The following article is a guest blog from Chat Sports Writer and Sports Content Specilaist Chris Fields.
The Dolphins are ready to turn the page from the 2011 campaign, or maybe throw the page away. With a new coaching staff and some big roster moves, the 2012 ‘Fins are looking for a fresh start. That includes the offensive line. The group that gave up the third most sacks in the league last season is ready to make the jump from weakness to strength.
Like I said, the ‘Fins big guys struggled in 2011. The group gave up 54 sacks, leaving Matt Moore with an internal “get rid of it!” clock that expired quicker than milk left outside on a hot Miami summer day. If the offensive line can’t pass protect, the whole team is in trouble. That’s what happened to the Dolphins last year.
This year, the line will make massive improvements.
The same core group is returning to anchor the line, with a couple additions. Jake Long will once again be the most talented and experienced player on the line. The Michigan man is the leader of the line and when playing well, a franchise changing left tackle. Joining Long will once again be talented center Mike Pouncey. After starting all 16 games as a rookie, Pouncey should become much more consistent and develop into a leader and anchor at the center position. Pouncey could easily be one of the most talented centers in the league.
At the two guard positions, the Dolphins also return two starters. Richie Incognito will be back to start at the left guard spot where he has been up and down. Incognito certainly has the talent to succeed, but has seemed well, incognito at times. If the bulky big man can develop any consistency, he will be more than serviceable. The right guard position will most likely be filled by John Jerry, who stepped up and won a spot on the line last year. Jerry will be playing his third season with the ‘Fins, and is starting to show the potential he was drafted on. Look for Jerry to continue his development this season.
Jonathan Martin, a rookie out of Stanford and the Dolphins 2nd round pick, will step in and start at right tackle. Although he lacks explosiveness to be an effective run blocker, Martin uses his 6’5 frame and quickness to seal off the edge in passing situations. Martin could struggle at times, but will be an upgrade from last year’s starter, Marc Columbo. If Martin proves to be too ineffective in the running game, backup Lydon Murtha could step in.
As a group, the Dolphins line isn’t going to be the best in the league, but they should no longer be a weakness. The new staff, including coach Joe Philbin will help the line make the jump. Philbin served as an offensive line coach for Green Bay before becoming offensive coordinator, and has extensive experience coaching the offensive line.
With an off-season to gain experience and the addition of Martin, the line should be reliable in the passing game and continue to be above average when running the ball. With more time in the passing game, the entire team will improve.