Can Duffner get best from Dolphins LBs?

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
4:30
PM ET
The turnover within the coaching staff of the Miami Dolphins continued this week. The Dolphins announced they have added linebackers coach Mark Duffner to replace George Edwards, who became defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. Miami also fired offensive coordinator Mike Sherman after the season.

Duffner’s biggest task will be getting the best out of Miami’s starting linebackers. The Dolphins spent more than $60 million in free agency last year to sign linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler to long-term contracts. However, both players struggled. The Dolphins were ranked 24th against the run, and Ellerbe and Wheeler struggled stopping defending tight ends and slot receivers over the middle.

Duffner said he evaluated both high-profile linebackers coming out of college and looks forward to working with them in 2014.

“They’re talented players and it’ll be my job to really find ways to allow that talent to get better and better, to develop that talent, to maximize their ability to be contributors with the Dolphins in particular on defense and at the linebacker position,” Duffner said of Ellerbe and Wheeler. “They are young guys that I’m excited to have to chance to coach and to teach.”

Miami also signed Koa Misi to a contract extension during the 2013 season. Therefore, the Dolphins are tied into lengthy contracts with all three starting linebackers.

Unless Miami’s new general manager wants a sizable salary-cap hit, it doesn’t appear likely there will be major changes at linebacker. The Dolphins are financially committed to the trio of Ellerbe, Wheeler and Misi -- and Duffner must make it work.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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