The defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins, Kevin Coyle, joined first-year head coach Joe Philbin’s staff after spending 11 years as a cornerbacks and defensive backs coach for the Bengals. Even though his tenure predated Mike Zimmer’s arrival as defensive coordinator, his three seasons with Zimmer employed the best defenses he worked with.
So it is hardly surprising that Coyle’s defense in Miami has Zimmer’s fingerprints all over it. He has certainly taken notes on the creative ways that Zimmer blitzes and creates confusion for opposing offenses. He runs multiple fronts, playing a 4-3 Under front with the occasional Over front against a team in a surefire running formation.
Unlike Zimmer, Coyle inherited the pieces of a former 3-4 defense and had taken advantage of the ability to assimilate some three-man fronts to creatively rush the passer. Of course, it helps that his outside linebacker Koa Misi played as a 3-4 outside backer, but has the athleticism to play the Will linebacker in a 4-3 system.
Both Misi and Mike backer Karlos Dansby are big reasons why the Dolphins are quietly leading the league in rushing YPA allowed, with a meager 2.4 average. On the other hand, they are still only ranked 27th in yards per play given up, which speaks to their weakness in pass defense.
Sean Smith and Richard Marshall are both the big, physical corners that can play both man and zone which Coyle has always loved. But neither is elite, and the depth behind the two is depleted, to say the least. By creating pressure with defensive end Cameron Wake, defensive end/tackle Jared Odrick, and linebackers Misi and Dansby, Coyle has tried to stop the hemorrhaging.
With A.J. Green leading the league – his 27 receptions and his 428 yards receiving are second to Brian Hartline of Miami – the Dolphins face an elite receiver for the second straight week. Against the Cardinals, the Dolphins secondary swarmed Larry Fitzgerald, which led to Andre Robert’s 6 receptions for 118 yards and two TDs.
Fitzgerald still snagged 8 catches for 64 yards and a TD.
While the Dolphins’ secondary did play some press-man coverage against balanced, spread looks from the offense, in any kind of bunches or tight splits they played exclusively zone so to keep as many eyes on Fitzgerald as possible. The Bengals and Green surely expect the same treatment.
The Bengals’ receivers may be licking their chops, but will the return of Bernard Scott be enough to help an offense that has struggled to run with BenJarvus Green-Ellis manning the helm? The good news for center Jeff Faine is that in most four-man fronts, the defensive ends often line up in 3 techniques (much like Zimmer) over the guards, so he will not be forced to battle nose tackle Paul Soliai head up.
Here are some of the most effective schemes from Coyle’s Dolphins and how the Bengals will combat them on Sunday.