NFL.com's Around the League is working their way through all 32 teams in the league, looking at one player "Under Pressure" from each of the franchises. The series started with the New York Jets, then was followed by the Miami Dolphins, and All Pro left tackle Jake Long.
Why would Marc Sessler, the article's author, feel like "the hottest seat in Miami might be under" a four time Pro Bowler - with only four years in the league? Sessler gives five reasons.
1. Jonathan Martin. A lot of people are pointing to the Dolphins' drafting of Martin in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft not as a way to shore up a leaky right side of the offensive line last year (and "leaky" is putting it nicely), but as a possible replacement for Long. There are three main reasons why Martin could be Long's eventual replacement, at least in Sessler's eyes, with the next two continuing below. But, in his first reason for Long being under pressure, he points out that the Dolphins have to at least have considered Martin at left tackle, since that's the position he has played in his entire college career. The last time Martin lined up on the right side was in high school.
2. Scheme Change. This is another common argument for why Long could soon find himself heading out of Miami. Under Tony Sparano, the Dolphins were built to be a power running team, with large, powerful linemen. Under new head coach Joe Philbin, the team is looking to become a leaner, more mobile, offensive line. Long, a 6' 7", 317-pound tackle is built to bulldoze people, Martin, despite his 6' 6" height, fits the "leaner, mobile" concept better than Long.
3. Money. There's no way around this one. Long is expensive. He was the number one overall pick coming out of the 2008 draft, while Martin was the 42nd pick. Long, who is often listed as one of the top two tackles in the game, will be looking to be paid as such this year, as his 5-year, $57.75 million rookie contract ends. He is making $11.2 million this season, and will be looking for a pay raise before re-signing with Miami. Martin, meanwhile, falls into the new rookie wage scale established by the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and is now signed for four years. That is an advantage for Martin in a league that does not expect to see dramatic salary cap growth over the next couple of years.
4. Injuries. Long is a dominating left tackle who was named to the Pro Bowl last season, despite being hampered by injuries throughout the year, even missing games for the first time in his career. That's the kind of respect the players and coaches have for Long, and demonstrates just how good he is. However, those injuries have to be worrying the Miami executives. Long played last year with a bad knee, bad back, and eventually landed on the injured reserve when he tore his bicep. Coming into this year, Long has said he feels the healthiest he's ever been, but concerns of whether or not his body is starting to break down are at least permiating the media "experts."
5. Vote of Confidence. Following the selection of Martin, head coach Joe Philbin told the South Florida Sun Sentinel, "Jake Long can transfer to any scheme, in any offense and any team in the National Football League, in my opinion. I think the guy is a tremendous athlete. He's quick. He's strong. He can do it." While Sessler doesn't actually come out and say it, his use of that quote as a reason Long could be under pressure in Miami this year, does seem to equate Philbin's comments to an owner giving a vote of confidence to an embattled coach. That never bodes well for the coach's future.
Sessler concludes his article by writing:
You can make the case that Long's name shouldn't even be in the same sentence with the term "under pressure." The argument here isn't against Long's ability (the majority of the league would fight for his services). The problem is a looming (very expensive) contract for a lineman who doesn't fit the Philbin mode. This makes the 2012 campaign a critical season for Long to prove he's the ideal left tackle in Miami for years to come.
Now, it's your turn. Do you think there is pressure on Long to perform this year? Is the player under the most pressure in Miami? Let us know in the poll and in the comments.