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The Dolphins made several moves in their defensive backfield. Here’s where things stand

Discussion in 'Miami Dolphins Forum' started by Sceeto, Jul 3, 2019.

  1. Sceeto

    Sceeto Well-Known Member

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    https://www.miamiherald.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/barry-jackson/article232106497.html

    One of the intriguing subplots of Dolphins training camp will be sorting out a defensive backfield where at least one starting job is open and roles have changed for at least two key players.

    Here’s what we’ve learned in the weeks since the offseason program ended:

    ▪ The Dolphins were pleased with how Bobby McCain fared in his move from cornerback to free safety and are now comfortable leaving him there, barring a sudden need for him at cornerback, according to multiple sources.

    The new role will allow McCain to play in dime packages and give Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald a breather when needed, with Jones and McDonald both equipped to play strong safety in a two-man pairing with McCain. Expect the three of them will play together some.

    ▪ The Dolphins would love for Eric Rowe to win the boundary cornerback job opposite Xavien Howard; he was given every opportunity to do that in the offseason program with consistent first-team work, according to a source.

    The results have been mixed so far, with Rowe beaten several times in the five practices open to the media.

    The Dolphins like what they’ve seen from former Patriots 5-10 practice squad cornerback Jomal Wiltz and he could assume a role in certain packages if he impresses in training camp and preseason games. Wiltz played alongside starters in some formations in the offseason program, according to a source

    So how will the Dolphins find enough snaps for six defensive backs — Xavien Howard, Fitzpatrick, Jones, McDonald, McCain and potentially Rowe — if there aren’t injuries? That shouldn’t be a problem. Keep in mind that the Patriots, with Flores as de facto defensive coordinator, used six natural defensive backs on 27 percent of their defensive snaps last season — among the highest totals in the league.

    What’s more, the Patriots last year used a formation with three defensive linemen, two linebackers and six defensive backs on 20 percent of their defensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus. For perspective, the league — on average — used that alignment just three percent of the time.

    But that 3-2-6 lineup appears to make sense for Miami in a pass-happy league for a couple of reasons: Miami has more established quality NFL players in the defensive backfield than on the defensive line. Playing a lot of three-man line (with some combination of Christian Wilkins, Davon Godchaux, Akeem Spence, Vincent Taylor, Tank Carradine, plus ends/linebackers Charles Harris and Nate Orchard) will mask the modest talent at defensive end.

    Also in that lineup, the Dolphins can get by with Jerome Baker and Kiko Alonso as their two linebackers on the field, with Raekwon McMillan going to the bench in clear passing situations.

    Last year, the Patriots used four defensive linemen, one linebacker and six defensive backs on seven percent of their plays, which is another option for Flores here. They used two lineman, three linebackers and six defensive backs only one play all season.



     
  2. rafael

    rafael Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    Historically, pass rush was the most important aspect of your defense, but I don't think that's the case anymore. And it's certainly not been a priority for the Patriots' defense during their dynastic run. They smartly focused on the secondary and coverage in general. The quick passing game has made it impossible for the pass rush to affect an offense on an increasing percentage of plays. But coverage will always be a factor on any passing play regardless of how fast they try to get the ball out.

    I don't know that we have all the pieces we want back there, but we have at least two potentially top 5 players in Howard and Minkah. I also think Jones is at least a top 10 player in the right role (maybe better if he can regain his form of a couple of seasons ago). I felt McCain was a top 10 slot CB, but I have no idea what he'll look like in a single high role. I think he's athletic enough but not ideally sized. I'm reserving judgment until I see him play back there. Outside of FS, I think we definitely need to find a second boundary CB and another slot coverage player. We have enough bodies there, but we'll have to wait and see if any of those will step up.
     
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  3. Unlucky 13

    Unlucky 13 Team Rosen Staff Member Club Member

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    I think that it boils down to this. Howard and Fitz are the clear stars of both today and the future. Their spots are locked up. Now, the team wants to see what they can get out of the rest of the guys, and will experiment with them this year to maximize that knowledge. If they don't like what they see, Jones, McCain, and McDonald could all be gone after the coming season. Rowe is on a one year deal as it is.
     
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  4. Sceeto

    Sceeto Well-Known Member

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    Dolphins love safeties
    https://www.thephinsider.com/2019/7...n-minkah-fitzpatrick-reshad-jones-tj-mcdonald

    During the offseason training program, the Dolphins moved cornerback Bobby McCain back to free safety, using him to free up Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald as strong safeties, supporting the run defense and providing heavy hitters in the middle of the defense along with the linebackers. Jackson wrote in his article, “The Dolphins were pleased with how Bobby McCain fared in his move from cornerback to free safety and are now comfortable leaving him there, barring a sudden need for him at cornerback.”

