Where Must the Miami Dolphins Defense Improve in 2013?

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Where Must the Miami Dolphins Defense Improve in 2013?
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Plenty of statistics can measure a defense, and the Miami Dolphins defense was seventh-best in the league in the most important metric in football: points.

While the end result is desirable in that regard, head coach Joe Philbin wasn't necessarily happy with how they got there last year. He looked at two different statistics where the Dolphins need to improve.  

Philbin said, "Overall, defensively when we started the offseason plan we looked at a couple of different things that we wanted to do, primarily everything has been about limiting explosive pass plays and creating more takeaways.

"That was the overall theme of how we were going to improve our defensive football team, those were the two things that we did not do well enough to be a consistently winning football team on defense."

Looking back at the numbers, he's 100 percent right.

The Dolphins defense allowed 60 pass plays of 20 yards or more, the fourth-highest total in the league last season. It also generated just 16 total turnovers (fifth-fewest) and 10 interceptions (sixth-fewest) in 2012. 

Thus, while it's easy to justify the 2012 defense if we look at the points allowed, there are obvious moves the Dolphins can make to raise the ceiling for potential on defense. 

Philbin added, "So we looked at it, position-by-position, ways we felt we could improve, players that might or might not be available to us. So that was really the overriding principal that determined our decisions in the offseason."

The Dolphins had no problem saying goodbye to a few veteran defenders who have been brought in over the past few seasons. They got noticeably smaller at cornerback and at linebacker, but the hope is the increased speed could help them make disruptive plays.

Looking at the stat sheet, though, they might be disappointed.

In fact, in the past two years, the combination of Grimes, Wheeler and Ellerbe has totaled four forced fumbles, one fumble recovered and one interception (with the caveat that Grimes played just 13 games the past two seasons). 

How the changes pan out remains to be seen, and clearly, these players will be judged on more than just their ability to create turnovers. But in indicating that the Dolphins' struggles in those particular areas led the thinking on their offseason moves ultimately means the team's success (or failure) in those areas will be the barometer by which their offseason is measured.

Even with all the change, there is still some consistency on the defense.

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Look no further than the defensive line, where the Dolphins return all of their starters—although a few of them may be in different roles this year. That applies to Jared Odrick, who was a defensive end in 2012 but could shift inside in 2013 now that the Dolphins have added Dion Jordan on the edge. Odrick has manned the interior spot next to Paul Soliai with Randy Starks still absent at practice.

The Dolphins are also bringing back safeties Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons to maintain some semblance of stability in the secondary after parting ways with two starting cornerbacks in the past 12 months.

So, while the overhaul on offense has been the focus in Miami, the changes on defense warrant just as much attention and could have just as much of an impact.

 

 

Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all stats obtained from Pro Football Focus' premium section, and all quotes obtained firsthand or via team press releases.

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