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Dolphins Q&A: Can Miami hire offensive-minded coach and keep defensive assistants?

Sun Sentinel logoSun Sentinel 1/11/2022 David Furones, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Here’s the latest installment of our Miami Dolphins Q&A, where South Florida Sun Sentinel writers David Furones and Omar Kelly answer questions from readers.

Q: Do you think there’s a chance that they could hire a new coach who would keep some of the defensive staff, given that the defense is our current strength? — Patrick Dillon on Twitter

A: This seems like the natural, preferable direction to go, considering the Dolphins defense is already in a great place.

Oftentimes, however, a new head coach is going to build his staff the way he envisions it and will come into a new situation with assistants he has already worked with or has a relationship with.

Dolphins owner Steve Ross and general manager Chris Grier may be leaning offense with this hire. The first two known interview requests and three of the first five went to offensive coordinators that will be coaching playoff games this weekend.

In this case — and especially if the hypothetical new coach with an offensive background doesn’t have a slew of quality defensive assistants lined up to come with him — it would make sense to retain as much of this defensive staff as possible.

Led by defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, the unit stood out at every level from the line to the secondary, especially in the second half when Miami ranked in the top 10 of most defensive categories. The seven-game winning streak, albeit mostly against subpar quarterbacks, really exhibited how the defensive personnel fits perfectly into what Boyer wants to do. The cornerbacks can be trusted in single coverage, freeing up extra defenders — even safeties, as we so often saw — to blitz.

Continuity would be great. Defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander has quickly worked well with the rookie and second-year safety combination of Jevon Holland and Brandon Jones. Jaelan Phillips and Andrew Van Ginkel have made strides under outside linebackers coach Rob Leonard. Anthony Campanile has done a fine job with a linebacker corps led by Jerome Baker. Austin Clark had defensive tackle Christian Wilkins lead all NFL defensive linemen in tackles and got exceptional play from Emmanuel Ogbah and Zach Sieler, with nose tackle Raekwon Davis key in stopping the run. Cornerbacks coach Charles Burks was gifted Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, but he has also gotten Nik Needham to continue to develop.

Depending on who is next at the helm, that coach could bring in someone he feels strongly about at certain positions while maybe keeping top assistants where he doesn’t have a slam-dunk coach.

That’s an ideal scenario. Now, we also have to look at the other factor of Brian Flores taking some of those defensive coaches with him at his next stop. Flores already has an interview lined up with the Chicago Bears and more are expected to follow as he will be a hot commodity for another NFL coaching vacancy after back-to-back winning seasons.

Boyer goes back with Flores for years in New England. He was with the Patriots since 2006 before following Flores to Miami, first as defensive pass game coordinator and cornerbacks coach in 2019 before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 2020.

Alexander joined the Dolphins in 2020, and Flores gave him his first crack at being a position coach in the NFL. Campanile has a similar story after time as a college position coach. Clark came from the college ranks in 2020, as well. Leonard was with Flores since Flores’ first year, coming over from the Giants. Burks was a coaching assistant his first two years with the Dolphins before a promotion to cornerbacks coach.


Video: Florio: Dolphins vacancy not an attractive job (NBC Sports)

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Many of them could go with Flores to his next destination or they might be granted an opportunity by the next coach to stay in Miami. Then, it would be up to them to determine what they prefer and where they feel they can build their career better.

If you flip the scenario, when Flores, a coach with a defensive background, came to the Dolphins in 2019, he had offensive hires that previously worked with him in original offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea and tight ends coach George Godsey.

The reverse could also occur with an offensive coach bringing defensive assistants he trusts, but it would be keen of this coach to at least scheme and coach the defense similar to how it was run under Flores and Boyer, given the personnel fit.

Have a question?

Email David Furones, or tag @OmarKelly or @DavidFurones_ on Twitter.

Previously answered:

Does Zach Thomas get into Hall of Fame this year?

Why not throw downfield to Waddle more?

What do Dolphins think of practice squad rookie RB Gerrid Doaks?

What free agent receiver could Dolphins pair with Waddle?

What is with Jason Sanders’ misses?

What changes could come to receiving corps in offseason?

What offensive linemen should Dolphins target in free agency?

Can Tua still be a top-10 quarterback?

Does Austin Jackson’s move to left guard bring hope?

Did franchise botch Fitzpatrick, Tunsil, Tannehill trades?

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