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Wolfley’s Notes: Miami Dolphins Defense

Our own Ron Wolfley, co-host of the Doug & Wolf Show on Arizona Sports 620, is also the color commentator for the Arizona Cardinals Radio Network.

Each week, Wolf pores over game film for the Cardinals’ next opponent, and makes notes for the broadcast.

This season, Wolf has been kind enough to let readers to get a look at what he sees in each week’s opponent.

Here’s Wolf’s notes on the Miami Dolphins, whom the Cardinals host in Glendale Sunday.

Miami Dolphins:


• Rush Defense per game: 84.7 (#3)

• Rush Defense per play: 2.47 (#2)

• Pass defense per game: 307 (#28)

• Pass defense per play: 7.44 (#22)

• Sacks per attempt: 3% (29) (4-sacks)

• Takeaways: 3 (3 INT) only five teams in the league have fewer takeaways

• 3rd down %: 30% (#6)

• Red Zone %: 31% (#6)

• Points per game: 22 (t14)


The Dolphins run the same front as the Eagles, a 4-3. They play the swim as well, with the backers staying inside the bubbles. They will play a 4-3 under defense in certain situations, but they prefer the over front as a change up.

They play the run well. Number 3 (84.7) in yards/game. Number 2 (2.47) in yards/play.

Front(s): 4-3 swim, 3 technique to the TE.
Coverages: Quarter, quarter, half, and Man Free or Cover 3. They will squat the corner to Larry Fitzgerald and roll the half safety over the top to Larry’s side of the field. I think they’ll do this quite a bit so it will be interesting to see what the Cards counter with.

SS and Sam (strong) and FS and will (weak) with corners backing off to play the deep half
They love to play quarter-quarter-half and play some man with the MOF closed – and did a ton of it against the Jets. I think they played so much man and jammed the box because they wanted to force Mark Sanchez to beat them, knowing the Jets didn’t have a bunch of weapons at receiver, that Sanchez has struggled and that the Jets LOVE to pound the ground!

They have a tough, aggressive front 7 and they play hard. They get off blocks well and swarm to the ball. It’s no wonder why they have been so effective against the run.

But the Dolphins have real trouble stopping the pass. They have given up big plays in the passing game and can’t get to the quarterback. They love to bring pressure and play Man Free or Cover 3, keeping a safety in the MOF.

They are a MOF closed team. They want that safety in the middle of the field, whether they’re playing man or zone.

They will play more zone when you get into obvious pass situations and try to disguise their coverages with risky alignments. I saw them line a DB over the slot and then run him off to the deep half. The Jets just missed hitting Santonio Holmes in front of the run off DB on a post. Risky. Some would say unsound. But I have seen Dick LeBeau do this very thing from time to time.

Third and Obvious:

Pressures: they like to bring five but they have no problem with bringing more. It’s tough to tell if they’re truly bringing six or it’s just a backer hugging up on a green dog. They love to bring double A-gap pressure with Safety up on LOS. They also like to rush four and play coverage.

If they need a play and it’s a critical situation, here come the Huns over the wall, Cover 0 is on the way!

Cameron Wake is their best pass rusher but plays LDE. Reminds me a lot of Leonard Little and even wears the same number. He’s a big time edge rusher and gets up the field with speed. The Cards might be concerned about that matchup over Bobby Massie, as the young guy still is developing. We’ll probably see them chip a back more to Massie’s side then to Batiste’s side. This guy gets on his horse and gets to the edge!

Like to drop off their athletic defensive ends into fire zones and bring two inside backers (double blow A-gaps). They like to bring five and they do a good job disguising where they’re coming from. They also do a great job of engaging offensive lineman and then dropping off into a fire zone.

Man, did they come after Mark Sanchez. I think they wanted to force Sanchez to be accurate, force him to make crisp passes against man coverage, and I think they’ll do the same against Kolb.

They jam the box and crowd the LOS. They will MUG their backers, walk them up over the uncovered lineman, show blitz and then bail. Against the Jets, they were all about bringing pressure or showing pressure and then bailing.

Box the Bunch: like a lot of teams, the Dolphins will play Box Cover when you get in a Bunch formation and zone it off. The squat corner has the flat, the Mike has the crosser, the safety takes the corner and the off safety has the post. The Dolphins will do this anywhere on the field.

Red Zone:

Coverages: quarters, quarter, quarter half, Cover 3, Man Free

Interesting, when you get deep in their red zone, inside the 10-yard line, they will typically do one of two things: come after you with Cover 0 or play Quarters and set up the picket fence, which seems to be the trend in the NFL.

When do they go nickel and dime?

Prefer to keep their backers on the field and won’t go to dime until the Cards go four wide. The Cards are one of the few teams in the league that still like to go with four wides.