When people talked about the Dolphins' strength as a team over the
last 10 years, they always talked about Dan Marino and the offense.
It was on the strength of Marino's arm that the Dolphins went to their
last SuperBowl and it's been Marino who has been responsible for most
of the Miami victories. That is, until last year.
Oh, Marino was responsible for his share of the wins last year,
but last year the Dolphin defense was called on to do something that
it hadn't been able to do for a long time - it was called on to save
the game after the offense couldn't get it done. And they did it.
During the last 5 games of the 1992 season - including the playoffs
- the Dolphin defense gave up only 4 touchdowns. They played their
best football when it counted the most. And they did all of this
without John Offerdahl. In fact, probably the worst thing you could say
about the defense last year was that they made a lot of mistakes
because they were very young - the youngest defense in the AFC. And
this year, they are all back.
Oh, and there was one other thing that the defense showed last
year that had been lacking from Dolphin defenses of the recent past -
aggressiveness. Even though John Offerdahl was gone, the hard
charging play of Bryan Cox and Marco Coleman in particular and the
rest of the defense in general brought a new life to the whole team.
This year, the defense remains essentially intact from last
season, with the added benefit of a year's experience to pull the
defense together and season the rookies. Tom Olivadotti, the
defensive coordinator, has called this group the most talented that
he's seen since he's been in Miami. And in case you haven't heard,
Olivadotti has officially changed the Miami defense to a 4-3
alignment. This is more in recognition of the realities of last
season than any serious defensive philosophy change.
But I've babbled long enough. So, without further ado, here is
the Dolphin starting lineup for 1993:
Starting at LEFT DEFENSIVE END is Jeff Cross. Cross, at 6'2" and
274 lbs, did not have a good season last year, being essentially
ineffective at defensive tackle, where he played most of the season.
However, he has had a good preseason this year, recording 1 sack and 1
forced fumble and has beaten out David Griggs for the starting spot.
Cross, who lead the Dolphins for 3 seasons in sacks and made the
Pro-Bowl at right defensive end in 1990 was moved back to defensive
end in the off-season and could be ready for a return to top form. If
he keeps up his preseason effort, he could be the best left defensive
end the Dolphins have had in a long time.
Next to Cross is Chuck Klingbeil, playing the position the
Dolphins call NOSE TACKLE, but that could be called defensive tackle.
Klingbeil was a surprise starter last season after Shawn Lee was
waived and Alfred "I was ***ped!" Oglesby fell into disfavor with
the coaches. I have always liked Klingbeil, but like Rodney
Dangerfield, "he don't get no respect". Klingbeil played in the
Canadian football league where he was named the Most Valuable Player
on defense for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in their "SuperBowl" (The
Grey Cup) and last year, he was one of the main reasons that the
Dolphins ended up 7th in the league against the rush.
The strongest man on the team, one of the major complaints about
Klingbeil is that he has been too small to play nose tackle. Well,
this year he has bulked up to 295 lbs. Between his increased weight,
his strength and his experience, he should continue to do what he did
last year - plug the middle and keep opposing teams from running
inside. Not bad for a guy who wasn't even drafted into the NFL.
Helping him out at DEFENSIVE TACKLE will be Larry Webster. Last
year, Webster didn't start, but did play in all 16 games as a
substitute, where he recorded 1.5 sacks, including the crucial 4th
quarter sack against the Patriots in the last regular season game. He
was drafted in the 3d round in 1992 and impressed the coaches with his
aggressiveness and pass rushing ability and at 6'5" and 295 lbs, he
should prove to be a solid addition to the defensive line.
At RIGHT DEFENSIVE END, we have Marco Coleman. Last year, Coleman
brought some badly needed fire to the defense. He didn't start off
the year last year all that well, until someone decided to move him
from linebacker to defensive end. Then he caught fire. He finished
second on the team with 6 sacks and third on the team in tackles with
66. Originally thought of as possibly being a "tweener" (too small to
play defensive end and too slow to play outside linebacker), Coleman
showed up his critics by being named NFL Rookie of the year by Sports
Illustrated and Defensive Rookie of the year by the Football News.
Behind Coleman, playing RIGHT OUTSIDE LINEBACKER, we have the real
success story of 1992 for the Dolphin Defense - Bryan Cox. Cox (6'4",
241 lbs) finished first on the team in tackles with 127, first in
sacks with 14 and had 5 forced fumbles, 1 INT, and one fumble recovery.
He was voted the starting outside linebacker for the AFC in the Pro-Bowl.
His 14 sack season was the third best by a Dolphin and the best ever by
a Dolphin linebacker. Cox's enthusiasm for the game on the field and
his aggressiveness have been major forces in making the defense very
tough. The only thing that Bryan Cox has to watch out for is
fighting. Since he was raised in the ghettos of East St. Louis, he
never shys away from a fight. Hopefully, this will never get him
thrown out of a game.
Next to Cox, at the newly created MIDDLE LINEBACKER position, we
have John Offerdahl at 6'3" and 238 lbs. There are two things to say
about John Offerdahl - he's one of the best middle linebackers in the
game and he's prone to injury. On the plus side, Offerdahl has been
named to 5 Pro-Bowls in his 7 previous seasons. On the minus side, he
hasn't played a complete season for the Dolphins since 1990. The
importance of Offerdahl to the team can't be overemphasized. Oh, the
defense plays well without him, but they can be truly dominating with
him. When Offerdahl is in the game, you know it. After the Dolphins
beat the bills 37-10 last October, Marv Levy said "It was Offerdahl
who really hurt us".
At LEFT OUTSIDE LINEBACKER is John Grimsley. In my opinion,
Grimsley, at 6'2" and 236 lbs, is the biggest question mark on defense
for the Dolphins. Back in 1988, when he was with the Oilers, he was
named to the Pro-Bowl. However, after he was acquired by the Dolphins
in a trade, he injured his knee and sat out the entire 1991 season.
Last year, he was active for 14 games, but only started 11 of them.
He seemed tenative last year and appears to be slow. The coaches,
however, must see something, because Grimsley is the starter, ahead of
Well, that completes the front seven. If the Dolphins are to be a
true force on defense this year, these seven guys must play very well
together. They must stop the run and put pressure on the passer.
With 4 current or former Pro-Bowlers and Marco Coleman in the front
seven, they should be able to accomplish this and propel the Dolphins
towards an outstanding season.
Next on my agenda are the defensive backs and the extra-special
special teams players - in part 2 of the Dolphin Defense. Don't miss it!
And that about does it for now...
Curt "I always pick the Dolphins - ESPECIALLY against Buffalo!" Fennell
DOLFAN in New England.
'72 Dolphins - The perfect team in the perfect season - 17-0