Dolphins were strong in certain areas, such as opponent scoring, but struggled against the run and defending tight ends and slot receivers over the middle. Miami hopes it addressed those issues.

The Dolphins swapped starters Dannell Ellerbe to outside linebacker and Koa Misi to middle linebacker in hopes of getting more production. New safety Louis Delmas also is expected to add a physical element over the middle of the field, and cornerback Cortland Finnegan is out to prove he still has gas in the tank opposite Pro Bowler Brent Grimes.

The Dolphins’ offense only averaged 19.8 points per game last season and still won eight games. Lazor was brought in increase scoring, but it might not happen immediately.

Miami's defense has the advantage of continuity that the team hopes pays dividends through all 16 games.

“We’ve got guys that can make plays. We’ve got very good speed on defense. We’ve got a lot of good athletes,” Coyle said. “We’ve got a group of guys that are hungry and I really like the chemistry of these guys. ... I think if we keep building it, we have a chance to do something special.”