It’s nice to focus on flashy players in the draft and free agency, but if the Miami Dolphins want sustained success, they need to focus on line play.
In the midst of a huge rebuild, the Miami Dolphins are trying to build a team that can win consistently over the next decade. Miami has already done the hard part with accumulating both draft picks and cap flexibility to fill in a good number of holes that the teams have on the roster. To me, the most glaring holes, outside of the quarterback position, are right in the heart of the action: the offensive and defensive lines.
Obviously, the Dolphins need a quarterback, as Ryan Fitzpatrick is clearly not the long term answer, although he has been somewhat fun to watch at times this year. There are questions as to whether Josh Rosen is the answer or if Miami needs to draft a signal-caller early in the 2020 draft. Regardless of where the Dolphins find their quarterback for next year, they will need to surround him with a competent offensive line if he doesn’t want to spend the next season running for his life.
Miami’s offensive line has been poor this year, both in pass protection and run blocking. When it comes to running the ball, Miami is dead last in just about every rushing category (surprisingly, we are second to last in rushing touchdowns). Part of this is on Kalen Ballage who has been completely ineffective this year, averaging an outstanding 1.9 yards per carry. The other part of the blame falls on this offensive line, which has struggled to create holes for anyone to run through.
When throwing the ball, Miami is not nearly as bad as they are when running the ball, but they are still in the bottom third of the league. There is one category, however, where the Dolphins are at the top of the league: sacks allowed. Miami has given up a whopping 46 in 11 games. No quarterback, wether its Fitzpatrick, Rosen or Tua Tagovailoa (just to name one of the rookies coming out) stands a chance when the line is that porous.
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On the other side of the ball, the pass rush has been poor all season, which is why I believe that, if the Dolphins have the chance, they should take Chase Young in the next draft. Christian Wilkins and Davon Godchaux are both good players who will continue to develop and get better with each season, but Miami is still lacking a dominant pass rusher who can help put pressure on the opposing quarterback. Miami’s entire defense should get better if the defensive line play improves next season.
Anyone watching the Thanksgiving slate of games was exposed to what solid line play on both sides of the ball will do for any franchise. In the Dallas/Buffalo game, Buffalo’s offensive and defensive lines dominated the whole game and the Bills were able to win a tough game on the road. Solid line play has turned Josh Allen into a competent starter and has led them to a solid record this season. In order for Miami to duplicate this, they need to focus on filling out the trenches with quality players.
There will be multiple chances for the Dolphins to do so in the coming offseason. In the draft, there are a number of solid offensive lineman they can take early with some of their draft capital. There are also a number of tackles and guards coming on to the free-agent market in 2020, with a mix of veterans and young guys alike. Miami will need to be smart and not make any mistakes as they did in the past with paying older players a ton of money just to watch them get hurt. But if Miami can invest in their lines, specifically on offense, they can set up a young quarterback for the near and distant future.