    Then add in last year’s first-round draft choice Minkah Fiztpatrick, who played boundary and slot cornerback last year as well as safety, and the Dolphins are up to four safeties for two starting positions.


    I like the idea of freeing up Jones and McDonald. We can use the extra hitters to help stop the run and TEs, etc.
     
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  5. Pauly

    Pauly Season Ticket Holder

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    Whilst the Patsies have focused on coverage, they have never neglected the pass rush. In particular whenever they are facing a QB that is susceptible to pass rush they can scheme to create extra pressure. A good example of this is how they’ve made Andrew Luck their b*tch in the playoffs.

    If their coverage is getting an average of an A rating, their pass rush is averaging a B. Which is kind of the patriot way of preferring to be B+ at everything than mixing As and Cs
     
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  6. rafael

    rafael Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    Obviously no team ignores their pass rush and always tries to scheme pressure, but NE didn't always spend big resources to add pass rushers. The article was talking about personnel added and NE usually had a ton of DBs and only occasionally grabbed the big pass rusher. That's in contrast with Miami who tended to pursue pass rushers.
     
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  7. Sceeto

    Sceeto Well-Known Member

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    Yes. Exactly. I was saying this a lot leading up to the draft.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2019
  8. hitman8

    hitman8 Well-Known Member

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    Statistically it has been shown that coverage is more important than pass rush to win games. I dont care if you have LT and Bruce Smith rushing the passer if the coverage cant make the QB consistently hold the ball for at least 4 or 5 seconds your pass rush isnt going to get there.
     
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  9. Pauly

    Pauly Season Ticket Holder

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    Firstly, the average time to pressure in the NFL is less than 3 seconds. Typically by 4 or 5 seconds most QBs are onto their 3rd or 4th read.

    Secondly, I never stated the pass rush is more important than coverage. Both are important, but coverage is more important. If you look up the ratings of QB under pressure vs no pressure you will see almost all QBs perform worse under pressure. Example article https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2019/quarterbacks-and-pressure-2018

    Neglecting the pass rush because coverage is more important is like neglecting the run defense because pass defense is more important. It creates holes that other teams can exploit to bully your defense.
     
  10. cbrad

    cbrad . Club Member

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    Wait.. HOW could one show this statistically? To do that you'd have to first be capable of measuring "coverage ability" and "pass rush ability", neither of which we have a decent measure for.

    I did google to see what would come up, and a PFF "study" came up showing that PFF coverage grades predict Expected Points Added (EPA) on pass plays better than PFF pass rush grades:
    https://www.pff.com/news/pro-pff-data-study-coverage-vs-pass-rush

    Problem is that BOTH PFF coverage and pass rush grades are totally subjective, so correlations between them and EPA tell you nothing about whether coverage or pass rush is more important, they only tell you how closely human intuition (of PFF graders) match up with EPA.

    As far as I can tell there's no valid statistical argument showing coverage is more important than pass rush or vice versa given the type of football stats we currently have.
     
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  11. rafael

    rafael Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    I don't think anybody has said "we should neglect the pass rush". Framing it like that sets up a false narrative. It's about allocation of resources. It's clear that the team has focused more of their resources on the secondary this offseason than they have in the recent past and that strategy mirrors what NE has done during their current dynasty. That is unsurprising since we've added a coach who came from NE. I also think it makes sense b/c many QBs get the ball out faster than any pass rush can get there. Generally it's assumed that a pass rusher needs at least 3 seconds to get home. I recall seeing a stat in 2018 somewhere that showed the average time to throw for the top 29 QBs was under 3 secs. In those situations your pass rush has no impact, but your coverage still matters. So basically, your pass rush impacts the passing game sometimes and your coverage always impacts the passing game.
     
  12. cbrad

    cbrad . Club Member

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    Umm.. the only reason QB's get the ball out quickly is because they expect a pass rush. So the pass rush always impacts the passing game. If it didn't the QB could just stand back there for as long as he wanted to before throwing the ball (would be easy to win a game if you're already ahead assuming the pass rush had no effect on a given play.. just stand back there for however long until the game ends).

    Also.. how often something affects a unit doesn't necessarily tell you how important it is for winning. Turnovers rarely occur but affect win% far more than yards per play for example.
     
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  13. Dol-Fan Dupree

    Dol-Fan Dupree I drink your milkshake! Club Member

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    I would take LT and Bruce Smith any day.
     
  14. rafael

    rafael Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    The quick passing game is used by many teams regardless of the pass rush. Sure, if teams weren't allowed to rush the game would've evolved differently, but it is accurate to say that on many plays the pass rush has no impact.
     
  15. cbrad

    cbrad . Club Member

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    Not true. The entire design of the play was affected by the pass rush. And resources (OL) are tied up in protecting against the pass rush that otherwise wouldn't be if "the pass rush had no impact". Besides, a missed block can even affect execution of the quick passing game.

