The Miami Dolphins have been regarded as a throwback bunch in recent years due to their ability to bludgeon opponents behind an old-school offense that is reminiscent of their glory days of the 1970s.
Given the outstanding success that the offense has enjoyed under the back-to-the-future format, it is not surprising that Mike Nolan is quietly putting together a defense that is poised to evoke memories of the "No Name Defense" of that era.
While placing such lofty expectations on a unit that finished ranked 22nd a season ago would appear to be outlandish, the fact that the defensive architect just orchestrated a similar transformation in Denver suggests that such a turnaround is a realistic possibility in Miami.
Nolan, who enters his 12th season as a defensive coordinator in the NFL, transformed a Broncos' defense that ranked 29th overall in 2008 into a unit that finished seventh and amassed 30 takeaways (up from only 15 in 2008) last season.
Furthermore, Nolan's defense finished tied for 12th in scoring defense (20.2 points per game), and ranked third in pass defense (186.3 yards per game).
With the Dolphins ranking in the bottom third of the league in each of those respective categories, the installation of Nolan's aggressive scheme is bound to produce better results in Miami.
In taking over the Dolphins defense, Nolan is set to replace the read-and-react system of his predecessor (Paul Pasqualoni) with an attack-style system that features a myriad of pressures from multiple fronts. The premise of his scheme is to dictate the tempo to the offense rather serve as a counterpuncher.
Nolan achieves this by routinely calling blitzes in favorable down-and-distance situations to force quarterbacks to settle for the "hot" receiver (the offense will often assign a receiver to break off his route if he anticipates a blitz from a linebacker or defensive back on the second level). The defense rallies to the receiver before he is able to pick up the yardage for the first down.
Additionally, the heavy use of the blitz alters the way that offenses attack down the field, and makes it easier for the defense to eventually condense the field. While there are some risks involved with relentlessly coming after the offense, the negative plays (sacks, tackles for loss and turnovers) that could result from the aggressive ploy are rewarding benefits that frequently result in wins.
In looking at the personnel available to Nolan, the Dolphins have the potential to win big behind their unheralded defense.
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