Can the Miami Dolphins offensive line be fixed?


The Miami Dolphins have had years of offensive line problems and many believe that it should be imploded. But can it be saved? Can this unit of offensive lineman be salvaged?

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Let’s face it, the Miami Dolphins (29-35 the past four seasons) have plenty of work and man-hours to put in before fixing a team that is in major need of repair. We might hope for a quick and even miraculous reversal of fortune, such as might happen when a person inherits a ton of money from a long-lost relative. But since any of us can remember, the Dolphins have instead fallen on the opposite side of luck, wasting their time, money, and resources on investments that haven’t panned out.

At a glance, the Miami Dolphins are far away from becoming a great football team; with a litany of issues, it’s impossible to fix things overnight.

Whether it’s linebacker, offensive line, defensive line, or the secondary, the Dolphins goal this offseason should be to solidify one of these areas. Certainly, this is no easy task. Head coach Adam Game and vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum have their work cut out for them. There are so many directions in which they can go.

Now, the tough question: which area of need is most important for this team? You could certainly make an argument for any of the above mentioned positions—all of which have been a constant thorn in the Dolphins’ side—but the Dolphins don’t have time to twiddle their thumbs; they need to answer this question fast.

The position that needs to be addressed the most this offseason has to be the offensive line. Ranking in the bottom half of the league, the offensive line was mostly to blame for the Dolphins producing only 19.4 points per game, which ranked them 27th in the NFL in that category.

Since Ryan Tannehill stepped foot into the NFL four years ago, he’s been nothing short of a human piñata. In fact, during this span, Tannehill has been sacked more than any other quarterback in the league. According to Pro Football Focus’s position rankings, the Miami Dolphins ranked second-to-last in offensive line play (moving up a notch from last place last year).

Out of 32 NFL teams, the Dolphins offensive line ranked 29th in pass blocking and dead last (32nd) in run blocking, per Pro Football Focus. Although horrible numbers, and certainly one of the contributing factors responsible for posting a 6-10 record last year, this unit remains salvageable.

At this point, you’re probably thinking I’m a little crazy; however, this unit has tremendous upside and can become a strength for the Miami Dolphins moving forward.

Bear with me. Let me explain.

At center, three-time pro bowl center Mike Pouncey is the anchor and captain of the Dolphins offensive line. Pouncey has been one of the best players at his respected position since coming into the league five years ago and continues to be a valuable asset. At the tackle position’s, Brandon Albert and Ja’Wuan James remain essential parts to the Dolphins offensive line, as well.

Albert, a former pro-bowler, played well when healthy last year and is still ranked in the upper-half of the league at the tackle position. At 31, Albert still has four or five more years of productive football left in the tank. In addition, at right tackle, James has shown he can play at the next level and is an important piece due to his age and experience. Despite needing to improve at run blocking, James has the ability to get better and will be a valuable asset at the right tackle position for years to come.

This leads me to the guard position. Anyone with a set of eyes can see the biggest area of weakness for this offensive line has been at guard. Dallas Thomas has continued to be one of, if not, the worst players at his position in the league. Additionally, Billy Turner, although slightly more talented than his peer, hasn’t fared much better and is also ranked as one of the NFL’s worst guards.

If Miami can fortify the two interior spots of their offensive line, they could be on their way to having one of the better groups in the NFL. This is why it’s essential for the Dolphins to come up with a solution at these two spots.

In free agency, there are a number of young, talented guards who could massively improve the Dolphins at the guard position. Two players to keep in mind are Minnesota Vikings Michael Harris and Houston Texans Brandon Brooks.

Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Harris (27) was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the 23rd best guard in the NFL last year. Excellent at both run and pass blocking, Harris is going to be a hot commodity—which may warrant a high price tag. If the price is right, however, Miami should do everything in its power to steal Harris from the competition. Young and already proven, Harris can be a top-tier guard for the duration of his growing career.

Like Michael Harris, Brandon Brooks (26) is also young. Brooks is superb at pass blocking but sometimes struggles with his ability to run block. Although some may see his run blocking as a weakness, he’s still a major upgrade over Thomas and Turner in that regard. Last year, Pro Football Focus ranked Brooks the 37th guard in the NFL. At this point in their careers, Harris and Brooks are in a completely different league than Thomas and Turner.

Coming at the end of April, the NFL draft provides a number of sought after interior lineman. Ranked highly in many scout’s eyes are LSU guard Vadal Alexander and guard Sebastian Tretola out of Arkansas. Intriguingly, the Dolphins could wait until day two or three of the draft to select one of these players.

Alexander has just the kind of attitude and mindset the Dolphins are looking for. Proclaimed as a “people mover in the run game, staying aggressive and nasty through the whistle,” per CBS Sports Dane Bugler and Rob Rang. “A masher in the run game with the brute strength and bully mentality to generate movement.” Alexander could start immediately at the next level and would instill an immediate toughness in the interior of the Dolphins offensive line.

Like Alexander, Tretola also hails from the mighty SEC. Ranking right outside the top five at the guard position, Tretola could slip to the later rounds of the draft. Comparable in size to Alexander, at 6-4 317 pounds, Tretola moves well for his frame. Good in space and on screens, Tretola could fit well and have a short time adjusting to Adam Gase’s offense. If he slides, this could be a steal for the Miami Dolphins.

Believing the Dolphins will fix all their problems in one offseason is ludicrous. If Miami can secure and strengthen one area at a time, they’ll progressively get better. Like it or not, this process may take longer than many Dolphins fans hope.

In the end, however, it will be well worth the wait.