The Miami Dolphins defense came into training camp with an advantage over the offense based on continuity and familiarity.
The Dolphins kept virtually the entire defense intact, including coordinator Josh Boyer, while the offense has a number of new players, new schemes and a new coach running it.
Boyer, however, has come away impressed with how difficult new coach Mike McDaniel’s offense is to defend through five training camp practices. It’s something the two have openly discussed with one another.
“All the way back to the spring,” said Boyer ahead of Monday’s drills, “we’ve been talking philosophy, scheme, things that we view defensively that may hurt their scheme or things that they view offensively that may hurt our scheme. And then, ultimately, it comes down to execution. It’s been good to have the back and forth and have those conversations.”
Boyer broke down the challenges of facing the outside-zone blocking scheme that McDaniel, offensive coordinator Frank Smith and offensive line coach Matt Applebaum are installing.
“First of all, they’re going to test our edges,” said Boyer. “You got to do a good job of setting your edges, and once you do that, if they can get you moving laterally, that puts creases in the defense. And then, obviously, they do a great job of marrying the play action with the run.
“You’re trying to stay square. You’re not trying to run lateral. Then, all of a sudden, it’s a pass, you got to get back to your drops. It puts a lot of stress on a lot of players in different positions.”
They emphasis on blocking at wide receiver has been felt.
“Everyone talks about Tyreek [Hill] and Jaylen [Waddle], their speed, them getting down the field, but those guys are doing an outstanding job blocking,” Boyer said. “They’re making it really hard for us defensively to tell whether it is run or pass. All those things. They try to put you in a run-pass conflict, which good offenses are going to do.”
Dolphins defensive line coach Austin Clark sees this year’s offensive line, albeit with pads yet to come on in camp, as an improvement from having his group face that unit.
“What Mike and Frank and Coach Applebaum is doing with the offensive line is phenomenal,” Clark said. “They make you check every gap. You have to play with great eyes. You have to play with great hands. They’re firing off the ball. it’s been great for us.”
Boyer appreciates having his defense remain largely intact from the strong finish to 2021.
“There’s continuity on this staff, so that puts us at a starting point where we feel like we can get the installation where we want,” he said. “The players, there’s a familiarity there, so we can kind of increase that installation. The additions and the tweaks to things we’re doing that we think will help us, they happen at a much more rapid pace. For new guys or guys that are coming in, that learning curve is a little bit steeper. That gives us a good opportunity as coaches.”
Practice in pads
The Dolphins got through their fifth practice of training camp on Monday, meaning Tuesday will be their first set of drills in full pads.
“We’ve been in the locker room talking about it,” said nose tackle Raekwon Davis after Monday’s practice. “We’re itching for it. [Tuesday] is that day. It’s here.”
After offensive playmakers have been allowed to find space and finish runs where they would have probably already been down if defenders were tackling to the ground, the physicality of practice will begin to see an uptick.
“We’re excited. It’ll be nice to get out here and really kind of start going and see what everyone’s made of,” said defensive tackle Zach Sieler. “We’re in the trenches every day. It’s why you play football.”
It will mark the next step in McDaniel’s offense, new to Miami, facing an established defense that has experience playing together.
“Just looking for both sides of the ball making plays,” Davis said. “I know they’re going to get a couple good plays. I know I’m going to get a couple good plays. Just making each other better.”