    Also.. if you do take this stance that something "has no impact" (even if it does) as long as the play is executed as designed, then it would also be true that coverage only sometimes affects a play. I'm not going there though because both affect EVERY passing play.
     
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  16. rafael

    rafael Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    I disagree. There are entire offensive systems designed to get the pass out quickly that teams run whether they're facing a team with a good pass rush or a poor one. They don't change their approach simply b/c of whom they're facing. They're going to do what they're going to do. They're not adjusting they're OL assignments or number or players in the route. They have a set play that's part of their core offense. Reality is that there will be a high percentage of plays where the ball is supposed to get out quickly regardless of whether the pass rush is getting pressure. On such plays, the pass rush has no impact.

    And, if you're throwing a pass, coverage is always a factor. How good or bad the coverage is will affect how difficult or easy the completion is.
     
  17. cbrad

    cbrad . Club Member

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    Nope, logic is wrong. In fact, you can see it in your wording. Your second sentence tells us what you are really arguing: an offensive system can be designed so that it can nullify a pass rush regardless of how good or bad it is (within some range). In other words, you're saying that (within some range) how good or bad a pass rush is won't affect the play design or execution. I have no argument with that.

    That's entirely separate from the claim that the pass rush "has no effect". THAT is a completely false statement because the play was designed to nullify the pass rush!! The pass rush had a major effect on play design and thus affects EVERY pass play.
     
  18. rafael

    rafael Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    I'm only talking about the first part b/c pass rush has a minimum time required to have an impact. Anything less than that minimum time the pass rush has no impact. Fact is that on many plays the pass rush has no impact on the play. That's what I stated.
     
  19. invid

    invid Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    Isn't there a correlation between pass defense rankings and overall season success (playoff and super bowl berths)?
     
  20. cbrad

    cbrad . Club Member

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    Well.. what started this was your argument that this is about "allocation of resources" between pass rush and DB, first in post #6 and then in post #11. And it was in post #11 where you supported the idea of allocating more resources to coverage because coverage "affects every play while pass rush doesn't". Once you talk about allocation of resources you're talking about the second part of my post not the first.

    So you can't use the argument in the first part of my post (the argument you say you're making) to support allocating more resources to coverage instead of pass rush. I think that if you want to make an argument for allocating more resources to coverage vs. pass rush or vice versa you'd have to look at win% as a function of resources allocated (salary) for different teams. That's the best "statistical" evidence I think one could come up with even if there are obvious issues with that approach (e.g., rookie contracts and not measuring things directly).
     
  21. cbrad

    cbrad . Club Member

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    Yeah of course. The correlation is huge at -0.593 for example between win% and defensive passer rating across NFL history (and when I say that I always mean SB era). But pass defense rankings are affected by both coverage and pass rush so it's not teasing the two apart.
     
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  22. Disgustipate

    Disgustipate Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    I generally agree with you here, but I think increasingly the quick passing game in the modern game has been driven by stuff like alignment that isn't necessarily pass-rush related but can be something like coverage defenders to a side.
     
  23. rafael

    rafael Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    Of course resource allocation applies. I can apply resources to something that has an impact some of the time vs. something that has an impact all of the time. Deciding to apply those resources to the something that has an impact all of the time is a logical decision based on the statement I made.
     
  24. cbrad

    cbrad . Club Member

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    No it's not. First of all I already pointed out it's not true that something occurring less frequently implies it's less important for winning (e.g., turnover differential vs. yards per play). Secondly, IF we're talking about resource allocation, then pass rush affects every single pass play because the pass play itself will change based on pass rushing ability of the defense. Just imagine how you'd design a play where you want to nullify pressure if you're facing an elite pass rushing unit versus one of the worst in the NFL. Totally different.

    So as long as we're assuming that greater resources and ability are positively correlated, the pass rush will affect every pass play and your argument doesn't apply.

    Besides, this idea that you can completely nullify the pass rush with play design is suspect to say the least. Just ask one of the best in the business, Brady and Belichick, in their two SB losses against the Giants. The Giants DL basically showed the rest of the NFL that if your pass rush was good enough even Brady will falter. You think the Giants would have won those SB's if they allocated no serious resources towards pass rush and put it all into coverage? Doubt it. Brady will pick you apart if you do that.
     
  25. rafael

    rafael Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    If you already have a system that gets the ball out in under 3 seconds then you don't design the play any differently.

    And all you did was point out an example of something that happens infrequently and subjectively decided that it applies equally to this example and/or that people should consider additional stats before deciding to allocate resources. None of that is a fact. It is an opinion. What is a fact and something you already agreed with, is that a team that has an offense designed to get the ball out in under 3 seconds doesn't have to change anything when facing a team with a good pass rush, b/c they won't get there fast enough to affect the play.

