Miami Dolphins fans are used to an inept offense; an offense that routinely struggles to move the ball down the field and put points on the board. Saturday night's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers demonstrated that it's possible the Dolphins will continue to struggle on offense.
But, if the first three preseason games can be trusted, the reasoning for the struggles may be different.
Often ridiculed quarterback Chad Henne has come out strong this preseason. So far, he is 29-for-45, with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. In fact, Henne's 10-for-13 performance on Saturday night should have been even better - all three incompletions were actually dropped passes. More importantly, Henne has come out looking sharp, in charge, and clearly is reading his progressions, making the right decision, if not always the biggest gaining one.
But the offensive line has been atrocious. Sure, the leader of the line, left tackle Jake Long, has not been on a game field yet, and rookie Mike Pouncey is starting at center, but the line just looks horrible. They can't seem to pass block - allowing 8 sacks in 3 games, including 5 against the Bucs.
The offensive line can't open running lanes - the Dolphins are averaging 2.8 yards per rush so far in the preseason.
The offensive line just can't, right now.
With only one game to go, a game typically used to rest starters and evaluate the last few bubble players, the final preseason game, the Dolphins' can't afford to spend the time looking for who should or should not make the team. They need to be looking at who cannot block.
While the addition of Jake Long back into the starting lineup will help Miami, it can't solve the problem. Long is just one player. And, he's one player, playing on the side opposite the majority of the problems. Right tackle Marc Colombo has proven to be a revolving door, allowing speed rusher after speed rusher to blow right past him.
The man whose job Colombo took, Vernon Carey, has been moved one spot over, now starting at right guard for the Dolphins. But, his play isn't much better and the team has absolutely zero ability to run behind Carey. While the man whose job Carey took, second year guard John Jerry, seems to be relegated to a backup role, after being a third round pick last season and starting 10 of the 12 games in which he appeared.
Backup left tackle Lydon Murtha has performed well at times, in his role as Long's understudy. But, is it good enough to replace Colombo as the starting right tackle?
The answer may or may not be on the team. Will Long's presence solidify the play of the men currently manning the line/? Should the Dolphins reengage former New York Giants Pro-Bowl center Shaun O'Hara, bringing him in to start at center, moving Pouncey to right guard, and making Carey and Jerry backups?
Whatever the answer, Head Coach Tony Sparano, who came up through the coaching ranks as an offensive line specialist, needs to figure it out soon. No matter what development Henne has made since last year, regardless of the additions of running backs Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, if the offensive line doesn't solve their problems soon, this is going to be a long, painful year for the Miami Dolphins backfield - and us as fans.
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