Two of four teams in the AFC East are switching to 4-3 defenses in 2012. The Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins have new defensive coordinators in Dave Wannstedt and Kevin Coyle, respectively. Both coaches will spend the offseason implementing their new scheme.
But is it a wise move for the Bills and Dolphins? Here are a few thoughts:
For starters, I think it's very smart for the Bills to move to a 4-3. This has been suggested for a while. Whether it was coaching or personnel, the 3-4 simply didn't work in Buffalo. Wannstedt is a 4-3 coach and will run the scheme he's most comfortable with. The Bills also have 4-3 personnel already on the roster, starting with bookend defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus.
But the Bills still need to find their pass rush. If they can't get to the quarterback, it doesn't matter what scheme Buffalo plays. Usually in a 4-3 scheme, the pass rush comes from the defensive ends. The Bills don't really have any pass-rushing ends. Look for Buffalo to focus on that in the draft and free agency.
I have more mixed feelings about Miami's switch. The Dolphins' defense wasn't broken, far from it. It's been very good the past couple of years and I'm not sure there was a need for change. Switching to a 4-3 could mess with continuity. I like the Coyle hire. But he's going to have some work on his hands changing the dynamics of a veteran defense.
The biggest worry for Miami is that its run defense could suffer. The Dolphins were air-tight against the run most weeks. Players were disciplined and stayed in their gaps. But responsibilities will change in a 4-3 scheme, which will be an adjustment. You also wonder if Miami will have the two stout defensive tackles next season to plug the middle. Miami's best defensive tackle, Paul Soliai, is an unrestricted free agent and not expected to return.