By now, it’s no longer news that Lou Anarumo simplified the defensive scheme in his first game as the Dolphins’ coordinator.
Fox Sports reported this week that Anarumo stuck to 10 base calls throughout the Dolphins’ smackdown of the Titans — a figure Anarumo did not dispute Thursday.
But here is some news: Why he did it.
“I think he had the mindset, with it being his first game, that [Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt] was probably going to try to attack that,” defensive tackle Earl Mitchell explained. “I think, him kind of tapering back and holding back a little back was the best thing to do, especially if teams were going to try to hurry-up him, and try to have him hurry up and make decisions.”
It worked. The Dolphins were suffocating on defense — sacking Marcus Mariota six times, forcing four turnovers (two fumbled, two interceptions) and surrendering just 299 yards.
That’s the good news. The bad: the Houston Texans, this week, now have that on tape. And — perhaps more importantly — so does Bill Belichick, whose Patriots host the Dolphins next Thursday.
Anarumo’s explanation for the shortened playbook was that he wanted his players to stop thinking and play fast.
“We’ve been paring it down over the last few weeks,” he added. “It might spike up this week and next week. It’s all about the team that we’re playing.”
The key to beating the team they’re playing this week is this: Cover Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Week.
He’s not only the Texans’ top target, he’s pretty much their only target.
Texans quarterbacks have thrown to Hopkins a staggering 90 times through six games; his 726 receiving yards are the most in the NFL through six weeks.
“He presents a boatload of problems,” Anarumo acknowledged.
Adding to them: It’s looking increasingly likely that Miami will be without cornerback Brice McCain on Sunday.
McCain missed his second consecutive practice Thursday with a knee injury; Jamar Taylor would start in his place.
Of course, the Dolphins could simply tell corner Brent Grimes to shadow Hopkins all over the field.
They’ve had a similar approach with top-tier receivers in the past. Granted, Grimes isn’t 100 percent healthy, either; he has a knee injury of his own. Still, Grimes practiced fully Thursday and will play against Houston.
“Brent is as competitive of a guy as I know,” Anarumo said. “He wants to be challenged, and in some ways, needs to be challenged. He likes the idea of doing that. It’s not going to be exclusive.”
The best way to stop Hopkins? Sack Brian Hoyer before he can throw.
Cameron Wake had a game-wrecking game against the Titans; his four sacks in the second quarter quieted doubters who believed he had lost a step after a quiet first four weeks to the season. Anarumo blamed Wake’s slow start to a pesky hamstring injury, and said that if Wake is “not 100 percent, [he’s] right close to it.”
Interim head coach Dan Campbell added that Wake’s impact Sunday was “every bit as good as he’s ever been.”
Meanwhile, the Dolphins continue to see improvement from defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh after a disappointing start to his time in Miami. After an underwhelming first couple of weeks, coaches believe he’s back playing at a high level.
As for safety Reshad Jones, whom Campbell pushed for a Pro Bowl invite before Jones’ pick-six against the Titans? Anarumo has just one criticism: No more front flips into the end zone.
“He’s not jumping into the end zone anymore,” Anarumo said. “We had a long talk about it.”