Five on the ‘Phins
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - There is a natural pendulum effect when it comes to coaching changes in professional sports.
When you move on from the understated, professorial type, the next guy in line is almost always all fire and brimstone.
Enter Dan Campbell, the former tough-guy, tight end under Bill Parcells, who was elevated in South Florida earlier this season, leapfrogging past ill-prepared former Eagles quarterbacks coach and current Miami offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, and unpopular defensive chief Kevin Coyle (who was also fired), in part because he was the opposite to the ineffective-class-principal type that defined Joe Philbin's stint in South Florida.
While Campbell was on staff as Philbin’s tight ends coach for three-plus years, he certainly had little in common with his former boss.
“This is my sixth season with the Miami Dolphins, and this is the most talented roster that we have had in those six years,” the new interim coach claimed at his introductory press conference. “We have plenty of talent … We have to change the culture; I have to change the culture, and that’s what I intend to do.”
It’s not easy to change a culture you actively participated in, especially when you are like a lot of the players who didn’t believe in what was going on but went along with it for the paycheck. Add that interim tag to the mix and the chances of Campbell being anything more than a placeholder for the Dolphins are slim, especially for an organization that feels it needs to make a splash in order to leave the dysfunctional label in the rear-view mirror.
About the only thing Campbell has to lean on right now is his personality which is of the alpha-male variety, a 180 from Philbin’s nebbish method which spurned a laughable locker-room environment where players bullied others and openly questioned the schemes of their superiors.
From Richie Incognito torturing Jonathan Martin all the way to Ryan Tannehill’s recent scout-team shaming, this is an organization that has let the inmates run the asylum for far too long.
“I feel like I relate to the players, I feel like that I’m somebody that understands them,” Campbell claimed. “It doesn’t mean that I’m there best friend, but because I’ve been in that locker room, and I understand what it’s like when—I’ve been at the top, I’ve been at the bottom, I understand what it’s like to hit that roller coaster, I understand what it’s like when things start going not the way that you wanted them to go and what it takes to bring people back.”
Self-confidence is a good thing and a requisite for the job but the most impressive aspect of Campbell so far is that he seems to understand there is far more to than the gig than what happens between the lines on game day.
“I feel like I’ve always been, whether it was a player or as a coach, (the type of person) that can pull the best out of people,” Campbell said. “I feel like everybody is different, no player is the same, no coach is the same and so with that, there’s different ways to motivate players. Some players - they need a kick in the rear, some players need to be patted on the back, some need to be challenged; they need to be told that they’re not good enough because that’s when they rise to the top.
“Those are going to be the things that I have to do, and I feel like that is my strength, I understand people very well, I understand players and to me that’s what I do well, that’s one of the things that I do well.”
So far the Dolphins have played harder under Campbell, although early success has been tempered with two consecutive losses.
"I think they played harder when Dan took over early in those first two games," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "When you watch them in the Texans game and the Tennessee game -- and I think there has just been some subtle changes, but nothing really drastic when you look at what they were doing in the games before that happened."
(Listen to John McMullen with 5 on the Fins and his Pick for the game)
Lazor spent a year as Kelly’s quarterbacks coach before getting the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator gig. On Sunday the Padawan will try to take care of his Jedi as Lazor has morphed some of the offensive concepts he learned under Kelly with those he used at the University of Virginia.
"I think Bill has his offense that's probably more similar to what he was doing when he was at Virginia than what he was doing when he was here," Kelly said.
Tannehill pegs it at about 25 percent, something Lazor confirmed.
Both offenses love the quick, one-read stuff with zone-read concepts, something Lazor has the big edge with because he has a true dual-threat signal caller in Tannehill. What Lazor hasn't brought is the consistent tempo Kelly wants and things have slowed down further in Miami with Campbell in charge.
“One of the very first conversations I had with the head coach (Joe Philbin) when I was called about coming here (was), ‘What did he want it to look like. We could go no-huddle every play or we can huddle up and have that as our base and have the ability to go no-huddle,’ ” Lazor said.
As more of a traditionalist Philbin chose the latter and that continues with the Parcells-like Campbell.
"He's got a great scheme," Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said of Lazor. "He's got a running quarterback who played receiver (in college) and played it well, so he's got the mobility piece. They have designed quarterback runs. There's a big bubble-screen element to it, so after the zone-read is read out, they can still hit a bubble at the end.
"So it's a really dynamic offense with shifts and motions on every play, so there's a lot of moving parts that really stretch your communication part of it. There are unique motions. So we've got to make sure that we're on top of what we're doing, but we are familiar with this offense."
Overall Lazor's offense is right in the middle of the pack at 16th overall, averaging 357.9 yards per game. The Dolphins are 12th in passing and 18th in rushing but just 21st in scoring at 21.4 points per game.
A CHIP KINDA QB
The Eagles always wear green but Kelly is likely adding even more of that color to the equation this week because the Eagles coach is no doubt a little green with envy when he watches film of Tannehill, who can throw the football and has enough functional mobility to make the read-option a viable strategy.
"He's a dual threat," Kelly admitted. "He actually played receiver before he was -- when he was biding his time. He went into Texas A&M as a quarterback, but then while their other starter was playing, they got him on the field because he was so athletic as a receiver. Then they brought him back and continued to play him at quarterback. So the fact that he can do both, you got to be real conscious of where you are in the rush lanes. And they actually have designed quarterback runs similar to playing Carolina with Cam (Newton)."
Tannehill is connecting on 64.2 percent of his passes so far this season with 13 touchdowns with nine interceptions with a passer rating of 88.7.
"He's got a lot of read options, like when you read, you can hand it, you can give it, you can keep it and you can throw the bubble," Davis added. "He's in control. He's really throwing a nice deep ball. He really impressed me when I turned on the film to watch him. In the pocket, he's calm in the pocket, he's not nervous in the pocket, and he throws the ball downfield well."'
Ndamukong Suh remains among the best three-techniques in the league and the interior of the Philadelphia offensive line will certainly have its hands full on Sunday. Since Suh entered the NFL in 2010, he has 39 sacks, the most of any defensive tackle over that span and 36 1/2 tackles for loss, also tops in that time frame.
A physical freak, Suh is a handful for even the best centers and guards in this league.
"He's playing inside defensive tackle, playing the three-technique form," Kelly said of Suh. "They're using him as an inside kid. There are two guys, you got to know about him and you got to know about Vernon (DE Olivier Vernon). They're two dynamic players, one on the edge and one inside.
UNDERRATED RUNNING GAME?
Over the last two seasons, Miami's 4.76 yards per carry is second in the NFL behind Seattle.
Generally you don't hear the name Lamar Miller, who interestingly grew up in Miami and played at the University of Miami before being drafted by the Dolphins, when people talk about the NFL's better backs the former fourth-round pick cracked the 1,000-yard barrier last season while averaging 5.1 ypc. The production has continued with 2015 as Miller is at 478 yards at the midway point and averaging 5.3 yards every time he carries it.
Miller is streaky though. Against the Titans and Texans, he carried 33 times for 308 yards and over the two games, against the Patriots and Bills, he's been bottled up, toting it 21 times for 59 yards.
973espn.com prediction: The Dolphins already got their bump from the coaching change and things have reverted back to form. That bodes well for an Eagles team set to seize control of the NFC East in the second half. Eagles 28, Dolphins 20.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @JFMcMullen.