DAVIE, Fla. -- When it comes to the subject of poor preseason tackling, it’s all a matter of perspective with the Miami Dolphins.
There are some who believe the Dolphins’ tackling was so bad in last weekend's 24-20 preseason loss to the Dallas Cowboys that it must be a major point of emphasis moving forward. Others believe it's only the first exhibition game and there's no cause for concern.
Miami's coaching staff is somewhere in between. They are certainly not happy about the lack of physicality and poor tackling last week. The Cowboys ran the ball 34 times for 170 yards, averaging 5.0 yards per carry.
But it's not "code red" for Miami's defense just yet.
“I thought that the tackling was poor, very bad. [But] it’s not a-typical of a lot of first preseason games that I’ve been involved with over the years,” Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle explained Wednesday. “I seem to remember many games where we’ve come back afterwards and spoke about how poor the tackling was.
“They’ve only had one true tackling experience and that was limited in the scrimmage the week before. All of a sudden the speed of the game increases, the angles change a little bit, and the backs are running harder maybe when they do when your tagging them off and that type of thing.”
The Dolphins have not done a ton of live tackling in training camp, partially due to the rules of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. But Miami has put a lot of time into form drills. That work didn’t show up in the first preseason game.
Miami will take the field next on Friday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, where the tackling certainly will be monitored. If poor tackling continues, the Dolphins' coaching staff hinted this week they may have to make some practice changes and perhaps turn up the intensity.
“We are going to have five preseason games where we are going to have roughly 350 snaps of defense, so we’ll take a look at it,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin explained. “Obviously nobody in the building or the organization is happy with the way we tackled starting with me. But we’ve addressed it, we’ve drilled it already and we will continue to do so.”
Tackling will be essential for Miami’s defense this season, and there is plenty of time to fix the issue. This was not a problem for Coyle's group last season. So it's too early to call poor tackling a trend, especially in the preseason.
“We have to be better, and we’ve worked hard this week, both days in practice I’m not sure if you guys have noticed, we were out there doing a number of tackling drills,” Coyle said. “However, I think over the course of preseason you’ll notice the tackling will improve and that’s something I think symbolic around the league as teams get more live contact work.”