This post is part of a series of posts that will break down and evaluate the Miami Dolphins position by position. If you haven't read up on how players are being classified (the number and letter that follow each player's name), you can read this post explaining the evaluation system. You can also read the previous posts in this series by clicking here.
I took some heat last week for how I divided up the offensive line. But here's how I decided to divide up the unit. Though some of the guys discussed below might be listed as tackles on the team's official roster, the fact is that they have all played either guard or center (or both) at some point last year and will probably see action inside at some point in the future.
There's no question that the interior of Miami's offensive line was a hot mess in 2010. But let's take each piece individually and see just how bad the damage is - and now much of a repair is needed.
Richie Incognito (2-B). Coming to Miami, Incognito was a major question mark. It wasn't his ability that was questioned - it was his attitude and discipline. But Richie was a good soldier during his one year here, never having one of those mental breakdowns that have hurt him in the past. There weren't any stupid costly penalties. He was on his best behavior - and he played relatively well. But because he's not very good at pulling, his future may be at center. He's strong and physical and stout at the point of attack. He also looked very good in his limited time at center last year.
Joe Berger (3-E). I still don't get this decision. There's no way Berger is better than Jake Grove. And yet, it was Berger who beat out Grove for the starting center spot. Berger really struggled blocking those big interior defensive linemen when the Dolphins tried to run, though. And there's no question an upgrade is needed here. Berger is simply not a starting caliber center.
John Jerry (3-D). The 2010 3rd round pick had his ups and downs during his rookie season. He started ten games at right guard but struggled with his run blocking. He only allowed one sack, though, and his pass protection was solid for a rookie. He just needs time to get stronger and improve his technique. I do think there is hope for Jerry, who could become a good player in this league with some work.
Nate Garner (3-E). Because of his age (26), Garner falls into the "E" category of tier 3. But the Dolphins are reportedly high on the fourth year player and so am I. He's as versatile as it gets along the line. He's shown steady improvement as he gains experience. I just think there's something about Garner that, to me, screams big potential. However he missed all of 2010 and will have to battle to prove he's still a player on the rise. I do believe, though, that Garner could be the answer at either left or right guard.
Cory Procter (4-F). The 28 year old six year vet ended the season on Miami's Injured Reserve. Before that, Procter saw action in ten games, including one start. But he really doesn't have any upside at this point and showed me nothing to think he's worth investing in.
Pat McQuistan (3-E). I like his versatility. But the soon to be 28 year old didn't really show enough to prove he should be nothing more than a backup at guard and tackle. McQuistan started eight games in 2010 for the Dolphins after coming over from Dallas in a trade before the season. But he quite often looked overmatched out there.
Ray Feinga (3-D). Ray is a project that this regime seems to have some hopes for. He broke his finger early on in camp but still ended up on Miami's practice squad to start the year. He was then suspended four games by the NFL for violating a league policy. Still, he was brought back to the active roster in December to provide depth to a beat up unit. Maybe he only stuck around in Miami because of how decimated the line was by injury. Or maybe Feinga has flashed in practiced. I have no idea. But he survived a rocky first year, which has to count for something.
Contract situations: There are quite a number of things to keep in mind here. Richie Incognito is an unrestricted free agent - as are Cory Procter and Pat McQuistan. Nate Garner is a restricted free agent. Joe Berger, meanwhile, has just one year left on his deal and is a candidate to be released once the Dolphins address the center position.
Outlook: This is a unit that might look very different come September (or whenever a new CBA is reached). Like us fans, the Dolphins know they have to get serious improvement out of their interior line. And only John Jerry, Joe Berger, and Ray Feinga are under contract right now. I expect Garner to be signed and I hope to see Incognito return and compete for the starting center job. But a serious upgrade at left or right guard is an obvious need, whether it's through the draft or free agency. Some improved depth is also something Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano must address.