With training camp over and the third preseason game completed, the Dolphins are close to determining their offensive line for the start of the season. Here’s a look at what happened on the offensive line during the week, focusing on the preseason game versus Atlanta.
Although the Dolphins continue to experiment with the offensive line, the third preseason game against Atlanta should provide the team with the necessary guidance for the start of the regular season. Here are some highlights from that game.
With the exception of an injury substitution at center, the starting lineup against Atlanta was the same as it had been against Dallas the week before: left tackle (Branden Albert); left guard (Laremy Tunsil); right guard (Jermon Bushrod); and right tackle (Ja’Wuan James). Still, experimentation continued as Dallas Thomas, usually a left guard, substituted instead at times for Bushrod at right guard. From this, it appears that Tunsil has won the starting job at left guard.
As was true the previous week, the performance of the line did not change dramatically when Thomas substituted for Bushrod. The Dolphins had 199 first-half yards, and Tannehill had fairly good pass protection. Other than one missed snap in the red zone, Anthony Steen was solid at center and gives the Dolphins optimism if Mike Pouncey cannot bounce back quickly from his latest injury.
As was also true the previous week, quarterback Ryan Tannehill proved to be the Dolphins’ most effective rusher. The starting offensive line once again failed to generate much space for the various running backs that were inserted into that lineup – Jay Ajayi, Arian Foster, Damien Williams, and Isaiah Pead. While there were a few good runs, Miami ran the ball 31 times for just 78 yards (2.5 yards/carry). A failure to run or else relying on Tannehill to be the leading rusher is not a formula for the Dolphins’ success. The offensive line needs to be more aggressive, push the defenders, and create space for the running backs.
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The Dolphins have until Tuesday to cut the roster from 90 to 75. Two days later, they face the Tennessee Titans in the final preseason game. It will be interesting to see what happens with Billy Turner during that time, who will win the starting right guard spot (my vote continues to be for Bushrod), and what other lineman are kept. Using four, natural, offensive tackles on the line appears to work well for pass protection, but such a line must quickly improve its run blocking. Otherwise, Adam Gase might reluctantly switch for a less balanced attack, something Dolphins fans have become all too familiar with, along with the poor results that come from such an approach.