The Miami Dolphins announced today that they will be switching from the 3-4 defense which Bill Parcells’ staff instituted, back to a 4-3 system.
It’s a surprising move considering GM Jeff Ireland has spent a significant portion of his career working under Parcells, and has been with a team running a 3-4 base defense since he and Parcells first teamed up in Dallas in 2003.
The switch indicates that the Dolphins are prepared to enter into full rebuilding mode, a process which could take up to three years. Transitioning from one defensive scheme to another is a difficult process, and it takes time to acquire the right personnel.
The one asset the Dolphins do have is depth in the front seven. They’ll need to reshuffle the lineup, but should be able to piece together a decent defensive line. The issue will be at linebacker. Karlos Dansby will return (at inside linebacker most likely), and Kevin Burnett may land in the starting lineup again by default (probably strong-side linebacker). However, the Dolphins will need to add another starter, preferably someone who is strong in coverage.
Depending on their confidence in Cameron Wake and Koa Misi’s ability to transition to defensive end, the Dolphins could target a pass rusher with their 1st-round pick. Nick Perry and Quinton Coples would be the most likely targets.
There is also an outside shot that the Dolphins could target Luke Kuechly with the 9th pick. The move would necessitate moving Dansby to outside linebacker, where he played early in his career with the Cardinals.
Ultimately it’s too early to tell which direction the Dolphins will go, but this shift in schemes could definitely shake up the draft. It will be worth keeping an eye on their transactions in the coming months to get a better idea of who has a future with the team, and who is being phased out.