Wednesday, February 15, 2012

'Phins D has free agent work to do with switch to 4-3


New Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle's 4-3 defensive scheme, which contrasts Mike Nolan’s 3-4 that had been in use the past two seasons, will drastically alter how the Dolphins will evaluate their personnel needs this offseason.

To successfully make this switch, general manager Jeff Ireland will assess both what he has and what is available through the free agent market.

While the defensive line is very deep, changing to the four-man front creates an immediate need for an additional pass rusher opposite Cameron Wake. Many draft experts anticipate the Dolphins addressing this need with their first round pick, selecting either Quinton Coples out of UNC or Melvin Ingram out of South Carolina.

If they go another route with that pick, there are a few viable options in free agency. Veteran pass rusher John Abraham and the more balanced Jaguars' Jeremy Mincey should be hitting the market and would both fill the spot very well.

Miami may also have to find a true strong side outside linebacker, as none on the roster are ideal at that spot. The Dolphins should target Ravens' Jarret Johnson if he becomes available.

Safety also a focus

Perhaps the most pressing area of need is the back of the secondary. Changing to the 4-3 does simplify the job of the safeties, but the team still needs an upgrade at both safety spots. Longtime Dolphin Yeremiah Bell is a capable piece, but he isn’t worth his salary and might not be back even if he was willing to restructure.

This year's free agent crop is unfortunately very weak at safety. A logical choice would be free agent Reggie Nelson, who already worked in Coyle's system in Cincinnati and would fit in seamlessly.

Coyle has been known to get the most out of his secondaries and will have to work some magic to avoid a repeat of last season.

The change to the 4-3 will require Dolphins management to change how they assess their needs. Miami is very fortunate to have some young and versatile players already on its roster, but there are still holes to be filled if they want to continue to be one of the better units in the league.

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