Loud and clear: Dolphins defensive line coach Kris Kocurek making himself heard
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Miami Dolphins players wonder whether Kris Kocurek’s voice will give out, and perhaps they wish it would.
Kocurek is in his first year as the defensive line coach, and he operates with high expectations at high energy and volume.
“I’ve got to watch where I stand on the field with him,” defensive coordinator Matt Burke said following Thursday’s practice. “Sometimes he’s right there, and I get an earful. … People think it’s an act, and it’s not. That’s just who he is.”
Not everything Kocurek shouts can be repeated, but the thrust is he’s trying to turn around a unit that underachieved last year when the Dolphins went 6-10.
“I’ll just say this: I have a passion for d-line play,” said Kocurek, with a rasp.
Coach Adam Gase lured Kocurek out of Detroit, where he had been the Lion’ defensive line coach. Kocurek joined the Dolphins shortly before five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh departed, but Gase still believes his front four will be better this year.
“Kris has done a really good job of getting to those guys,” Gase said. “They bring it. How they pursue the ball, get back to the line of scrimmage, go to the next play — there’s a lot of energy exerted on one play, and they just move on to the next one. He has developed them. That’s a tough group. They’re really trending in the right direction.”
While Kocurek can be hard on his players, he also knows how hard the game can be. The 39-year-old Texas native played at Texas Tech, and after he was drafted in the seventh round, his NFL career lasted one game and four snaps — for Tennessee in 2001.
“It was a goal-line situation,” he said. “They stuck me in there, and I just tried to get as low as I could. We actually held them out of there.”
After a fifth shoulder operation ended his career, he turned to coaching and reached the NFL as a Lions assistant in 2009. When Detroit coach Jim Caldwell was fired in January, Kocurek came to Miami.
“I had the same office for nine years, and all of a sudden you get thrown into a little bit different environment,” he said. “But it has been great. I look forward to cranking my truck in the morning and getting to work as fast as I can.”
He’s working with perhaps the team’s deepest unit. While Suh is gone, Miami acquired two-time Pro Bowl end Robert Quinn. Holdovers include ends Cameron Wake, Andre Branch and Charles Harris, and tackles Jordan Phillips, Vincent Taylor and Davon Godchaux.
Kocurek yells at all of them.
“He’s high energy,” Branch said, “so you have no choice but to be high energy.”
Burke said Kocurek’s passionate approach is a good match for the area he coaches.
“People might get mad at me for saying this: I think the bigger you get, the more motivated you’ve got to get from somebody externally,” Burke said. “With that group, it takes a little extra yelling and pushing.”
Wake, for one, loves Kocurek’s approach.
“He’s a guy that’s old school, hard-nosed,” Wake said. “He’s demanding. He doesn’t bite he tongue. He tells you how it is. … I love it. It’s a man’s game and there is no room for softness, especially the d-line. This is not quarterbacks, this is not receivers.”
But will Kocurek’s voice make it through training camp?
“No,” Wake said. “It has already taken a hit. He’s going to have to get some tea or some honey.”