The unit ranked in the top 10 in total defense, and was tied for second in red-zone defense, in 2010. Last season, the unit dropped to 15th overall, but remained one of the toughest defenses to run against and ranked sixth in the red zone and scoring.
With the team moving from a 3-4 to 4-3 defense under first-year coordinator Kevin Coyle, members of the defense think the unit has a chance to be special, Izzy Gould of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Sunday.
We've got a chance to be great," middle linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "We have a chance to be great in this defense. We have enough skill set. We have enough talent. We can make this defense work for us."
Five weeks before training camp, every unit on every team expects to play at an elite level when the lights come on in September. For the Dolphins' defense to take that next step and be as great as team captain Dansby thinks it can be, it will need someone to step up and complement Cameron Wake in the pass rush.
Wake has 22.5 of the team's 79 sacks (28.5 percent) the last two seasons. Though Wake only had 8.5 sacks in 2011, he led Football Outsiders' count in holding calls drawn with 13, including eight on passing plays. (No other defender drew more than seven holding calls.)
The team has invested early round picks in Jared Odrick (six sacks in 2011), Koa Misi (just one sack last season) and a third-round pick in 2012 on Olivier Vernon, an edge rusher who drew comparisons to Wake during the draft process, but whose sackSEER projection (a model designed to project five-year sack totals for highly drafted edge rushers) was lower than that of Derrick Shelby, one of the team's undrafted rookie additions. If one of those players steps up, the defense could be among the best in the league.