Former stalwart Vernon Carey is gone and we should thank God turnstile Mark Columbo is too. These departures have created holes to be filled and competitions to be won.
As training camp approaches, battles at right guard and right tackle are setting up to be some of the fiercest camp battles to look forward to.
The Dolphins expected change to a zone blocking scheme requires it’s players to be light on their feet with the ability to cut block and pull.
Under the previous regime, the offensive line was exposed to a zone blocking scheme and experienced success in the running game because of it. Now realize, this was accomplished with an offensive line’s right side that was an ill fit schematically and physically.
Joe Philbin has been blunt about the need for improvement along the offensive line, his bluntness should see the right fits found to handle these jobs, continuing success in the running game and improving the team’s pass blocking.
Luckily, the new regime has Jake Long and Mike Pouncey who are elite and fit their criteria. The drafting of Stanford’s tackle Johnathan Martin is a glimpse at the type of prospect they prefer moving forward.
He’s not your typical lumbering, beefy right tackle; Martin is a natural left tackle with nimble feet and long arms.
Martin’s competition to become Long’s bookend will be Lydon Murtha, who showed promise in last year’s exhibition games, but has proven to be injury prone during his two years with the Phins.
What benefits the Dolphins in this battle at right tackle, is the loser becomes a dependable swing tackle capable of filling in on either side.
Folks, please understand many teams in the league don’t have that kind of security or luxury.
Now while the Dolphins are fortunate to have an elite center and left tackle, with two solid options at right tackle. Their vision is incomplete when it comes to the guard positions.
While many people are comfortable with Richie Incognito as the starting left guard, I find myself in the minority for being uncomfortable with him.
Yes, he has been a solid player over the last two years and done so playing out of position thanks to the genius of Tony Sparano, but Incognito struggles as a pulling guard and is better suited in a power blocking scheme than the zone scheme the Dolphins are adopting.
Incognito has long had a tell in his stance for when he’s going to pull. I can’t remember how many times I’ve seen a linebacker jump the gap and slam Reggie Bush in the backfield while trying to run the counter behind him.
Now I’m not saying Incognito needs to be replaced as soon as possible because I believe he still has worth to the team, but to me that worth is as the starting right guard.
Incognito is a great drive blocker and natural right guard, so at right guard he won’t be asked to pull as much, thus hiding his main deficiency. Not saying this will happen, but it’s something in my opinion should.
If the Phins heed my advice with Incognito, they should then let Nate Garner and John Jerry battle it out at left guard.
Now neither of these players fit the mold of the ideal left guard and aren’t much better at pulling than Incognito, but both have their upsides and have proven to be more effective on the left side than right.
Garner has looked very good in various stints at left guard and Jerry looked the most effective he ever had since being drafted during his stink at left tackle.
While it’s more likely the Dolphins let Incognito remain at left guard with Garner and Jerry battling for the right guard spot, the absence of pulling guards make it clear the Dolphins are not done rebuilding the line.