FanPost

Miami Dolphins Offensive Line Analysis

2009 Projected Starters:
Left Tackle:
Jake Long
Left Guard: Justin Smiley
Center: Jake Grove
Right Guard: Donald Thomas / Brandon Frye / Ike Ndukwe / Andy Alleman / Shawn Murphy
Right Tackle: Vernon Carey

2008 Injuries:
G Justin Smiley: Weeks 14 to 17
G Donald Thomas: Weeks 2 to 17

2008 Statistics:

Left End

Left Tackle

Mid / Guard

Right Tackle

Right End

Passing

ALY

Rank

ALY

Rank

ALY

Rank

ALY

Rank

ALY

Rank

Sacks

Rank

4.27

19

3.99

20

4.05

23

4.51

9

4.93

3

26

10

ALY (Adjusted Line Yards): It is an alternate measure for yards per carry developed by Football Outsiders that takes into account various factors including down, distance, situation and opponent.
Source: www.footballoutsiders.com

Overview:
The Miami Dolphins surprised everyone in 2008 winning 11 games and ranking 12th in yards of offense, their highest rank since 1997 when they had Dan Marino. As everyone knows, the Dolphins were the first one to use the wildcat formation last season which allowed them to average 4.2 yards per carry as a team but they still weren’t particularly consistent in the running game. The line played much better in pass protection than in 2007 allowing only 26 sacks as opposed to 42.

The Dolphins selected Jake Long with the first overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft and there is no doubt that he will be the starting left tackle for the Dolphins for years to come. Long is very strong and has a very large wingspan at 6’7" and 315 lbs. He is an excellent run blocker because of his strength and intensity. His aggressiveness which serves him well most of the time will however occasionally play against him when opposed to more experienced defensive linemen. Long made great improvements to his technique as a pass protector and found ways to make up for his lack of agility and slower feet. He allowed only 2.5 sacks in 2008 ranking fifth amongst left tackles. On the other side will be 2004 first round pick Vernon Carey for the second consecutive season. Carey played left tackle in 2007 and did an adequate job but made the move to the right side last season and played much better. He is a big body at 6’5" and 335 lbs who, like Long, is an excellent run blocker. The downside with him is that he lacks agility and has very slow feet so struggled in pass protection against the top defensive ends in the NFL. Last season, he allowed only 4.5 sacks ranking 11th amongst right tackles and continued to be efficient as a run blocker. 26-year old Brandon Frye who was dressed for seven games last season should be the main backup at tackle but will also compete for the starting job at right guard. 2009 sixth round pick Andrew Gardner and 2008 seventh round pick Nate Garner also add depth.

The Dolphins improved at guard last off-season by signing Justin Smiley from the 49ers to a five-year deal. Smiley is quite athletic for a guard and has the ability to pull to the outside in order to block. He is pretty strong and has quick feet but lacks technique in pass protection and will get overpowered at times. Smiley is a very good run blocker and an average pass protector, a nice upgrade for this line. Smiley is a natural at right guard but was moved to left guard in order to have a veteran presence beside the rookie Long and it proved to be an excellent move. Smiley has had trouble staying healthy in the past two years missing 12 starts and the Dolphins definitely need him to stay healthy. The other guard spot will be the weak link of this offensive line once again and it will be a competition between five players. The leader for the job should be Donald Thomas who won the job last year as a rookie but the 6’4" and 310 lbs missed the entire season with a broken foot and is now missing time because of a torn pectoral muscle. Backup tackle, 6’4" and 300 lbs, Brandon Frye has been impressive so far this off-season and could earn the starting job at guard. Competing with those two are Andy Alleman who started four games last season in place of Smiley at left guard, Ike Ndukwe who started 15 games at right guard in place of Thomas last season and last year’s fourth round pick Shawn Murphy who totally fell off the radar last season but is working hard this year.

The center position is much clearer with Jake Grove who was signed as a free agent from the Oakland Raiders. Grove started 46 games with the Raiders over the past five seasons but missed a number of games because of injuries and poor play at times. Grove isn’t the most talented but he will play hard on every play and the Dolphins certainly feel he’s an upgrade over Samson Satele, especially in the running game.

2009 Outlook:
The Dolphins made big improvements to their offensive line last off-season and they certainly want to continue improving. Grove should be a slight upgrade at center and the right guard position can only be better since there are five players fighting for it including last year’s starter. Jake Long should only get better in his second season while Carey and Smiley should continue to be solid starters. In terms of depth, the Dolphins are in good shape at guard but they have very little at tackle. Overall, this line should be slightly better in both run blocking and pass protection, even if the starters inside miss a few games, but they will once again need the two tackles Long and Carey to stay healthy.

See all of our 2009 Offensive Line Analysis Articles



This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phinsider's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of The Phinsider writers or editors.

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