I don't have NFL replay, but after watching the game today, I am of the mind that our problems on defense start in the middle. Namely, with Rey Maualuga. Before anyone thinks this is just a hate rant against Maualuga, just please read first. Maybe I'm wrong, but what I saw today convinced me. And I'm not saying he is the only problem, just the key problem.
I'm not a Maualuga hater and have held out hope that he would turn into the answer at MLB, but his horrible play recently has been just too obvious.Rey Maualuga is our middle linebacker, our MIKE, our "quarterback of the defense".
There is only one inside linebacker in the 4–3 scheme, so he is called the Middle linebacker (MLB), sometimes known as the "Mike" linebacker. He must be as smart as he is athletic, acts as the "quarterback of the defense" and is often the defensive leader.
Rey has not been showing any of these qualities that a middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense should have. Smart? He usually just looks confused out there. Athletic? He looks slow and weak. A couple of weeks ago, his attempt at getting to a runner and making the tackle looked like a jog up to the runner and a pat on the shoulder as he went by. Today, he ran next to the runner, while he got a few more yards before stepping out of bounds.
The primary responsibility of the "Mike" is to stop the run, though he will often be asked to fall back in zone coverage in pass protection; man to man pass coverage has him assigned to the fullback typically. The MLB is often the largest and strongest of all of the linebackers.
Stopping the run, he's usually 5 to 10 yards late. Pass coverage, he is usually non-existent. Yes, he's in plays at times, but he's hardly ever, if ever, the one making the play.
The 4–3 defense relies on having a sure tackler at the middle linebacker spot. Most notably, Tony Dungy's "Tampa Cover 2" scheme makes high demands on the MLB, requiring him to have above-average speed, and additional skills to be able to read the play and either maintain his central position to help the outside linebackers cover short passes, drop behind the linebackers in coverage and protect the zone of the field behind the outside linebackers from 11–20 yards out, or run up to the line of scrimmage to help assist in stopping the runs.
I pointed out a couple of points above, when talking about the MLB needing to be smart and athletic, showing how "sure" of a tackler Rey is. He definitely doesn't have, or doesn't use, above average speed. He's always late to the play, or not getting there at all. I don't think he can read the play at all. I'm no MLB, but Rey doesn't look like he knows what he is doing out there.
Watching the game today, I noticed that the Dolphins weren't able to do much of anything until they started attacking the middle of the field. Rey Maualuga's responsiblity. Yes, he should have safety help, but he's responsible for the area that Miami started to attack.
Rey eventually makes a good stop of Miami's RB, Daniel Thomas, coincidentally ringing his own bell in the process. While many of us have wanted Rey out of the game, an injury is not the way I want to see someone pulled. However, after Rey was pulled, our defense locked down in the middle. I'm not sure, but I think they may have moved Burfict to the middle (or it's just my hope that he will be our answer at MLB soon) and the difference was phenomenal. Passes weren't completed over the middle, runs were getting stopped at the LOS. If it weren't for the PI by Newman, we'd have gotten the ball back much sooner there at the end. Of course that wouldn't make a difference if Andy throws an interception, but that extra time might have been just enough to settle everyone down and play good ball on their final drive.
My point on the last part of the previous paragraph, was that our D played much better after Rey was pulled out of the game and minus the PI, would have had the stop against Miami earlier than they got it.
There are always going to be mistakes made by individuals, but there comes a time when you have to look for the actual source of the problem. Rey Maualuga is basically supposed to be the "lynch pin" of our defense. If your lynch pin is broken, the whole ensemble is weakened. Start there, fixing the lynch pin, and then you can actually determine where the other problems are and work on fixing all the other moving pieces and parts.