It was an embarrassing finish to an inconsistent season for Miami’s defense. The Dolphins collapsed on that side of the football and finished 24th against the run (121.1 yards) and 20th in points allowed per game (23.3).
But Miami’s defense is moving past all that happened last year. With several personnel changes and a renewed focus, the Dolphins' defense completed a strong offseason and won a majority of practice days against the offense in sessions open to the media.
“I like the way on defense that we’ve – I know it’s simple – but I like our pursuit on defense,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “I think with the way we’ve been running to the football, I think that in my mind if we now combine that with tackling, that should eliminate some or limit some explosive plays.
“You can’t and it’s not realistic to say you’re not going to give up explosive plays in this league. But I think with the way we’ve emphasized pursuit, with the way we’ve emphasized taking the ball – like punching the ball, stripping the ball – hopefully that will again boost our takeaways.”
The Dolphins are changing some X’s and O’s defensively as well as their mentality. This offseason, Philbin asked defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle to simplify Miami's scheme this season to prevent communication and mental errors. Too often, players and coaches were not on the same page last year with play calls, assignments and substitution rotations, which led to some contentious moments.
Miami's defense also is working on being more aggressive and tenacious. The signing of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who is very tough and has a well-documented mean streak, was a big step in that direction. The Dolphins' coaching staff also is encouraging players to go for strips and force interceptions.
“Defensive players, really, you gotta be mean," said new Dolphins defensive tackle C.J. Mosley. "You gotta be nasty, you gotta be tough, you gotta be physical. You gotta be all of the above."