Dolphins ready for transition to 4-3 defense

Posted Feb. 04, 2012 @ 11:42 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

The Dolphins have one glaring hole on offense — at quarterback — but the defense is a slightly easier unit to work with for Joe Philbin's new coaching staff. Miami finished 15th in the league in total defense and third against the run with talented players like Karlos Dansby, Cameron Wake and Paul Soliai.

Kevin Coyle, formerly the Bengals' secondary coach, will be the Dolphins' new defensive coordinator. Much of the talk has focused on the likelihood that the Dolphins will switch from a 3-4 to more of a 4-3. Although we hear the team is expected to continue to show multiple fronts, there will be some personnel changes in the new scheme.

GM Jeff Ireland seemed prepared for this possibility. "If we had to go 4-3, we certainly have personnel to make a pretty good transition," he said at the Senior Bowl. "I've prepared our scouts early on in the process, especially in December, we need to be looking at 4-3 personnel," he added.

One easy transition will be Wake, who was a star in the CFL as a defensive end. Arguably the Dolphins' biggest need on defense this offseason, though, is finding a pass rusher to complement Wake and replace the retired Jason Taylor.

Randy Starks will move inside, and he had a very productive season with 10 tackles for loss. Jared Odrick can play inside or out, and the team may use Tony McDaniel more on the inside, especially considering the free-agent situation.

A predominantly four-man front could spell the end of Soliai's time in Miami. The nose tackle got the franchise tag last season and was stout again in the middle, but he fits better as a 3-4 nose. If Kendall Langford isn't re-signed, that opens up another D-line spot to fill via free agency or the draft.

In the linebacking corps, Dansby can play all three positions and began his career as a weak-side linebacker. Kevin Burnett improved as the season went along and also has some versatility, but the Dolphins could stand to add another member to the group.

Coyle's experience in the secondary should help a young, talented group led by Vontae Davis. One daily team observer pointed out how Coyle found success in Cincinnati with former Dolphins castoff Chris Crocker. The Dolphins could still use an upgrade at safety, especially in a division with the Patriots' attack and with an aging Yeremiah Bell at strong safety.

One thing that should stay the same with Coyle, we hear, is the aggressive style the Dolphins had on defense under Mike Nolan.

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