Barry Jackson wrote:
Eight months after NBC's Cris Collinsworth called defensive coordinator Mike Nolan the Dolphins' best offseason pickup, this much is clear: Nolan is Tony Sparano's best hire as a Dolphin.http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/12/19/1 ... roved.html
Miami, which finished 22nd in defense last year, is now fifth -- seventh against the run, sixth against the pass. Of course, predecessor Paul Pasqualoni didn't have Karlos Dansby. Players deserve considerable credit, but they also make it clear how much better the defensive coaching is.
Dolphins players were so impressed with Nolan's game plan against the Jets last Sunday that they gave him and his defensive assistants a game ball -- the first time Channing Crowder can remember anything like that happening.
``Nolan had it down to a science -- they had us so prepared, it was ridiculous,'' Crowder said. ``We knew exactly what they were going to run.'' How has Nolan helped elevate this group? Here's what players say:
• ``We're always doing things a little different to stay one step ahead,'' Cameron Wake said. Against the Jets, ``we showed different blitzes and pre-snap alignments that made them think we were doing something different from the first game,'' Tony McDaniel said.
``We do a lot of disguising that's worked,'' Yeremiah Bell said. ``Last year, we didn't do hardly any of that. In the Bengals game, you could tell they didn't know what coverage we were in. Nolan has made a huge difference. He knows how to adjust on the fly.''
As Randy Starks said, ``We don't do the same thing every week. That's the difference from last season.''
• McDaniel said, ``We know a lot more than we did last year about what opponents' tendencies are in different situations. It's almost like we're in the other team's practice.''
• Wake (14 sacks) said Nolan uses him ideally because ``he knows his personnel. He looks in the tool box and says, `I need quick guys to do this or a powerful guy to do that.' '