Offensive Line: The Forever Issue
There can be zero debate over the fact that all of the offense’s so called “skill” positions are totally dependent on the Offensive Line’s production.
So it’s interesting to read Sun-Sentinel sports writer Chris Perkins say “the Phins have six starting quality Offensive Linemen.”
Really. It’s a current quote. Honest Injun, I’m not making that up.
And at the same time fellow Sun-Sentinel sports writer David Hyde asks, “Why the offensive line can never get rebuilt?”
Really. It’s a current quote. Honest Injun, I’m not making that up.
How bi-polar is that?
But, it’s just a symptom of the madness that has spread from the Dolphins Front Office to the beat writers.
As Hyde points out, “Fifteen years, it’s still under construction” …the Miami Dolphins offensive line. That’s Dave Wannstedt days with a Jimmy Johnson built Offensive Line. Only a few short years after Don Shula was forced out. That long. Were Hula Hoops still the in-thing?
Maybe Hyde should talk to Perkins–or vice-versa. It’s time to get this point straight because they appear as confused as the Dolphins …about the Offensive Line.
And it is Offensive …to this fan, at least.
Let’s consider the current players under contract:
Current LT: Laremy Tunsil is a work in progress.
Tunsil spent his rookie year at LG where Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded him at 70.6 as “solid, if unspectacular”. He moved to LT this season where most expected him to excel at his natural position.
But heading into the final game of the season against the Bills PFF said this, “Tunsil has struggled this season, as his overall grade of 59.5 puts him 47th out of 87 qualified offensive tackles. His pass-blocking efficiency of 95.6 ranks 27th out of 81 offensive tackles and he has allowed seven hits, tied for the 12th most in the NFL.”
This doesn’t even take into account his issues with penalties, which Hyde points out, “Eight of his team-high 10 penalties are pre-snap — including seven false starts and one illegal formation. That accounts for 24 percent of the team’s issues.”
One player 24%!!!
But according to Perkins, he’s a “starting quality OL” …or is he what Hyde sees as “under construction”.
Current LG: Ted Larsen is NOT a Left Guard
PhinsNews.com blogger M.J. did a film study on Larsen back in July (check the article here ) and had this to say: “I think it’s a real reach to expect him to be a starting Left Guard. He lacks the ability, physical measurements, and skill set that generally typifies the requirements for the position.”
At best he’s a RG and probably only a back-up even then– of course the coke head, ex OL coach might disagree. Larsen is a case study in why the phins should not be renting over-the-hill-rejects from other teams to solve critical needs. PFF graded him overall 39.4 for the season.
Kudos to M.J. and PhinsNews for getting it right even back then. Pity the phins paid it no heed. But according to Perkins, he’s a “starting quality OL” …or is he what Hyde sees as “under construction”.
Truth be told, we have no one on the roster that is a starting quality Left Guard …and we absolutely must, some how, find one this off season.
Current C: Mike Pouncey …a once great Center
The numbers don’t lie. Mike Pouncey was once upon a time, a Pro Bowl Center for the Dolphins, a rock in the middle of the OL that could pass protect with the best, and run block so well the OC could game plan around Pouncey routinely getting to the 2nd level.
No more. Pouncey’s hips took enough punishment that he started missing games and finally had repeated surgery to repair them. It doesn’t take a great pay per head sportsbook to know Pouncey simply hasn’t regained all of his previous abilities.
Jets HC Bowles exposed him for all to see.
Its not just that he can no longer be counted on to get to the 2nd level, he can’t hold a block on a power rush. Though Pouncey can still pass block with the best, his loss of run blocking ability makes him a one-dimensional liability on a team designed to run the ball. Pouncey’s pass-blocking grade of 80.2 ranks 3rd among all centers but his run-blocking grade of 46.5 ranks 26th, the worst of his career.
Is Pouncey still under construction?
According to Perkins, he’s a “starting quality OL” …or is he what Hyde sees as “under construction”.
The ugly truth is that Pouncey is no longer worth the 9 mil he is due in 2018. He will probably take a cut or be released. Which means that we need to find a “starting quality” Center in the off-season. Either to backup Pouncey for a development year or replace him if he’s cut. That decision lies with the coaches’ evaluating whether or not he can regain his hip strength and thus, his run blocking abilities.
Current RG: Jesse Davis may just be an answer at RG…LG…RT?
Davis was fixing farm equipment this time last year. Still dreaming about playing in the NFL. What a difference a year can make. Davis found his way to the Dolphins practice squad via Seattle and NYJ. He started at LG after Larsen, Urbik, and Steen all went down to injuries. He’s not a natural LG. His PFF stats confirmed that.
Larsen came back at LG. Davis moved to RG replacing the injured Bushrod. The rest is, as they say, history. His PFF grades soared. As did those of the players on either side of him. Its a short tenure so far and he will have to earn it all over again this off-season. But PhinsNews feels good about Davis’ long term prospects at RG. And if James is cut, at RT. That’s one for Perkins and one less “under construction. We hope.
Current RT: Ja’wuan James …the Offensive Line’s enigma
Miami picked up James 5th year option, at $9.3 mil, just eight months ago. They could very well rescinded the option, making him a UFA for 2018. The hallmark of James 2017 season at RT was inconsistency. One game he was the highest PFF graded RT, next game …not so much. Coaches go crazy trying to game plan around that type of production. Then he suffered a hamstring injury which was more serious than first thought and finished the season on IR.
Negotiating a lower priced contract is possible, but the smart money is on James leaving. The market for experienced, starting RTs is wide open. James can probably command more elsewhere.
Future RT: Sam Young? Maybe maybe.
Sam Young, stepping in at RT, delivered a WOW! performance against Buffalo. He allowed one hurry in 55 pass-blocking snaps for an overall PFF game grade of 82. Then he did it again and again. The lights suddenly came on for this 30 year old career backup …maybe. It could be that Jesse Davis playing at RG boosted Young’s play at RT. Either way, Young is a Free Agent now, and given his performance, he might get a shot to start elsewhere.
And then there was the Coke Head: the Offensive Line Coach
We expect an offensive line to play better together as the season progresses–allowing for the inevitable injuries. This season, they didn’t. Then one October day, the net lit up with a video of the Phin’s Offensive Line Coach. The video showed him sniffing a white powder. A lady of questionable virtue accompanied him. He resigned. While there was no miraculous overnight transformation, the OL started producing results.
When Ajayi was traded and Drake stepped up, the offensive line started making some holes. Not dominating, but producing. With Larsen off IR at LG and Davis/Young starting on the right side, they were back to being, at least, slightly competitive …Hyde’s “under construction”
So here’s the thing about the Offensive Line
Tannehill will almost certainly open the season at QB …gimpy knee and all. The current Offensive Line roster has maybe 2-3 starters able to protect him. The Dolphins will depend on a run game to enable the pass. The current roster has maybe 2-3 Offensive Linemen able to run block competently.
Question: How long does Tannehill last in that scenario?
Maybe the question should be: After 15 years, are we finally going to build an entire Offensive Line?