Jonathan Martin holds down the left side of the Miami Dolphins offensive line. On the right, Tyson Clabo is locked into holding his part of the line. While much has been made about the inability of the Dolphins to solve the guard positions, this weeks opening season game will ride on the shoulders of the teams outside lineman.
The Dolphins are expected to face heavy pass rush from Cleveland Browns blitzing OLB’s Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard. Kruger, acquired in free agency, is coming off a fantastic season with the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens. Sheard has looked very stout in pre-season and is benefiting from the addition of Kruger.
The Dolphins were ridiculed by some for not making Jake Long a priority this past off-season despite his recent injury history and contract demands up front. The team was once again ridiculed by others when they opted to trade up for Dion Jordan in round one of last April’s draft rather than taking a left tackle to replace Long. The team was unable to find a long term solution at RT where they opted for Tyson Clabo on a one year deal.
Moving Jonathan Martin to LT full time was not a bad choice but one that left fans worried about his ability to play the position at the NFL level. Especially after he roller coastered filling in for Long last season. So far this pre-season Martin has been one of the top LT’s as rated by Pro-Football Focus. The Dolphins are going to hope that he can continue his pre-season play when kick-off arrives on Sunday.
For Miami the team needs to be able to protect Ryan Tannehill. The offensive line at times during the exhibition season was unable to keep him clean. The Dolphins offense needs to be able to pass the ball. Newly acquired WR Michael Wallace may have more speed than most NFL wide-outs but without time in the pocket Tannehill will be dumping the ball to his suspect TE’s and slot WR Brandon Gibson.
The Dolphins need to play vertical and doing so is going to require Tannehill to remain upright. Tannehill may have had a 90+ pre-season QBR but those were based on quarters and not full games. How well the offensive line and specifically the tackles can hold their blocks, the better chance Tannehill has to keep that number high. So while a lot of focus will be on Wallace and Lamar Miller, the attention paid to the tackles may be the difference in a win and a loss. In fact, I would almost guarantee it.