    And what most people fail to understand about those SB losses was that it was a combination of both coverage and pass rush. The coverage was a factor on every pass play. On many plays the pass rush wasn't a factor. which was the original and still accurate statement.
     
  26. cbrad

    cbrad . Club Member

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    LOL.. you don't have to design the play any differently if the play design was already influenced by the pass rush! Yeah, no duh. Point is.. they design the play to get the ball out in under 3 seconds because of the pass rush!

    No, I pointed out what you said was wrong, namely that it is NOT true that something that happens less frequently is automatically less important for winning. You claimed it's "logical" to apply fewer resources to something that occurs less frequently. It's not logical.

    The pass rush is always a factor. You seem to think it's only a factor if it results in pressure on the QB or something. It's always a factor because offensive play calling on passing plays is designed to mitigate.. (wait for it).. the pass rush! Logic dude.
     
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  27. rafael

    rafael Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    This is ridiculous. There is always a pass rush. It's part of the game. But not every player is a factor on every play. Sometimes they're away from the play. Sometimes they have no impact. Everybody understands that. In an extreme semantic construction, obviously all 11 players are part of the design so technically they're involved. But in a common sense understanding coaches and players recognize that that every player isn't really a factor on every play. I have no desire to continue this discussion.
     
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  28. cbrad

    cbrad . Club Member

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    I actually agree with all that, including that we should move on. I will point out again though that the reason the pass rush from the common sense point of view is "not a factor" on certain plays is because you did something (e.g., play design and resources spent) to nullify it, meaning that if you're talking about resource allocation (coverage vs. pass rush) the common sense interpretation doesn't apply and you actually have to look at the causes behind the play design and resources spent.
     
  29. adamprez2003

    adamprez2003 Senior Member

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    Very good point about the changing nature of defenses. Another thing I think has changed is that Defensive Ends used to be valued as much as a LOT and a QB in that those were the three positions you had to fill to become a contender. Nowadays I think a pass rushing DT threat is more valuable than a DE in that only a DT can disrupt a quick passing team. A DE simply doesn't have the time to get to the QB on many plays
     
  30. adamprez2003

    adamprez2003 Senior Member

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    The modern passing game evolved the quick passing offense for several reasons only one of which was the pass rush. It is fair to say we don't see seven step drops anymore because of the pass rush but that news is two decades old. The modern quick passing offenses were designed to overcome the inability to run effectively inside the tackles. The goal of a quick passing offense is to substitute a 5 yard pass for a run. Do that on first down and now you have 2nd and five. The five yard passes are incredibly difficult to defend. Its why the majority of them are completed as seen by the ever increasing completion percentages. Additionally you have the bonus of having a one on one situation in open space that if the receiver can make his man miss will turn into a big play as opposed to a running back having to get through a pileup before he can get to open space and have a chance for a big play.

    The other bonus is that it works much like an effective running game in that it brings the defensive backs closer and closer to the line which will give your offense some chances to strike deep when the opportunities arise.

    Another huge bonus is that you don't need great quarterbacks to run it. They just have to be accurate. And since colleges aren't producing quarterbacks like they used too it's good to have simpler schemes available.

    Also offensive linemen coming out of college are more and more coming out of spread offenses which create useless linemen for traditional running schemes. It used to be that you wanted your guards and right tackle to be a road grader that could move the defensive lineman he was against. Colleges aren't producing enough of those guys that can also pass block so running schemes are now being designed off the pass whereby you just need to angle your defender instead of move him

    So in short the pass rush maybe accounts for 20 % of the move to the short passing game. 30% lack of quality offensive linemen. 20% lack of quality QBs. And 30% scheme or philosophy preference as a substitute for the running game
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2019 at 12:44 PM
  31. Unlucky 13

    Unlucky 13 Team Rosen Staff Member Club Member

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    Though its fair to say some here will disagree, I would wager that if they could, most NFL personell men today would still take two pass rushing ends and two shut down corners as their first four picks on a defense if that was available. Solve those needs, and it makes everything else so much easier.

    Right now, the Fins have one of those. Which is fine. But we need a lot more. Hopefully, next year's draft can bring a top quality pass rusher in the first round.
     
  32. sandcastle

    sandcastle Active Member

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    There was good insight on coaching philosophies when Pepper Johnson's vented to Deadspin about the Jets and Dolphins. Belichick's scouting/game-planning may be more adept at not allowing a QB to get into a rhythm and to take advantage of added time as QB goes through progressions. I wonder if looking back at his early Patriots teams that stopped fast progression QBs (Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning) may make it more obvious as those teams had traditional personnel groupings as than current exotic packages.

    Pepper Johnson:
     

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