Dec 3, 2011; Pittsburgh,PA, USA: Pittsburgh Panthers right guard Lucas Nix (52) protects the quarterback against the Syracuse Orange during the first quarter at Heinz Field. PITT won 33-20. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE

Upgrading The Dolphins Offensive Line

NOV 13, 2011; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jake Long (77) blocks against the Washington Redskins in the first half at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE

 

Throughout last season it became crystal clear that the Miami Dolphins, MUST upgrade the right side of the offensive line. Although Miami has a stud left tackle, Jake Long, and a promising star at center, Mike Pouncey, the Dolphins have no anchor on the right side. Former Dolphin, Vernon Carey, played “alright” at guard after moving over from tackle. But right tackle, Marc Columbo, was among the league’s worse. With both Carey and Columbo being free agents, Miami will look to upgrade both positions through the draft (Jake Scott was in Miami recently, but it appears he left with no contract).

 

Although most draft experts have Miami either selecting QB Ryan Tannehill or an offensive lineman with their first round selection, Miami can find value at both tackle and guard in the later rounds. Miami has much larger holes to fill than right tackle and guard with the need at quarterback, pass rusher, and now, wide receiver. RT Lydon Murtha looked solid during the pre-season, while filling in for Jake Long. Murtha should get an extended look going into training camp. Utility man, John Jerry, also played exceptional during the season, while filling in for Long and Carey when needed. With Jerry, Murtha, and Nate Garner returning, Miami can afford to wait until later rounds to find value.

Here are a few prospects that can contribute right away:

 

Bobbie Massie (Ole Miss) – Massie is built to be a right tackle. Standing tall at 6’6” 316lbs., Massie is extremely effective in the run game. When running down hill, he “man-handles” his assignment. He has a natural reach step, and stays low while reach blocking. Although he could get a little lower, and improve his lower body strength (he looks very tight in the hips), Massie is an excellent run blocker. Pass blocking, is another story. Depending on which Bobbie Massie you get, he could be very good, or very bad. Massie was horrific against Alabama. He was not low enough, and he was beat off of the ball continuously. Alabama’s quick defense was giving Massie fits throughout the whole game. Sending different blitzes on almost every passing play, Massie looked horrible. Against LSU, I saw a different player. Massie was “all over” Michael Brockers and LSU’s quick defensive linemen. Massie was low and quick off the ball. He was effective when pass blocking and picking up blitzes. When watching this game, I saw a potential 2nd round pick. If Massie can give one hundred percent on every down, he will be an excellent right tackle for years to come.

Comparison: Bobbie Massie reminds me of a former Ole Miss Rebel, Michael Oher. Both are exceptional in the run game, and can be very good when pass blocking. Oher has had his struggles in the NFL, and I expect the same from Massie.

 

Jan 2, 2010; Arlington, TX, USA; Ole Miss Rebels offensive tackle Bobby Massie (79) blocks against the Oklahoma State Cowboys during the Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium. The Rebels beat the Cowboys 21-7. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Grade: 5th – 6th

 

Kevin Zeitler (Wisconsin) – First off, we all know that Wisconsin produces great offensive linemen. As I was watching film, I kept saying, “No wonder Montee Ball ran for so many touchdowns, these holes are H-U-G-E.” Zeitler is your classic run blocking guard. This kid is a BULL. At 6’4” 314 lbs., Zeitler was constantly pulling and opening holes for Ball during epic season. Kevin has amazing strength. He uses his strength to not only beat opposing linemen off the ball, but also to drive them back at least five yards. When Zeitler pulls, he reminds me of a fullback (yeah, those things offenses used 20 years ago to block and open holes for running backs). He is above average while pass blocking also. He has quick feet and a low center of gravity. Also, sometimes he looks as though his feet get tangled up together (he just needs to work on his footwork). Although at moments he looks lost, he just needs to study blocking assignments better. Zeitler can step right in and be an excellent right guard.

 

Comparison: Zeitler is a less developed version of Marshal Yanda. Both are awesome trap blockers, but Zeitler hasn’t quite grasped pass blocking yet (Wisconsin is primarily a running team). If Zeitler can put in some work and gain some experience in pass blocking, he will be a top tier Right Guard.

 

Nov 19, 2011; Champaign, IL, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler against the Illinois Fighting Illini during the third quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bradley Leeb-US PRESSWIRE

Grade: 2nd – 3rd

 

Luke Nix (Pittsburgh) – Nix is known as a utility type of player on the offensive line. A big guy at 6’5” 317 lbs., Nix is probably better suited at guard than tackle (although he could play tackle if needed). Luke is a very strong run blocker, who almost makes it look natural. He is very quick off the ball, and uses his ox-like strength to blow defenders out of running lanes. Like Zeitler, Nix is almost a pro at pulling. He stays low and uses his quick first step, to turn the corner and find his assignment. Speed is an issue with Nix. He doesn’t have straight line speed to get to the second level (and beyond). Nix is an average pass blocker. At times he looks the part of an all pro, and others, not so much. He will need to learn quickly how to pick up blitzes if he wants to start. And although he has a strong lower base, quick defensive ends (i.e. Mario Williams, Jared Allen, Chris Long who are all also quite big) can get around him with finesse moves.

 

Comparison: Andy Levitre is a name that comes to mind quite quickly. Although Levitre played left guard and center for Buffalo, he is that utility type of guy on Buffalo’s offensive line. Nix, like Levitre, is an excellent trap blocker and can step in during his rookie season to contribute.

 

Grade: 3rd – 4th

 

Although Miami’s left side is locked down (maybe a replacement for Incognito is needed soon?), the right side is a different story. Anyone with very little knowledge could compute that in order for the offense to have success, a good offensive line is needed. Matt Kalil seems like the only guy worth spending a top ten pick on (Miami currently sits at 8), and with Kalil likely gone (imagine if he WASN’T!), Miami should look to fill out their offensive line on either day two or day three. Never forget, the offensive and defensive line are the most important positions in football.

Tags: Bobbie Massie Jake Long Kevin Zeitler Luke Nix Miami Dolphins Mike Pouncey NFL Draft Offensive Line

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