The speculation began when Kevin Coyle was hired earlier this year. Would the Dolphins switch from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3? Throughout the off-season, it’s become increasingly clear that, yes, they have. While this has caused much of the focus to be on the defensive line–Cam Wake should have his hand in the dirt much more often–the linebackers’ assignments have also changed.
To the layman, it would seem that the switch would hardly affect Dansby. After all, he played middle linebacker in Mike Nolan’s 3-4 defense and will continue doing so in Coyle’s defense. Dansby explained, however, that the new defense gives him more space to operate, allowing him to attack an opposing offense differently and, in turn, accentuating accentuating his skill set.
“Without a doubt,” Dansby said. “In this 4-3 defense, just a half a second. That’s all you really need, and you can make a lot of plays with that half a second.”
Prior to arriving in Miami, Coyle’s specialty was defensive backs, turning quite a few reclamation projects into impressive, cohesive units. Though he can often still be seen intensely examining the Dolphins secondary, the first-time defensive coordinator’s focus has shifted, of course, to the entire defense. This means he’s worked closely with Dansby, a defensive captain the past two seasons, to establish
“He’s putting a lot of pressure on me right now to make sure I do it the right way,” Dansby said. “That’s always a good thing, especially being a vet at this level. If your cup is never full, you can always learn something.”
With a new coaching staff to impress and a new defensive scheme to learn, there’s been no time to coast this summer. It can take time for a veteran to become comfortable with a new direction, but Dansby said he loves the way Coyle has come in demanding accountability.
“It’s going to force guys to really have to be on point and really have to study and make sure they understand the concepts of the defense,” Dansby said. “That’s something I was asking for last year, but we couldn’t get certain guys on that page. It’s growing, it’s learning. The guys are more mature now and they really understand that the NFL is not for long, for real.”
Neither the Dolphins defense nor the offense can truly gauge how far they’ve come until the preseason, perhaps even, really, the beginning of the regular season when opponents start showing their best. But over the course of the summer, it’s been clear that each unit is evolving, highlighted, perhaps, by the offense’s new breakneck pace. For Dansby, though, it isn’t just that the offense is playing fast; it’s how they’ve looked to manipulate matchups all over the field.
“They really try to find a weakness in the defense,” Dansby said. “Once they find that weakness in the defense, they’re going to try to exploit it. They’re going after it right now, play in and play out. You’ve got to be on your toes, so it’s making us better.”
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