Miami Dolphins Never Prepared For A Branden Albert Injury
By Brian Miller
What’s the point of signing back-ups? Normally it’s to add depth, security to a position in case there is an injury that sidelines a player for any length of time. Shelley Smith, Jason Fox, and Daryn Colledge were signed this past off-season to be just that. While Colledge played his way into a starting role the team has to be disappointed in the play of Fox and Smith. Smith has not looked good at guard this year and Fox has been inactive on a regular basis.
Simply put the Dolphins did not do a very good job at fixing an offensive line that has been very bad for several years. The signing of Branden Albert was huge and he locked down the left side of the line. The drafting of Ja’wuan James proved to be a steal at his draft position in round one. With Mike Pouncey returning to center it appeared that the Dolphins should easily be able to fix the two guard positions. Unfortunately someone failed to make a back-up plan and it killed the Dolphins season.
Consider the fact that Branden Albert has a history of missing time due to injury, specifically his back. Yet the Dolphins opted not to bring in depth at the position should he go down. The plan was to move Ja’wuan James to the left side but at the time there was no way to know if James would be as good as he has been or if they would get to draft him at all. So it’s an oversight in free agency. Of course the team does have veteran Nate Garner but more on that in a minute.
The draft comes and James is selected but the depth behind James is nothing. There is no competition for the RT position. With veteran options on the street such as Eric Winston the Dolphins opted to leave well enough alone and not address the back-up positions signing only Jason Fox. With Shelley Smith and Daryn Colledge at the guard spots.
The Dolphins got a visual of what the season might look like when they realized Mike Pouncey would be missing considerable time to start the season. Shelley Smith failed to cover the center job as did Jason Fox so the team realizing they had no depth signed Samson Satele. Yet they failed again to address the possibilities of injury to other line positions.
This would not be a problem if the team was confident in the decision to use Nate Garner and Jason Fox as the back-ups but they have been inactive and Dallas Thomas has been the primary starter at RT since Ja’wuan James moved to LT. The problem is that Thomas has played exceptionally bad. So bad in fact that the Dolphins right side of the line is a complete mess unable to protect Ryan Tannehill. Yet Garner and Fox remain inactive. If Garner, a seasoned veteran who has been with the Dolphins several years now can’t step in to play RT then why is he on the roster at all? Why is Jason Fox, a free agent signee inactive? If he is unable to play better than Thomas then why is on the roster?
The truth is the Dolphins have failed to address the depth at both tackle positions and it’s now biting them in the rear end. This could be a matter of Dennis Hickey not seeing the value for the money to sign guys who would sit behind the starters or this could be an issue with Joe Philbin telling Hickey he is comfortable with the roster he has at those positions. Regardless someone made a huge mistake in judgement by not looking at the possibilities. Especially knowing the history with Branden Albert.
It’s Joe Philbin’s job however to designate the inactive players on Sunday and this past Sunday only Shelley Smith and Billy Turner were activated. When Satele went down with an injury Pouncey moved to center and Smith took over at guard leaving only Turner left to rotate in if needed. The decision to not activate Fox or Garner meant Dallas Thomas was not going to come off the field. It’s a poor coaching decision especially after the week before showcased the inability of Thomas to protect. Someone should be held accountable. The Dolphins didn’t need to blow millions of dollars on back-ups but at least put guys on the roster that will compete, there is no reason why we have five WR’s active on Sunday’s but not back-up tackles. It makes no sense.
Another example is the loss of Louis Delmas to an ACL injury. The team had already lost Michael Thomas earlier in the season yet on Monday it was the Arizona Cardinals who signed former Dolphins Chris Clemons. At least he knew the system to a degree and could have stepped in immediately to play this week. Now the team will likely go with rookie Walt Aikens if Jimmy Wilson isn’t back from his injury.
The Dolphins didn’t prepare for this scenario and because of that they are relying on a player who can’t play his position consistently average. Because they didn’t look to the immediate future they very well may have ended their season prematurely. Sadly it’s a waste of what the team has been able to accomplish this season but once again we see poor planning and poor decisions rearing their heads late in a season as it spirals out of control.