DAVIE — Only four NFL teams were worse against opposing passers than the Miami Dolphins last season.
Too often, defensive backs were left speaking about their failures to execute, and more disturbingly, their failures to communicate.
It cost long-time defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo his job, part of a broad off-season coaching staff shakeup by coach Adam Gase. First-year defensive backs coach Tony Oden and assistant defensive backs coach Renaldo Hill have been hired to fix the problems.
And so far, their players are impressed.
“They’re both from (the Lions),” defensive back Bobby McCain said. “They’re both really good coaches. ‘Coach O (Oden) is a good coach and Coach Hill is a good coach. They’re both proven. I know Coach Oden has a Super Bowl ring (with the Saints). Speaking of personality, don’t take this the wrong way, but we’re all not here to be friends. We’re a family and we’re here to do a job; but as a family.”
Players say Oden and Hill are going to hold them accountable, but are also stressing interpersonal connections.
“(Oden’s) going to tell you, ‘You’re doing this wrong,’ but you know it’s out of love,” McCain said. “And if you’re doing it right, he’s going to tell you you’re doing it right and it’s out of love.., He wants to tell you the truth and we’re going to get it done. If we do something out there that’s wrong, we’ll correct it when we get in the room. Boom. Done. That way the guy behind you doesn’t do the same thing.”
Too often last season, Dolphins defensive backs were exposed doing the wrong thing. Players say the new coaches are aware and are addressing it.
“Communication,” safety T.J. McDonald said. “Communication is a big thing. I think there were some instances last year where we lacked some communication. That’s the biggest emphasis that (Oden) brings. That’s what we’re doing right now, making sure that we all communicate, we’re all on the same page, we’re all making sure that we get into a contract with each other on the field through verbal communication, hand signs, whatever it is. He definitely does a good job of stressing that. I think it’ll definitely pay off, especially big plays.”
The Dolphins were 24th in the NFL in opponent completion percentage. Too often, opponents were completing passes with great ease. Players say they believe they’ll be playing tighter coverage.
Oden believes in the talent in the defensive backs room. And really, there’s no reason this group shouldn’t be much, much better.
“Compete and get better,” Oden said. “Every day, all of these guys, we talk about every day is an interview. We can get better tomorrow or today, and keep the arrow pointing up. That’s on each person to keep working hard and let the chips fall where they may.”
Oden knows the Dolphins must find a way to allow fewer completions. But also create more turnovers. The Dolphins had only nine interceptions last season, 28th in the NFL. Miami forced only 15 total turnovers, 29th in the NFL.
“The things we talk about are if you line up behind people doesn’t mean we have to be behind them,” Oden said. “We can lead them by our actions and it all starts in the meeting room, being accountable, knowing what we need to do on defense, communicating how we need to communicate, anticipating how we need to anticipate and if we do those things, everything else will fall in line.”
Jones is a Pro Bowler. Minkah Fitzpatrick is a first-rounder. Howard is a second-rounder. Cordrea Tankersley and McDonald are third-rounders. McCain just became the NFL’s highest-paid nickel corner.
Miami needs, and should receive, better production from its secondary than it has been getting.
“We just agreed to come in there and we’ve just got to finish,” Howard said. “We’ve got to finish strong and study stuff that we had put on film and stuff last year, that again, people have seen. (Oden’s) really just telling us (to) finish and try to make plays out there.”