DAVIE, Fla. – It would be a stretch to claim the Miami Dolphins now sport a New-Name Defense.
After all, veterans Cameron Wake and Randy Starks headline a returning frontline. Linebacker Koa Misi and safeties Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones also remain in the 4-3 defense.
The unit finished 21st overall in the league in 2012. It was 13th against the run, but 27th against the pass – a ranking that doesn’t cut it in today’s game.
Changes were made during free agency and via the draft.
This week’s Organized Team Activities gave the Dolphins coaches a chance to see the 2013 team on the field as a group for the first time. Several other OTAs will be held before training camp starts in July.
Defensive end Dion Jordan, this year’s first-round draft pick, and cornerback Jamar Taylor, the second rounder, did not attend the OTA. Jordan remained at Oregon, where school was in session. His eventual presence might be why DE Jason Odrick saw time at tackle this week.
Taylor reportedly was recovering from recent hernia surgery.
Starks also was missing. The tackle reportedly is unhappy the team placed the franchise tag on him. He’d rather work out a long-term deal.
Although Joe Philbin refused to comment on absent players, the Dolphins head coach had enough defensive topics to discuss.
Free-agent linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler were signed to replace departed vets Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby.
Ellerbe will be the Mike (middle linebacker), which will be a bit of a change from his four years with the Baltimore Ravens.
“It’s a totally different defense because it’s a 4-3 here and a 3-4 there,” Ellerbe said. “But for the most part, I played this in college (Georgia), so I should be alright.”
Philbin said he liked what he had seen of Ellerbe so far.
“He’s a bright guy. He’s very business-like in the building,” Philbin said. “He comes in, gets his work done, and (he’s) very, very attentive.
“You’ve got to be strong down the middle, offensively and defensively, and he’s a guy that we’re looking for to help coordinate that front seven. We like what we’ve seen thus far.”
In the secondary, Jones arrived at the OTA a day late. According to the Miami Herald, he showed up after the Dolphins assured him and his agent the team eventually would talk about a contract extension.
Jones didn’t want to discuss his contract status. He did say facing the Dolphins revamped receiving corps daily in practice would help the defensive backs.
“Those guys are explosive and make plays,” Jones said. “That’s only going to help us be able to tighten up against the likes for Sunday.”
Free-agent signee Brent Grimes and Richard Marshall worked at cornerback on the day media was allowed to watch OTA. Taylor, Dimitri Patterson, Nolan Carroll and Will Davis also are expected to compete for playing time.
“Real wide open,” Philbin said when asked to describe the CB competition. “Very, very wide open at this stage”
Grimes (Achilles’ tendon) and Marshall (back) are returning from injuries last season.
“They feel good physically and I’m excited about watching the tape and sitting down and looking at it,” Philbin said. “I thought they moved around well. I think they’ve been moving around well the last couple of weeks, so we’re anxious that they participate fully in these practices.”
Listening to Philbin, one got the impression he likes his team’s make-up in his second year as coach.
“We told the guys, this program is built under the assumption that the players want to be great players No. 1, and they want to contribute to our success No. 2,” Philbin said. “That’s the starting point. So if we don’t have guys that feel like that, then they are probably in the wrong building and if we don’t have coaches that love going out there, we probably have the wrong guys.”