The Miami Dolphins offensive line takes a step forward vs Atlanta

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - AUGUST 21: Liam Eichenberg #74 of the Miami Dolphins in action against the Atlanta Falcons during a preseason game at Hard Rock Stadium on August 21, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - AUGUST 21: Liam Eichenberg #74 of the Miami Dolphins in action against the Atlanta Falcons during a preseason game at Hard Rock Stadium on August 21, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Miami Dolphins hosted the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday night in preseason game two and the offensive line took a step in the right direction.

Monday Morning Center

week 2 of the preseason against the Atlanta Falcons

Last week’s review against Chicago

It wasn’t perfect for Miami’s offensive line in the preseason home opener against Atlanta, but we saw enough encouraging signs to be optimistic going forward. There are some obvious disclaimers that should go out before heaping any praise; it’s just preseason, they played many of Atlanta’s backups, and the Falcons do not have a great defense. With that out of the way, let’s check out our grades for all of the first-team linemen, and then we’ll highlight some stand-out performances.

Note: After each contest this season, we will be rewatching the game and grading how the offensive line performed. For pre-season football, we don’t have access to the all-22 so the grades won’t be perfect, but a lot of information can still be gathered from broadcast angles.

Player Grades

LT: Austin Jackson

Jackson had another tough day at the office. It wasn’t as bad as last week, but he had a few quick losses in pass protection, didn’t get much push in the run game, and was flagged for holding for the second week in a row (this time on a running play). It isn’t time for the organization or fans to be giving up on Jackson, but expectations for his 2021 campaign may need to be recalibrated.

It was a known fact on draft night that he needed to mature physically and technically before he would be NFL ready. The Dolphins were aware that he could struggle early in his career but chose to let him learn on the fly.

"“Jackson has loads of athletic ability and play talent that is waiting to be developed and harvested. Inconsistent hand placement and footwork could be exploited early on if teams try and rush him into the starting lineup, but issues are correctable.”-Lance Zierlein via"

Fans should be wondering how long the coaches will leave him in the starting rotation if his play doesn’t improve during the regular season. Jackson likely has a longer leash than some of Miami’s other starting linemen, but at some point, they’ll have to consider making a change. Doesn’t mean his career is sunk, it just means he might not be far enough along in his development to be depended on at such an important position. Time will tell.

Grade: C-

LG: Solomon Kindley

Kindley had a good day in pass protection but was sloppy on running plays again this week. This kind of result mirrors what he did as a rookie. It wasn’t awful by any stretch, but it also wasn’t anything impressive. So far, both Kindley and Jackson look remarkably similar to the players that we saw last year (Jackson has looked worse).

This is a definite cause for some concern as both of them progressing was a big part of the offensive line taking a step forward in 2021. It isn’t too late to turn things around as we are still in the pre-season, but you would hope to have seen more of a jump in year two than we have so far.

Grade: C+

C: Michael Deiter

Deiter came out and had a very steady game for the second week in a row. The lack of development from Kindley and Jackson doesn’t reflect well on the coaching staff, but what they’ve done with Michael Deiter should be enough for us to trust what they’re doing. His career looked dead to rights after last season, but here we are talking about him as one of Miami’s best starting offensive linemen.

His lack of power still shows up on some plays as he very rarely drives players off the ball, but his pass blocking reps have been impressive enough that he should hold onto that starting spot. I could see Deiter have some rough games when the competition level ratchets up, but he’ll be good enough most weeks.

Grade: B-

RG: Robert Hunt

It was another run-of-the-mill performance for big Rob Hunt. He was dominant in the run game and just so-so in the passing game. He’s never going to have really quick feet, so he needs to prioritize having proper leverage, footwork, and hand placement. Hunt will continue to improve as a pass protector from the interior and his run blocking is already some of the NFL’s best.

He doesn’t look to be in midseason form just yet, but he’ll be the least of Miami’s worries when the real games start. Robert Hunt has the opportunity to be a special player in this league and 2021 should be fun.

Grade: B

RT: Jesse Davis

Having to write negative things about Jesse Davis is never fun. This is a guy who made it into the league as an undrafted player and had to fight his way through practice squads to eventually get an opportunity in the NFL. It is an awesome story, but if we’re being honest with ourselves his performances at this level are often uneven.

We should also mention that he has a ton of value on this team. As someone that can step into just about position on the offensive line, he’s the perfect sixth lineman. He struggled as much as anyone this past Saturday though and after we get done talking about Liam Eichenberg, you’ll understand why it’s time to move on from Jesse Davis as a starting tackle.

Grade: C-

RT: Liam Eichenberg

This was almost the first A of the young season, but I’ll be saving those for really special performances. Eichenberg wasn’t some kind of dominant force out there, but he was steady and reliable-probably the best player out of Miami’s first group. That’s especially impressive because it was his first NFL action.

If you watched him play in college, that was what you got on Saturday night. He was reliable in pass protection (he didn’t allow a sack his last two years at LT for Notre Dame) and routinely got push in the running game. He wasn’t perfect, but you don’t need your offensive line to be perfect. Oh, and watching him and Robert Hunt execute deuce combo blocks might be my new favorite hobby.

Grade: B+

Film: Eichenberg in pass pro with the first team

Film: Hunt and Eichenberg dominating defensive linemen

Second team line

The second group looked solid this week, unlike last week where Robert Jones and Adam Pankey struggled. Pankey not playing may have had something to do with that, but Jones definitely looked much better. Matt Skura and Jermaine Eluemunor both turned in steady performances again and seem to be entrenched as depth players, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing-offensive line depth is tested each year. Larnel Coleman and Greg Little split the second team reps at left tackle and both looked decent. Liam Eichenberg played the entire second half (along with most of the 2nd quarter) at right tackle.

Stock Up

Miami’s rookie offensive linemen

Eichenberg had a really encouraging debut and we should expect to see him starting games in the near future. We also saw Larnel Coleman turn in another solid performance-although he didn’t play a ton of snaps. I was most happy to see Robert Jones have a good game as he struggled badly last week. Being a rookie in the NFL is tough and each of these players will have ups and downs, but performing well in practice and the preseason is the first step towards performing well in the regular season.

Stock Down

Austin Jackson and Jesse Davis

Neither has looked particularly good this preseason and to have a rookie step in and clearly outplay both of them in his NFL debut can’t bode well for either player. Both Jackson and Davis are being given ample opportunities to solidify their place on the first team line and they just haven’t done so yet. Miami’s coaching staff values leadership highly (as they should) but at some point, a poor level of play will get even the best leaders benched. It also doesn’t help that the tackles below them on the depth chart have mostly all looked better.

Final Thoughts

The offensive line looked better against Atlanta, but that could have more to do with Atlanta than Miami. Eichenberg had an extremely encouraging debut this past Saturday and it looks like Miami made the right choice by moving up to get him. If they can solidify that left tackle position (not something you want to read), either by Jackson improving or him being replaced, this line will be on its way to becoming an average offensive line. That might not sound encouraging, but over half of the NFL is trying to do the same thing right now.

Next. Eric Rowe: one of the Miami Dolphins most valuable defenders. dark