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Tackling Remains An Issue For Dolphins Defense

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Mickey Shuler #82 of the Atlanta Falcons avoids a tackle by Don Jones #36 of the Miami Dolphins in the third quarter of a preseason at the Georgia Dome. (Source: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Mickey Shuler #82 of the Atlanta Falcons avoids a tackle by Don Jones #36 of the Miami Dolphins in the third quarter of a preseason at the Georgia Dome. (Source: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

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DAVIE (CBSMiami) – One of the themes for the Miami Dolphins during training camp this week has been tackling.

It was a big issue during the 2013 season and despite an emphasis being placed on the importance of tackling throughout the offseason, the problem once again reared its ugly head during the Dolphins preseason opener against Atlanta last Friday.

With very little live hitting during training camp, it’s difficult to truly practice the art of tackling at a full-speed game pace.

The Dolphins practiced in full pads on Monday for the first time since the Atlanta game and it was arguably the most physical practice during camp so far.

Head coach Joe Philbin even had the team participate in their own version of the “Oklahoma Drill,” which is one of the most well-known and hard-hitting tackling exercises in football.

The players go one-on-one against each other, starting about ten yards apart and only having around five to seven yards to maneuver east and west. It’s a slim field to work with, which is why it’s such a physical drill.

The exercise featured the running backs going up against the linebackers, which is the group of the defense that has needed the most work in the tackling area.

That remained true on Monday as the running backs looked far better than their linebacking counterparts, shedding tackles left and right.

The results may not have been as encouraging as the coaching staff would’ve liked but Philbin seemed pleased with the overall performances.

“We did a couple of different drills,” Philbin said. “We had the linebackers against the running backs and the tight ends in a drill right here, where we had about five yards of space, they were about 10 yards apart and I thought it was a very, very good drill.  We added a couple of drills today…it’s not that we don’t work on tackling at other times but we want to make it an emphasis this week.”

One linebacker who appeared to be tackling well during Monday’s practice was Koa Misi.

It’s been an eventful year so far for Misi as he was switched to middle linebacker in an attempt to shore up a unit that has plenty of skill but just can’t seem to put it all together on the field.

That will need to change in 2014 if the Dolphins want to reach the kind of heights that many believe this defense is capable of achieving.

Miami’s defensive line is arguably the deepest in the NFL and will undoubtedly be a strength of the team.

The secondary is also looking better and better as camp rolls on with youngsters like Jamar Taylor and Will Davis taking that all-important next step while veterans like Brent Grimes, Cortland Finnegan and Louis Delmas are all playing up to expectations while taking the inexperienced players under their collective wing.

Both the defensive line and the secondary will receive a boost in Week 6 when the Dolphins come off their bye week and welcome back key fixtures on both units.

Dion Jordan and Reshad Jones are having solid camps and will be an added bonus to Miami’s defense when they can return from their respective 4-game suspensions for violating the NFL’s policy on banned substances.

Dolphins’ defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has continued to give both players plenty of reps during training camp but that is something that will likely change as the regular season gets closer.

“We will start to adjust the snaps on both players as we progress through [training camp],” Coyle said on Monday. “They are going to get snaps, when [the amount] might be a little different from game to game.  We want to keep them sharp. We want to keep them developing, but we have to get guys that are going to be in the game [for weeks one through four] and find out the right combinations as we move closer to the beginning of the season.”

There is still plenty of time for the team to work out all the kinks.

Week 1 against the Patriots is over three weeks away and the coaching staff is confident that by the time the season arrives, the team will be ready.

“That’s why I’m glad we still have three preseason games to continue to assess the entire group,” said Coyle. “It’s kind of a work in progress. But when we line up against New England, I’m going to be confident that we’re going to have a group out there that’s going to give us our best chance to win.”

Watch Miami Take On Tampa Bay This Saturday On CBS4, Your Official Dolphins Station!

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