What I'm referring to is the Eagle defense, which is pictured below.
The Eagle defense consists of many positions but these are very important IMO. An inside linebacker, an Eagle linebacker (which I'll explain), a SAM linebacker, a nose guard, a free safety and two defensive ends/tackles. The cornerbacks have 1/3rd responsibility and the strong safety is moved down into the box ten to twelve times (sometimes even more) a game, like Dawkins was in Denver. Here's an image.
I've been thinking about the players we've acquired this off-season and they seem to fit in quite well in this defense. Below is a breakdown of the aforementioned positions responsibilities.
: The inside linebacker in this scheme is expected to do all the dirty work. He's asked to make plays laterally against outside runs and passes but he's also asked to take on guards. He HAS to be able to stack and shed. He needs to fit his body into the blocker, disengage off the blocker and make sure he makes the play on the ball carrier or make sure the blocker doesn't go further down the field to throw blocks.
: The Eagle linebacker is often protected by the nose tackle so he does not have to do the dirty work. The Eagle linebacker is asked to chase ball carriers down, make plays in pass coverage and get to the ball. He has to be athletic, he can be on the small side as long as he has the athleticism and range to be an asset on the defense. He has to make plays. I want to emphasize the word "has to". You want a playmaker here.
: The SAM linebacker is like a traditional 'true' linebacker in a 4-3 defense. He lines up on the strong side of the formation, aligns his foot outside the foot of the tight end, and he has the duty of covering the curl to flat areas. The curl is the middle of the field obviously and the flat area is obviously the sideline. This linebacker has to have good flexibility, he needs to be able to roll his hips, change directions, be athletic and physical simultaneously.
: The nose guard can be a bit undersized as long as he's very quick off the line of scrimmage. He needs to be able to play with great leverage and has to make plays on his feet. He needs to be an agile player that can disrupt the backfield as well as prevent the apex from getting to the second level.
: The defensive end can also be a defensive tackle, depending on what kind of Eagle defense you are running. Nolan has run the 2-4 in the past, which would have two defensive tackles lining up. In our case, we could have two defensive ends, Odrick and Langford. Here's an example of two DT's, which Nolan has done in the past.
: This is basically the Elvis Dumervil role. A pass rusher that plays on the weak side and does a tremendous job of getting up the field. He can be a smaller rusher but he needs to have a quick first step and explosiveness.
: I listed the free safety here because he's very important. He has to have very good straight line speed, has to have good range, ball skills and he has to be incredibly disciplined. This is where it will be interesting for Miami because discipline is very important in this defense due to the fact that the free safety will have 1/3 cover responsibility, which Renaldo Hill did a lot of in Denver for Nolan last year.
As I stated earlier in this post, Nolan ran a form of the Eagle defense last year when he went to 2-4 packages and I think we'll continue to see it in Miami. I just wonder if we'll expand on that package and go to more Eagle. The reason is because as I previously stated, we have the players for it. Here are some of the players that I think can fit the roles listed above.
: Channing Crowder / Tim Dobbins - This could be filled by either or both, really. I think we are going to see both of these guys get significant snaps this season. I think they like Crowder's intelligence, though sometimes I wonder what he is thinking out there, and I am positive they like the physicality that Dobbins brings. He's a thumper, as Fin Fan In Cali mentioned several times before, and I think he can handle the dirty work.
: Karlos Dansby - Dansby is the finesse linebacker that has a nose for the ball IMO. I think he does a fantastic job tracking the ball in the air and making plays on it. He's also got legit skills to drop back and cover tight ends if needed. I also think we could see AJ Edds here because of his cover skills and he has a knack for making plays in the passing lanes. I also think that Edds has another role on this team, which I'll write about next.
: Koa Misi - I really think Misi has the skills to be the SAM linebacker for us. I've seen him cover tight ends and slot receivers at Utah. I also think that he has some really good athleticism and I think he's got the hip flexibility to drop in coverage. Further, he's had experience covering the curl to flat areas and he's also willing to get dirty with the opposition. He is a physical player, despite his somewhat smaller size. I also think that AJ Edds could have a place here simply because of his cover skills. However, whilst I don't think he has the physicality to be an every down SAM linebacker like Misi can be, I think he has the cover skills to come in on pass downs.
: Randy Starks - I really think the description I wrote earlier about this position fits Starks to a tee. I think he's got it all to play the position, honestly. The nose guard can also be alternated with a nose tackle or they can be used simultaneously on the field and I think the nose is Paul Soliai / Jason Ferguson. The nose tackle position in this scheme requires the player to be a stump and he has to be able to sit on the line. I think both of them can do that to an extent.
: Jared Odrick & Kendall Langford - Watching Nolan's defense, this will be a rotational position so it will constantly change but I will just pencil in these two guys because I think they are of the most quality.
: Cameron Wake - I think they really need to help Wake develop a second move, preferably an inside move because if he is able to, he can be deadly in this position. This position is mostly downhill and pinning the ears back. The player can be in a two or three point stance, either one, but has to be able to get after the quarterback.
: Chris Clemons - I thought about Tyrone Culver here but I really think they are banking on Chris Clemons mastering the calls because if he masters them, he most definitely has the physical skills to do the job in this scheme. He has quality straight line speed, he's physical, he has pretty good ball skills IMO and he's got the range. All he needs to do is make sure he has the calls down and be disciplined. Easy to write, tough to execute, I know but it is what it is.
In conclusion, I think a lot hinges on the development of Chris Clemons and Cameron Wake. These two guys are going to be extremely important to the success of this defense this season in my opinion. When I wrote the thread on Nolan's defense against Pittsburgh in detail, I stated that it would not surprise me if we struggled against the pass again this year. The reason I wrote that is because of the two guys I listed earlier in this paragraph, Chris Clemons and Cameron Wake.