What a week it has been for the Miami Dolphins. I am not going to pretend like I know everything that has happened in the Jonathan Martin, Richie Incognito fiasco and frankly I am not going to pick a side. While it is indeed an important matter, as of now there are too few details to pass judgment on the situation and we as Dolphin fans can simply speculate at this time. What really matters to me at this point is how the team will respond to all of the drama next Monday night against a winless yet extremely dangerous Tampa Bay team. A team that almost knocked off NFC powerhouse Seattle in arguablythe toughest football environment in the NFL. While I once considered this game an easy win for the Dolphins, the recent loss of both Martin and Incognito has left an already deprivated offensive line with even more questions. To me, the fate of the season falls on this coaching staff and their ability to find replacements for these two most recent holes. Who do I think must step up and fill in one of the holes? One of Miami’s most versatile linemen, Nate Garner.
Garner was originally an offensive tackle out of Arkansas when chosen in the 7th round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. However, during his time as a Dolphin, Garner has been used as a utility man playing both guard and tackle, and was most recently used as Incognito’s replacement in the Bengals game. Garner filled in beautifully, and one could even make the argument that Garner looked better than Incognito. In my opinion, the offensive line played a great game against a tenacious Bengals defense, giving up only 3 sacks (not bad considering previous results) and totaling 157 yards on the ground. Garner held his own and looked much better than Miami’s weakest link, Tyson Clabo.
Expect to see Garner as Miami’s first option in replacing Incognito against the Bucs. I expect to see Clabo replacing Martin initially, but should he struggle (it is only a matter of time), look for Miami to try Will Yeatman or Dallas Thomas in his place. Finding the best five linemen as a unit is essential.
It is possible that losing Incognito and Martin could actually benefit this offensive line. When both players were out against Cincinnati, the offensive line actually looked pretty solid, and Ryan Tannehill had time to throw the ball. I was most impressed with the ‘Fins drive to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. On consecutive plays the offensive line gave Tannehill more than enough time to move the ball, and their best play was a pass play where Tannehill was able to keep the play alive longer than usual to complete a beautiful pass to Brian Hartline on the sideline. This ultimately set up Caleb Sturgis’ game tying field goal.
Hopefully Nate Garner will perform as he did last week, and develop a rhythm with the rest of the offensive line, and more importanly with Ryan Tannehill. Great teams overcome adversity. Hopefully the Miami Dolphins can overcome their adversities and finish the season as a great team.