The Miami Dolphins have made several key additions to their offense and defense during the offseason. After finishing last in the AFC East with a 5-11 record, head coach Brian Flores and the rest of the front office had work to do.
On the defensive side of the ball major changes were made to each position, in both free agency and the 2020 NFL Draft, and the offense got its hopeful quarterback for the future in Tua Tagovailoa during the draft.
The Dolphins ranked 25th in offense in 2019 and dead last in defense, so valuable additions like linebacker Kyle Van Noy and defensive ends Emmanuel Ogbah and Shaq Lawson will help where Miami lacked the most.
As training camp has been underway for nearly two weeks, Miami began padded practices Monday with the season opener less than one month away. A few new additions to the team, like Van Noy, have already stuck out in training camp, however.
Kyle Van Noy Could be the Most Valuable Addition
It is no secret that the Dolphins were looking to add as many starters to the defense as possible.
Former Patriots LB Van Noy could be the most important addition of the offseason with both his experience and knowledge of the game. He can help develop a new defense that Miami has been working on.
Miami LB Coach Excited By Leadership
Linebackers coach Anthony Campanile has shifted from working with a lot of young guys and acquirees to a skilled veteran like Van Noy.
“I think we all – at every position, to be honest with you – we all incorporate our own philosophies and get the opportunity to really coach all of the guys. It’s been an awesome experience that way,” Campanile said.
Van Noy has had the pleasure of playing for one of the most successful franchises in all of sports with New England and joins not only a former defensive coach for the Patriots in Flores, but three other teammates who made the switch this offseason as well.
That experience in a winning environment and on the field will help him lead a young and very new defense who desperately need to improve as a unit. Van Noy is expected to start at left-outside LB, with right-outside LB Vince Biegel, along with fellow LBs Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan.
Confidence in Brian Flores
Throughout his one season with Miami, Flores has gained the respect of his locker room by refusing to tank for what many people thought was a lost season in 2019.
“For me to be out there, that means we’re trying to win football games and that definitely resonates throughout the team,” QB Ryan Fitzpatrick said confirming that his coach tried to put the best lineup on the field he could last season.
Flores’ Drive No Surprise, Seen in New England
Not only was it evident last season that Flores went into each week ready to compete, it was also evident to his colleagues up in Foxborough. Campanile for example has had the honor of working with Flores with both AFC East rivals.
“Coach Flores was a Boston College graduate and was coaching in New England at the time. I knew a lot of people that knew him very well, and everybody spoke so highly of him, not just as a football coach, but as a person,” Campanile said. “For myself and for my family, to this point in the time that I’ve spent here, he’s been phenomenal to us. He’s just a great person in that regard. He cares about people’s family.”
Big Factor in Byron Jones Signing? Flores.
Cornerback Byron Jones heard great things around the league about what Flores was building in Miami and how good of a teacher he was, leading him to sign here. Jones came over from the Dallas Cowboys in free agency and signed the largest CB contract in NFL history.
Special Teams’ Crossman: “Fun Rebuild” Under Flores
Special Teams Coordinator Danny Crossman has also noticed Flores’ leadership each day and is confident in the schemes the two are building during training camp.
“For me personally, and I think for the rest of the team, to know where ‘Flo’ stands on what he’s going to demand, what he’s going to need and if you’re not on board with that, it’s going to be a long day. But if you are on board with that, it’s going to be a fun rebuild for where we’re trying to get to,” Crossman said.
Linebackers Coach Points Out Flores’ Dedication
Players also knew Flores had the winning mentality from his time in New England. When it came to first impressions outside linebackers coach Austin Clark noticed how dedicated Flores was.
“I would say first off, he’s a hardworking guy. When I came down here to meet with him, I looked him up and researched him and saw his path through coaching,” Clark said. “That immediately to me was like, ‘Hey, this is someone I want to work under and learn from.’ Just how he came up and the grind and where he’s come from, his story, all of the obstacles he’s gone through.”
Flores may have struggled in his first season, but he has the respect of his players and coaching staff especially now that his offseason work for 2020 is coming to fruition in camp.
The Dolphins have the interesting challenge of converting two former corners that were switched to safety on their former teams, back to playing cornerback. Defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander has faced this challenge before when he was a player making the same transition.
“Those guys definitely have done the necessary things to transition into that role (CB). It’s just continuing to have them improve throughout practice,” Alexander said. “When you’re not a safety, you’re not being that primary communicator as you are in that position. These guys have been doing a good job and we’ll continue to develop their communication out there on the field so they can take command and be quarterbacks of their defense.”
Defensive Depth Growing
The defensive unit as a whole has made even more changes.
The defensive line made a few key additions with the signings of DEs Lawson and Ogbah, but the general goal for Miami was to add as many good players to the defense as possible.
“I think with all defenses, each year you start over and you try to – whether it’s a coach’s influence or whether it’s a player influence, the defense will kind of evolve,” new defensive coordinator Josh Boyer said. “I think you’re always trying to build as much competition as you possibly can and I think obviously (General Manager) Chris (Grier) and ‘Flo’ (Head Coach Brian Flores) did a good job of acquiring as many good players as we possibly could.”
The Dolphins have a bright future ahead but it is all in the hands of the front office and how they develop and retain their talent. Miami is in padded practices as the regular season quickly approaches and the Dolphins will soon get to see how each position shakes out going into the final roster cuts.
Editor’s Note: Coaches Anthony Campanile, Danny Crossman, Austin Clark do not have profiles on profootballreference.com, the website FPC Dolphins uses to tag profiles.