Vance Joseph is the new defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins. VJ, as his friends call him (no idea, but I’ll roll with it) brings a pedigree of different philosophies and methodologies from his different tenures during his NFL career. The strange thing, is that VJ has decided to flip the script from what he has learned.
Wade Phillips and Marvin Lewis are two pioneers of the 3-4 base defense. Marvin was the force behind the Baltimore Ravens championship runs, Wade, was the puppet master that basically made Tom Brady and Cam Newton look silly in 2016 playoffs. Both of these coaches had a major influence in the upbringing of VJ.
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VJ learned the principles of 3-4 under Wade Phillips during their coaching tenure with the Houston Texans. VJ was a secondary coach, whereas Wade was calling the plays. Understanding the concepts of 3-4 is one thing, learning what the secondary adjustments that had to be applied is an entire different problem. VJ, excelled in his zone, man and sky coverages, as the Texans secondary didn’t have any legit pro ball players, however, their responsibilities where held and understood. Phillips had one principle that he taught VJ, the best secondary is the one that plays the fewest amount of time. The Texans had one of the best front 7’s in the league and ironically still do. Phillips would blitz and blitz again, until teams would start adjusting to his pressure. Phillips blueprint still exists, but the methodology has changed.
“If ever a man proved his worth as a future head coach, Marvin Lewis did it with this complete domination of the Giants in their 16 possessions: Punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, interception, punt, interception, interception, punt, interception, punt, punt, punt, end of game”, wrote Sports Illustrated writer Michael Silver after the game.
Lewis’ Baltimore Ravens defense can be mentioned as one of the best ever. His blueprint, led to him picking any coaching opportunity that he wanted. Basically, it brought him back to his collegiate days as he was one of the most highly recruited coaches in the NFL. Lewis eventually joined the Cincinnati Bengals and implemented a transition of his base 3-4/4-3 schema. Right now the Bengals have implemented a 4-3 schema with no element of 3-4 base. Lewis completely flipped the script and saw the benefit of adding the extra defensive linemen over the linebacker. Lewis hired Kevin Coyle (ya remember him) as his defensive coordinator, and Coyle and Lewis implemented different variations of cloud coverages using his cornerbacks and safeties as disguise elements, this technique got Coyle hired as the Dolphins Defensive Coordinator, and VJ slide into the DC role.
The Dolphins fired Coyle, and have now replaced him with VJ – the second time in a row that the Dolphins search for their defensive coordinator comes from the Bengals. However, this time, it feels different. When VJ was introduced as the next Dolphins defensive coordinator, the first thing he said is that we will bring an attacking defense that plays to its strength, which is exactly what the fan base wanted to hear.
Coyle, for some reason, thought that a base 4-3 alignment (-and only the base) was the best type of schema used, as such, he implemented that all day. So much so, that opposing offenses knew what the Dolphins were doing and how they were going to line up. Coyle was excused from his role, and now the Dolphins enter the VJ era. VJ has stated multiple times that he will not switch to 3-4, but still maintain the 4-3 schema. The biggest adjustments will come in the secondary, where VJ will implement a cover 3 schema, similar to what we have seen Seattle do these past years.
But where did VJ get this idea – is my question? Lewis implements a zebra technique, and Phillips plays a cover 1 robber. Here is what we know, the NFL is a copycat league. If a coach decides to run something and it works, look for everyone to try it until someone solves the riddle (Remember the Wildcat). By doing so, VJ, might have watched and seen what is going on in Seattle. Seattle has been fielding one of the best and elite D’s these past few years, and they have been doing it with a mix press corners and blitzing linemen.
Let that marinate for a second.
VJ is using a mixture of both methodologies – Lewis and Phillips. A defensive unit that has characteristics of an attacking front seven with different disguise variations in the secondary has never been implemented in this league. To be honest, that is a scary thought, for two reasons. One, if it works, the Dolphins D could be legitimately scary, and the other, if it fails, the Dolphins would be right back at square 1.
That is a risk the Gase, Ross and everyone on the Dolphins might be willing to take. Why not, flipping the script is exactly what the Dolphins need and VJ might be the best person to do it.