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Here We Go Again; Dolphins Offensive Line Remains Work in Progress

Will the Dolphins’ offensive line’s struggles continue

Two first-round, one second-round and two third-round picks and over $100 million in free agency. Since 2008, the Miami Dolphins have invested said draft selections and cash in an ever fluctuating offensive line.

Add employing head coach Tony Sparano–supposed offensive line guru–for four seasons into the mix, who conducted a game of musical chairs along the unit on an annual basis, and the Dolphins have pulled out all the stops to give themselves one of the league’s best collection of fat guys.

The result?

Let’s just say there hasn’t been much return on investment.

Despite the lucrative signings, despite the high-draft picks, the Dolphins’ offensive line just hasn’t been able to shake mediocrity. Every training camp, it seems, the team enters the season with questions aplenty regarding the unit’s ability to protect the quarterback and open up holes for the running game.

2013 has proven to be no different.

For the first time in over a decade the Dolphins could realistically have the quarterback and the playmakers to field a high-powered offensive attack. But expectations for the offense have been tempered–and understandably so.

Jake Long bolting for the St. Louis Rams with Jonathan Martin, who struggled at both tackle positions as a rookie, attempting to fill that void is the main reason for concern–and serves as the primary “but” experts refer to when evaluating the Dolphins’ chances of competing with the Patriots in the AFC East.

Martin just allowed pressure too often as a rookie–he gave up pressure on 9.41 percent of his snaps at right tackle and 10.32 percent of his snaps at left (according to Pro Football Focus).

But the concern doesn’t stop with Martin. John Jerry went down with an undisclosed injury this week. And with Lance Louis–the potential starting right guard–still not 100 percent recovered from a torn ACL he suffered last season, the Dolphins were forced to shake things up.

Richie Incognito, who has started the past three seasons at left guard, has moved over to right guard to replace Jerry. Dallas Thomas, a rookie third-round pick, has replaced Incognito at left guard despite playing the first four practices at backup left tackle. During Friday’s practice, there were four new starters–two new additions and two returning players at a new position–along the offensive line.

And here we go again.

The annual game of musical chairs that seemingly prevented any cohesion from rooting on past teams has ensued. After all these years, the Dolphins’ offensive line is still a work in progress.

Not to criticize the recent decision to move Incognito to the right side and Dallas Thomas to first-team left guard. With John Jerry banged up for an undisclosed period of time, it was apparently out of necessity.

And truth be told, the new lineup has potential to yield better results. Incognito spent the majority of his career at right guard before he came to Miami and is considered a more natural fit there. Thomas, meanwhile, was valued by the Dolphins for his ability to play left tackle in the draft, but his ceiling is higher at guard.

Potential isn’t going to cut it, though. Not on this team. Not with these expectations.

The Dolphins unloaded in free agency and were aggressive in the draft to win in 2013. They believe they’ve found their future franchise quarterback in Ryan Tannehill and have surrounded him with the talent he needs to take the next step, to help the Dolphins compete for a playoff spot.

Now, more so than ever, Miami needs a reliable offensive line.

With a shortage of weapons, quarterback Ryan Tannehill was metaphorically behind the wheel of a Taurus as a rookie. Comparably, he’ll be driving a Ferrari in year two with pass catchers like Mike Wallace and Dustin Keller in the fold.

Without adequate protection, without some consistent push up front, however, the Dolphins’ offense likely won’t even be able to pull out of the driveway. And that’s something this franchise might not be able to withstand, at least not without a further damaged brand.

Optimism has returned to the fanbase. Every seat at the Dolphins’ training facility in Davie was filled, with hundreds relegated to standing, for the team’s first practice of the season. And fans will once again pack Sun Life Stadium if this new-look squad shows promise early on.

Another disappointing season would further alienate them, though, especially considering their optimism in 2013 feels more genuine than in past seasons.

A losing campaign would be a crushing blow. And if struggles along the offensive line are the primary reason for the Dolphins’ shortcomings, looking back at everything that has been invested to shore up the unit in recent years would be like pouring salt into the wound.

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2 Responses to “Here We Go Again; Dolphins Offensive Line Remains Work in Progress”

  1. Dennis says:

    Completely agree, its so rediculous how bad Oline has been when Fins done so much to make it better AND Pouncey is a Guard now??? WTF?

  2. jose pacheco says:

    The Miami dolphins are up and coming it call rebuilding year, but the dolphins will win the AFC east……

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