Going into the 2017 NFL season, the Miami Dolphins needed a change up on defense. Their once defensive coordinator, Vance Joseph, left to be the head coach of the Denver Broncos. Luckily, for them, they will not have to endure a completely new defensive playbook after hiring from within with Matt Burke. Burke will run a similar scheme with some minor tweaks and some better talent. The only issue is the defense will see many improvements but similar results. How can so much change and still remain the same?
Big names, little results
With players like Cameron Wake, Byron Maxwell, and Ndamukong Suh on defense Miami has no shortage of star players. Unfortunately, for the Dolphins, those players are making waves as individual players and not inspiring greatness out of the lesser-known talent on the ﬁeld. Lawrence Timmons was a solid pick up for the Dolphins via free agency and grabbed some key players in the draft. However, if the unit cannot come together as a whole to stop the run game it will not be a pretty season.
Back to healthy
One of the larger concerns surrounding the Dolphins this oﬀseason was how fast can they get healthy and be productive. The Dolphins lost a large chunk of their defense late in the season. Players like Reshad Jones, Koa Misi, Byron Maxwell, and Xavien Howard either missed time or played hurt. While the oﬀseason is just long enough to get back into playing shape, one has to wonder if Miami did enough to bolster their depth in the oﬀseason as well. Defensively the Dolphins were still ﬁlling starter roles this oﬀseason. If their draft picks cannot step up and make an immediate impact, the oﬀense will only carry them so far.
Focus on defense
Miami went defense heavy in this year’s draft. With impact players like Charles Harris and Cordrea Tankersley the team wanted to make a statement that they were building for the future, but what about the present? Charles Harris is making it known he is a playmaker in camp but everyone shines at camp. Will this year’s draft crop turn out to be a boom or bust? The Dolphins cannot aﬀord to take a step backward on defense and need every pick to be a home run.
The 2017 NFL schedule did the Miami Dolphins no favors. Aside from their always-tricky division rivals, the Dolphins will face the Raiders, Broncos, Chiefs, Panthers, and Saints. Any of those oﬀenses has potential to be a headache for the Dolphins defense. Miami had better hope their oﬀense challenges them all season in order to be prepared on game day. Miami could have one of the top oﬀenses in the NFL on paper if they can ﬁre on all cylinders. From there the defense would get plenty of looks on how to handle a multiple-weapon oﬀense, so they should be ahead of the curve.
The Miami Dolphins defense carried games many times last season and kept the oﬀense in games. However, there were many times where it was broke down and exposed as well. The Dolphins have not exactly been the prime example of consistency through the past few seasons with both their coaching carousel and level of play. Can new defensive coordinator Matt Burke restore this once proud franchise back to their dominating defensive ways? On the other hand, are the Dolphins asking him to do too much, with what little pieces they have?
Editors Note: This article can also be seen in our upcoming NFL Preview Edition.