There is such a duality with the word offensive when you talk about the Miami Dolphins offensive line. Last season they truly were. Offensive that is. This year many believe the team has already improved that line with the addition of LT Branden Albert. Yet questions, big gaping questions, remain on the right side of the line where the Dolphins have almost literally no one to fill the holes. Unless you believe that competition between second stringers is filling a hole.
As of today, Nate Garner is likely the starting RT while Dallas Thomas will compete at guard with Shelley Smith. Consider the make-up of the Dolphins offensive line today. While some players are versatile enough to play both guard and tackle, the team lists only three tackles on their roster. Shelley Smith, David Arkin, and Nate Garner but Miami today, is likely to use Garner as it’s RT. Listed at tackle? Albert of course, Jason Weaver, Jason Fox, and Michael Ola. Dallas Thomas is listed as a G/T and Sam Brenner as a center despite playing LG the end of last season. Mike Pouncey of course is in the middle.
You don’t need “names” to have a solid offensive line but this is patch work at it’s worst. Nate Garner is a very capable lineman but is best utilized in short spurts. In other words, his durability is a concern and you can’t rely on him for an entire season as a starter. Dallas Thomas hardly played last season and was jumped over by Sam Brenner who went undrafted. Brenner showed some very high promise last season but enough to warrant a guaranteed spot starting? Not quite yet.
This is, in my opinion, where GM Dennis Hickey missed in free agency. The Dolphins had plenty of money to spend and positioned themselves well to fill needs on both sides of center. Instead, Hickey ignored for the most part, the right side and that may force his hand in this years draft. The Dolphins have put themselves in a position that they almost have to draft a lineman in round one and at least another on day two.
In the NFL drafting for need doesn’t work. You pass on players that will help your team win. Instead you tend to overdraft players hoping they fill a hole. This is one of the main reasons the Dolphins have struggled over the years. Coaching has played a part for sure as has decisions by management but drafting for needs is problematic. Especially in round one.
I’m not a big proponent of drafting offensive lineman on day one of the draft. In round one to be more specific. They don’t touch the ball, don’t score points, and they don’t change the game. They are vital to the team for sure but it’s far easier, or should be, to find a lineman than say a Pro-Bowl LB, WR, or a franchise QB. Will Miami use their first pick at number 19 overall to draft an offensive lineman? It’s likely yes and it’s also likely that they reach on a player as well.
The Dolphins have been linked to names like Zach Martin and Taylor Lewan. Both of whom could easily be off the board when Miami picks. They are rumored to be “in love” with Cyrus Kouandjio as well as Joe Bitonio. Yet both would be reaches at 19. Perhaps the Dolphins will try and trade back, there are rumors that some of the bottom end teams are looking to move up in the top 20. Miami may be able to find a willing partner.
The reality is that Miami needs to fill holes on their line and the draft will provide bodies to do just that but drafting a prospect doesn’t fix the immediate question of who will start. The Dolphins can not afford to rest their season on the shoulders of two rookie lineman shoulder to shoulder on the right side of the line. It’s because of this reason that if I were Dennis Hickey I would pass on a lineman in round one and maybe even round two if a guy I am not sold on isn’t there.
My first choice would be to draft another position at 19 and then sign a Bryant McKinnie for a two year deal or an Eric Winston from free agency after the draft. I shore up the right side immediately with a starting caliber tackle and guard and allow my rookie to compete and learn. This is called developing your players and frankly Miami has not done a very good job of that over the years. Truth be told, the Dolphins really need to sign a veteran guard and tackle regardless of who they draft at 19. It’s that reason I pass on a lineman in round one.