Dolphins coaches place emphasis on CBs getting ‘one step closer’ to WRs

DAVIE — The Dolphins’ cornerbacks have had a difficult time staying in close proximity to receivers while in coverage in their last two games. Opposing quarterbacks are completing nearly 80 percent of their passes and defensive coordinator Matt Burke would clearly like to have more pass breakups.

While Dolphins’ cornerbacks have generally been in position to make plays on the football they have just one pass breakup on the season, which is why Burke has been preaching the same message ad nauseum to members of his secondary.

 “The thing I always tell those guys, even in practice, I just tell them give me one more step,” Burke said. “Let’s get one step closer and if you keep doing that – one step closer, one step closer – they probably hate me. I keep saying that on repeat out there. Again, whether it’s putting hands on them or just one step quicker out of your breaks – all of those things – that’s all I preach to these guys. Just give me one more step. You’re in the right spot.”

 To be fair, many of the passes being completed by opposing quarterbacks are short-timing, high-percentage passes, due to the Dolphins pass rush. They must be more physical with wide receivers in order to throw off timing, which will help lower the success rate of their opponent’s passing game. However, confidence plays a major part in a cornerback’s comfort level with being more aggressive with wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. One way to gain more confidence is studying film in order to become more familiar with at team’s tendencies on offense.

 “Part of what we do all week in the film study is understanding ‘Here is this guy’s split. Here’s the stem he’s coming off on the route. What am I expecting off that? Or I’ve seen this before?’ Again, that’s part of what those guys have to do in terms of studying their opponents and the receivers they’re going to line up across and those sort of things. That’s absolutely part of all of it, for sure.”

Coach Adam Gase also believes that the defensive backs need to be more physical with wide receivers, but he also knows it’s easier said than done.

 It’s one of those things that’s easy to say, tough to do, because you’re on an island a lot,” Gase said. “You’re exposed. [If] you get beat, there’s no doubt who got beat. It takes some – you know what I want to say – but to go up and challenge a guy and play one-on-one and be aggressive and challenge balls, you have to be right in your technique. You have to understand what the scheme is, you have to understand what you’re doing on defense.”

While in Denver, Gase bore witness to exceptional cornerback play when Aqib Talib successfully defended 16 passes thrown his way, finishing the 2014 season with four interceptions. Talib wouldn’t have had the type of success that he’s had in his career if he didn’t play with a tremendous amount of confidence. Burke and Gase are doing all they can to help their cornerbacks become more confident in what they’re seeing so that they might be able to make more plays on Sunday.

“The guys that are the best ones I’ve ever been around, they are aggressive and they don’t have a conscience about anything,” Gase said. “If they get beat, they don’t care. ‘Hey, I got beat, I’ll fix it,’ and they go on to the next one. I mean they care at the fact that they just got beat, but they’re not going to hang on it and they’ll learn from the experience. The best ones I’ve been around have done that. That’s what we’re encouraging our guys [to do], ‘Hey, be aggressive.’ I like that. That’s one of the qualities I really like about Matt is he’s trying to instill that in our defense of if we want to be a great defense, we’ve got to be aggressive.”

 

Brandon Howard joined the Sports Talk Florida team to cover the Miami Dolphins in April 2017 and will work diligently to provide daily Dolphins content and give accurate analysis of the roster, coaching and front office. Last season, Howard was the curator of content for Miami Dolphins Wire/ USA Today while aggregating high school sports results in Broward and Palm Beach counties for the Sun Sentinel. Prior to moving to South Florida Howard developed NFL content for Pro Player Insiders while covering the Cleveland Browns from 2014-2015. Howard, a Columbus, Ohio native graduated from West Virginia in 2004 in Athletic Coaching and Education. He also was a scholarship track and field athlete and walk-on football player. Howard was the 2003 Big East Long and IC4A long jump Champion and was a provisional national qualifier in the event. He also maintained his status as a member of the Athletic Director Academic Honor Roll during his time as a Mountaineer.