MIAMI GARDENS — We’re still getting to know Dolphins defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, but he turned heads once again Friday when he listed the shortcomings for his defense.
I have no problem with Fangio’s candor. In fact, I like it.
But I thought the defense, which had a good day in Saturday’s scrimmage, was coming along pretty well, and showing some promising depth.
Fangio’s media session on Friday, however, caused questions to start creeping into my thoughts about this defense.
Coach Mike McDaniel isn’t concerned about his defense or Fangio’s candor.
“When we were fortunate enough to hire Vic, I didn’t enter into the marriage, like, ‘Oh, there’s another guy exactly like me,’ ” said McDaniel, a positive, “up with people” type of coach.
“These are things that I think help the football team and when Vic is saying that, he’s not saying anything negative. He’s being bottom line, that you have to earn jobs, which I agree with.”
It’s important to note Fangio is optimistic about the defense overall. He likes this crew.
“We have some good talent in some positions,” he said. “We need to find guys to be able to execute and play good in all 11 positions. And we’re working to get that done. So we’re not a finished product by any means, but I do like where we’re headed.”
It’s also important to note Fangio, the highest-paid assistant coach in the NFL, doesn’t seem the type to sugarcoat the truth.
Fangio’s candor is both refreshing and attention-getting. Tight ends coach Jon Embree is the same way. Before that, you might have to go back to former defensive coordinator Vance Joseph (2016) to find such brutal honesty on a Dolphins coaching staff.
On Friday, Fangio, almost echoing his thoughts from minicamp, said cornerbacks Noah Igbinoghene and Cam Smith aren’t where they need to be right now.
“I think both of them are making good progress,” Fangio said. “They’re not where we need them to be just yet, but I think both of them are working hard and giving us good progress and hopefully by game one, one of them or somebody else will surface and take that position.”
Fangio was asked about the possibility of using a three-safety lineup that includes Jevon Holland, newly-acquired DeShon Elliott and Brandon Jones, who is recovering from last year’s season-ending knee injury.
“Not right now,” he said. “We’re still looking for the guy to surface next to Jevon, so once we find that, we’ll see if we have a third one.”
Fangio was asked about newly-acquired linebacker David Long Jr., who seemed to have a good day last week.
“He’s had ups and downs,” Fangio said. “He’s made some really good plays, and then some other plays that we need to get him honed-in on better. And he’s working hard to do that. But you can’t just have flash plays. You’ve got to have good plays all the time.”
Fangio was asked about nose tackle.
“We’re happy with Zach (Sieler), Christian (Wilkins) and Raekwon (Davis),” he said. “We need to find two other guys, three other guys, to surface as the fourth, fifth, and sixth defensive linemen, and so far nobody has done that. So that’s an area we need to get better at.”
So, that’s cornerback, safety, linebacker and nose tackle where there are limitations. Wow.
The defense did lots of good things in Saturday’s scrimmage. It had at least nine sacks, at least three interceptions, at least two passes tipped at the line of scrimmage, and caused lots of offensive disruption.
Fangio had lots of praise Friday. He acknowledged guys such as Wilkins and Holland, defensive linemen Sieler and Davis, and edge rushers Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips as players who are doing a good job, progressing well and leading the defense. He also had praise for inside/outside linebackers Andrew Van Ginkel and Emmanuel Ogbah.
But when it came to guys such as cornerback Eli Apple and safety/cornerback Trill Williams, Fangio said he’s unsure because he hasn’t seen much of them.
And when asked about linebacker Channing Tindall, last year’s third-round pick, Fangio, once again, was brutally honest.
“Channing is working every day to get better and get a better understanding of the defense,” Fangio said. “Once he gets a better understanding, I think his talent will flourish.”
I like Fangio, and I like his candor.
But I’ve got to admit, I’m still in an adjustment period on hearing the cold, hard truth about this defense.