The Miami Dolphins have been searching for outside anchors on their offensive line ever since the name Webb graced the aqua and orange. Last year, the Phins made no hesitation when they signed Michigan OT Jake Long 5 days prior to the start of the draft. With year two underway for Parcells and company, Vernon Carey locked down for the foreseeable future, what else could the Oline have to show? How about improvement?
The Dolphins were weak running the ball last season out of their base offense. Right or left the team never found a groove. Despite Jake Long’s Pro-Bowl birth, the Phins couldn’t put together the kind of in your face offensive attack that Bill Parcells likes to run. They addressed the Center position in free agency, but who else will make this team a better unit as a whole?
Jake Long: Will Jake feel the sophomore slump? Not likely. If there is one thing you can say about Jake Long it’s that he learns quickly. Not schemes and defenses but from his own mistakes. Jake rarely makes the same mistake twice and his competitiveness allows him to walk off the field breaking down how to improve his game in his mind.
Last years Pro-Bowl birth was no fluke despite the fact that he was not a first ballot option. Some argued, I was one, that Jake deserved the spot that was given to Cleveland Browns’ OT Joe Thomas. Long anchored the left side of the line admirably and his switch to the RT spot outside RT Vernon Carey helped the Phins excel in the WildCat formation. It’s expected that Long will continue to get better. Barring injury, Long is the long term future for this team at the position.
Vernon Carey: Carey finished last season with a serious question mark. Where would he be playing this upcoming season? Until what would seem like hours, it appeared the answer was somewhere else. However the Phins made Carey a reasonable offer that kept him in Miami where he not only has played his NFL football but his college ball as well.
Carey is not the road grading type OT that the Dolphins normally would employ but he is very consistent. Consistency on the right side is something that they Phins have needed for a long time. Carey never wanted to leave Miami and the deal he signed prior to the start of FA will keep in Miami for another 4 years.
Strong and athletic, Carey is in no danger of losing his job but he has room to improve, something that Tony Sparano will make sure of.
Brandon Frye: Listed as a tackle on the Dolphins official roster, Frye has been getting a lot of work as the teams RG and so far has been somewhat impressive. While Donald Thomas appears to be coming back the injury that put him on IR last year, the job won’t simply be handed to him because Frye isn’t ready to give it up.
Frye could make for a very interesting option to the Dolphins considering he plays both guard and tackle. It’s that value and his improvements that make him one of the solid locks to make the roster.
Nate Garner: Garner is entering his 2nd season and will add depth to the field. The issue here is that it will take injury to thrust Garner into the starting line-up. He has a lot of upside but has not realized his own potential…but of course he is only a 2 year veteran. The Phins are in a good position to keep some talent along the line of scrimmage and because of that, Garner could find a landing spot on the final 53.
Andrew Gardner: Gardner was a Dolphins draft this past draft and has a long way to go before he locks down a spot, still, the Phins saw similar potential in Donald Thomas late in last years draft. Can Gardner be the 2nd late OLineman that can come in and start?
Gardner may find that the practice squad awaits him and I suspect that barring injury to the starters, that is where he will wind up.
SirVincent Rogers: Rogers is a rookie who will try and prove that he belongs on the Phins roster either as a 53 or a PS player. The talent in front of him however makes his options limited. Rogers will likely be seeking employment before the end of training camp.
Jake Grove: The Phins have only one true “center” listed on their roster and his back-up will be a G/C player. Despite improvement from 2007 2nd round selection Samson Satele, SS didn’t fit the smash-mouth play that Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland like to see. So they traded him to Oakland after signing free agent Jake Grove.
Grove is a former 2nd round selection who has yet to stay healthy enough to warrant the high selection. However, when healthy, Grove is a monster. A mean monster. His tenacious attitude and desire to punish defenders will elevate the more finesse style that the Dolphins have played in the past.
Grove will work on opening up holes in the middle of the line that seriously lacked the ability last year. With Grove, the Phins will have more strength up front holding down the fort and opening lanes for Ronnie Brown and company.
Overall the Oline will be another year away from being more cohesive. Much like last season the Dolphins will need to hope that the injury bug stays away and that the younger guys will play over their inexperience.
The Phins have some options with the guard position ( a look at that spot will be coming soon) which will allow them some flexibility with their decisions at tackle. Rogers seems like the obvious choice as a cut casualty and Andrew Gardner will likely end up on the PS which will leave the Phins with 4 active on the roster. A fair number that will be supplemented by multi-ability OG’s.