Armando Salguero

A new plan at safety for Dolphins and why Williams and Maxwell are playing better

Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, center, is using a variety of players to make up for the loss of safety Reshad Jones.
Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, center, is using a variety of players to make up for the loss of safety Reshad Jones. AP

Lots going on this week around the Miami Dolphins so lets tie it together a little bit, shall we?

Start with my column about defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and the defense. If you want to know exactly where Joseph believes this defense is right now — today — please check out the column. Joseph explains why he doesn’t think the defense is good yet.

Some newsy notes from my interview with Joseph that didn’t make it into print because, well, space crunch ...

Joseph told me the Dolphins have been hurt by the loss of “Number 20,” as he calls him. That’s Reshad Jones. And he said the only way to sorta, kinda replace him is “safety by committee.”

It is going to be a committee of three going forward, according to Joseph. (That’s right, three guys replacing Reshad Jones).

The Dolphins will be using Isa Abdul-Quddus, Michael Thomas, and Bacarri Rambo — so I would expect Rambo to be active on Sunday.

And their duties will be as follows:

“We’ve got Isa who’s really smart and great close to the box,” Joseph said. “Michael is a good blitzer and better in coverage. And Rambo is a helluva of a high safety."

So when the Dolphins bring a safety down it will be Abdul-Quddus. When they’re in Cover 2, it should be Thomas in there. And when they’ve got a single high safety, Bacarri should get some snaps.

"So between those three guys we can split those duties and get good safety play,” Joseph said.

Vance Joseph Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator talks about the competition for positions and the play of linebacker Kiko Alonso.

MARIO RETURNING TO STARTING LINEUP?

Don’t expect Mario Williams to get his starting DE job back anytime soon, even though he’s playing much better the past two weeks. The reason?

Because the Dolphins believe Williams is playing better, in part, because he’s playing less.

“When Mario was a young guy, he was a freak,” said Joseph, who coached Williams with the Houston Texans. “So he was a young guy and he could go at 60 percent and still be better than most. He's no longer that 23-year-old first pick of the draft. He's a little older now so he's got to work a little more. And that's ok.

“So I think Mario understands now that playing 30 plays at 100 percent he helps us win versus 55 plays at 50 percent. So Mario playing less but playing harder helps us win. Sometimes you can't play that hard for 50 plays at a certain stage of your career.”

The Dolphins believe Williams has hit a point in his career where he can’t go full tilt for 55 plays. Maybe he never could. But when he was younger, he could take some plays off and still be productive. He cannot do that anymore. So instead of playing 55 plays and taking 20 off, he’s now going to be playing 30-35 and he better be full tilt on all of those.

One thing: It will be interesting to see if Williams gets so comfortable in his current role that he starts taking some of those 30 or so plays off. Then there will be a problem.

MAXWELL IMPROVING

I now have a better understanding why it was Byron Maxwell was playing so poorly earlier in the year ...

Stated simply, he wasn’t familiar enough with the defense to make it work for him.

The way it was explained to me, Maxwell played best in Seattle because they asked him to do the same thing every single play. The Seahawks made Maxwell a Cover 3 cornerback on the right side every single time.

But the Dolphins play multiple coverages and Maxwell simply wasn’t getting that.

“He has to understand how the coverage works to benefit him and he wasn’t sure,” Joseph said, “and now he’s sure. I think he knew what he was doing. But he didn’t know exactly where his help was and how each call would help him play better. It’s different than playing Cover 3. Now he understands how it will help him. And he’s playing well with his mind again.

“I told him, ‘Bro, you’re going to be somewhat of an older corner one day. And how you survive is with your mind, not your legs. So he’s learning to play with his mind.”

Miami Dolphins' cornerback Byron Maxwell, a member of the 2013 Super Bowl winning Seattle Seahawks, talks about facing his former team Seattle on Sept. 6, 2016

KIKO TRADE PAYING OFF

The column gives you the list of players who are ballin’ for the Miami defense and a couple who, ahem, are not.

This week also kind of shed light on two defensive players -- Maxwell and Kiko Alonso -- when Brandon Marshall said the Miami trade with Philadelphia was not a good one for Miami.

The Dolphins would beg to differ, particularly as it pertains to Alonso. He leads the team in tackles, has two of Miami’s three fumble recoveries and is tied for the team lead in tackles for loss.

“I feel like I’m playing well,” Alonso said. “I feel like my body is back to 100 percent. But I always think I can play better.”

What can Alonso get better at?

“I can’t point out one thing. I think everything,” he said. “For me it’s cleaning up little detials, little things that could help me and help the defense succeed.”

Vance Joseph Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator talks about the competition for positions and the play of linebacker Kiko Alonso.

Interestingly, the Dolphins designate Alonso a middle linebacker but he freely admits the scheme has him “playing outside the box all the time. So what really is an inside or middle linebacker?,” he said.

Alonso played outside his rookie year in Buffalo and has been a middle linebacker for the Dolphins. Which one does he like more?

The middle.

“I like to be in the middle of things,” he said.

A reminder to follow @ArmandoSalguero on Twitter and bookmark The Mando Page for direct access to all the latest Miami Dolphins news, notes and opinion.

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