How Vic Fangio can improve Dolphins' defense as coordinator in 2023

David Furones, South Florida Sun-Sentinel on

Published in Football

In order for soon-to-be Dolphins defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to transform the Miami defense back into a unit feared across the league, he’ll have to fix what didn’t work well in 2022.

The Dolphins finished the regular season 30th in takeaways, 27th in pass defense, 24th in scoring defense and third-down defense and 18th in total defense, ultimately leading former defensive coordinator Josh Boyer to be fired. This for a unit that was expected to build upon an impressive second half of 2021 through continuity — outside of former coach Brian Flores.

Fangio, who is set to accept Miami’s defensive coordinator position after Sunday’s Super Bowl, can really stand to improve the Dolphins defense in the areas of forcing turnovers, getting off the field on third downs and fostering a unit that’s not so reliant on the blitz as it was under Boyer. If he does those things, along with maintaining what the Dolphins already excel in — like run defense — and everything else should fall into place.

When Fangio was AP Assistant Coach of the Year with the 2018 Chicago Bears, a season as defensive coordinator that led him to break through into the head coaching ranks the ensuing offseason with the Denver Broncos, Fangio’s defense was able to pressure opposing quarterbacks without blitzing.

The Bears that season ranked third in sacks with 50. They pressured quarterbacks at a 26.7-percent rate, according to Football Reference, which ranked in the top half of the league. Meanwhile, their 20.3 blitz percentage was 10th-lowest.

Fangio’s blitz percentages were in a similar range with a small uptick in three seasons as Broncos head coach: 24.1 in 2019, 27.9 in 2020 and 25.3 in 2021. Although only a defensive consultant with the Super Bowl-bound Philadelphia Eagles this season, that defense produced an awe-inspiring 70 regular-season sacks, which was third-most in NFL history. The unit reached that figure by blitzing just 22.1 percent of the time.


The Dolphins were second in blitz percentage in 2020 (40.8) and 2021 (39.6), Boyer’s first two seasons as defensive coordinator. For a number of reasons, he had to drop that rate to 33.3 percent this past season, but that still ranked third in the league.

Never having cornerback Byron Jones available to play opposite Xavien Howard — and Howard being hampered by injuries — limited the effectiveness of Boyer’s blitzes. He didn’t have the same caliber of man coverage on the boundary to free up extra defenders on the pass rush. He lost safety Brandon Jones during the season, and that took away one of his favorite tools with Jones’ knack for the safety blitz.

The blitz patterns became predictable and often untimely. As opposing offenses figured them out, Boyer tried to adjust the way he called his defense — leading to that decrease in blitz rate — but he simply wasn’t as effective when forced out of his comfort zone.

Fangio’s scheme creates confusion by causing the quarterback to make post-snap reads. Historically, his defensive looks start the same, primarily in the two deep safety shell, but his coverages vary. His calls won’t be tipped off as often to opponents before the snap with versatility out of the same base look. That lack of predictability could take care of the takeaways that need to increase and avoid the reliance on the blitz. In turn, that makes key third downs more difficult to pick up when offenses aren’t as privy to defensive tendencies.


swipe to next page

©2023 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus