Reporting Tim Kephart
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DAVIE (CBSMiami) – When Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck drops back to pass against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, he may be looking at a defensive alignment designed specifically to get the most out of the dazzling athleticism many of the lineman possess.
Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle put the package of players together and simply nicknamed it speed. The package on the defensive line is fairly simple. He lines up defensive ends Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon, and rookie Dion Jordan up on the line at the same time.
It’s exactly the same type of defense the University of Missouri used a couple of years ago and called it the candy package. Mizzou had defensive end Aldon Smith line up inside at defensive tackle and brought another defensive end into the game to battle the pass-happy Big XII offenses.
The lineup puts the pressure on typically slower guards to get in front of the pass rushers or run the risk of the Dolphins’ pass rushers playing meet me at the quarterback. Miami revealed the lineup for the first time against the Cleveland Browns.
“We can do a lot of things with those guys on the field,” Coyle said. “We had a lot of fast guys on the field with that particular group. We can cover with those guys because they are all athletic; you might have seen Dion dropping into coverage a few times. We just scratched the surface with that.”
The Dolphins defensive line is the true strength of the team. It features the aforementioned Wake, an All-Pro, plus Vernon, a second-round pick out of Miami, and rookie first-round pick Dion Jordan at defensive end, along with fellow newcomer Derrick Shelby.
Inside, the Dolphins defensive line is even stouter with a three-man rotation of Paul Soliai, Randy Starks, and Jared Odrick clogging up the middle of the defense for opposing running games.
Still, even with the speed package and the depth on the defensive line; Miami will be tested over the next few weeks as it faces some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL including Matt Ryan, Luck, Drew Brees, and Joe Flacco.
For the Fins to have a realistic shot at the playoffs, they have to get through that gauntlet with at least a .500 record. Much of the onus of shutting down the prolific passers will be on the defensive line getting pressure on the quarterback.
If the Dolphins defense can continue the pace it set against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1, things may go quite well in Miami this season. The Dolphins defense had six sacks, three interceptions, and allowed the Browns to convert 1-14 third downs.
“We kept some cards in our back pocket throughout the preseason,” Wake said. “But when we started this offseason, we looked at our room and we knew we had a lot of guys that can do a lot of things pretty well, not just always line up and do the same thing. We have guys who can stand up, drop, rush the middle, rush the outside.”
The fun part for Fins fans is that Jordan hasn’t even started to move towards his potential and the team still has two young cornerbacks learning the game. If all three make impacts for the Fins this season, this defense has the chance to be really special.
The Fins and Colts play Sunday at 1 p.m. in Indianapolis and the game can be seen exclusively on CBS4.
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