- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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DAVIE, Fla. -- Koa Misi has played outside linebacker his entire five-year career in the NFL. Before that, Misi was a standout defensive end in college at the University of Utah.
But the Miami Dolphins are trying something with Misi this offseason that he's never done before. Misi was moved inside as Miami's starting middle linebacker. For the first time, Misi is responsible for play calls, getting the defense lined up pre-snap and stopping anything in the middle of the field.
Will the Misi experiment work?
Misi is Miami's new field general on defense. The Dolphins are hoping this improves the performance of their underachieving linebackers.
"We think he has great leadership qualities," Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said of Misi. "We think his play has certainly exemplified that over the course of period of time that I've been here. He plays football the right way, so we are going to see how we adjust to that position and how he relates to the other players at his position and the defense in general. So far he's done a nice job."
Make no mistake, the Dolphins are trying the Misi experiment out of necessity. The Dolphins hired new linebackers coach Mark Duffner this offseason to shake things up.
Miami starting linebackers Misi, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler all struggled last season amid high expectations. This trio received sizable contracts and extensions last year, but the Dolphins were ranked 24th in stopping the run and had issues defending tight ends and slot receivers in the passing game.
"I've always been open to anything," Misi said of the switch. "Like I said to these guys, since I got here, I've been switching positions. I'm always open to try something new. Like I said, if it works, it works and, if not, we'll go back to the way things were."
Will this last all season or eventually change? No one in Miami knows for sure.
But there are no early signs that Miami will go back to last year's alignment. Misi has been the starting middle linebacker in every snap the past two weeks in organized team activities open to the media. The Dolphins have been pleased with the results thus far.
"We know, in the long term, it's going to provide us with more depth regardless of whether we stay with it or not," Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. "It's hard to get a true evaluation when you're out here running around in shorts. But certainly you can start to see them getting more comfortable with the positions that they're featured in right now.
"I think so far, so good. We've been pleased with the way it's working out."