Dolphins’ continuity on defense has allowed unit to be further ahead in offseason

Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer on Wednesday said that one thing he has come to learn and expect in the NFL is that, every year, there will be change.

Then, the 2022 offseason for his Dolphins defense happened, and he found out it’s possible to actually have a year where there isn’t all that much personnel transition.

Sure, while Boyer remains in his coordinator post, former coach Brian Flores, who possesses his own defensive background and brought Boyer up going back to when they were together with the New England Patriots, and former defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander are no longer alongside him to lead this defense.

But all 11 starters, along with numerous rotational pieces, return from last year’s defense that anchored the team’s run for eight wins in its last nine games of 2021. From that standpoint, the Dolphins defense can pick up where it left off last season, not having new players learn how to play next to each other.

“It puts you at a different starting point that there’s some familiarity,” said Boyer on Wednesday as Dolphins assistant coaches spoke to reporters at team facilities. “I guess there’s some things that, with our guys having familiarity of certain checks that we get in and out of, that obviously helps us that you’re not spending time on something that’s a brand-new concept. Some of it, there’s recall.

“That gives you the ability to do some very similar things but tweak it a little bit here or there to improve it. I think it gives you some advantages. Probably the biggest advantage is just the communication between the players and — not only do they know the guys that’s next to them — they know how they play.”

While making the head coaching change from Flores to Mike McDaniel, who has an offensive background coming over from San Francisco, and completely revamping the offense, it was a clear priority for Miami to have that continuity on defense heading into 2022.

Things fell in place for the Dolphins to keep the unit intact when they reached an agreement with defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah minutes before free-agent negotiations could take place with outside teams in March. Ogbah returns his team-leading 18 sacks over the past two seasons, along with last year’s 24 quarterback hits and 12 passes defensed, which were most by any NFL defensive lineman since 2016.

“He gives us some versatility because he can do multiple things,” said Boyer. “We’re obviously excited to have him back. He’s a good worker. … He understands the system and the process, so all positive with him being back.”

Ogbah and the defensive front are complemented by the back end. Cornerback Xavien Howard’s contract concerns were appeased with a new extension. He and Byron Jones remain a top cornerback combination in the league, and the rising young safety duo of Jevon Holland and Brandon Jones provides exceptional versatility with their ability to blitz more than any other safety tandem.

“That’s definitely a huge value,” said safeties coach Steve Gregory, who was promoted from defensive assistant with Alexander no longer with the Dolphins. “We value that as a system. Guys that are multiple, guys that are versatile, guys that aren’t just pigeonholed into doing one thing.”

Watching Holland grow as a rookie last season, Gregory likes what he sees from him heading into Year 2.

“The one thing that happens naturally, he was a rookie last year, and with any rookie, there’s that level of you don’t know what to expect,” Gregory said of Holland. “Everything’s new to you, the length of the season. Everything that you’re going through, you’re going through for the first time. When you get into your second year as a player, there’s a comfort level of understanding, ‘I know what this looks like now. I know what an entire season feels like to go through. I know what an offseason feels like to go through.’ From that perspective, it allows him to have a lot more confidence, anticipation of what he’s really stepping into.”

There were offseason questions of the linebacker corps returning as Elandon Roberts, Duke Riley, Sam Eguavoen and Brennan Scarlett were all impending free agents. But that group is also back around Jerome Baker and outside linebackers Jaelan Phillips and Andrew Van Ginkel after all re-signed with Miami.

“I was probably the happiest guy in the building, to be honest with you, to have the same group of guys back,” said linebackers coach Anthony Campanile. “I love working with the guys we have in that room. I know their capability, and I think they’re going to continue to develop and get better, hopefully excel in this system. … It’s a group of talented, hard-working guys.”

With the constants on Miami’s defense, the team now looks to build in the final phases of the offseason workout program, organized team activities and mandatory minicamp.

“We feel like we are further ahead,” Boyer said. “Now, the most important thing is that it translates to wins on Sundays when we start in September. Obviously, we have a long process to go through before we get there.”

()