July 28 2012; Davie, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito (68) runs during practice drills at the Dolphins training facility. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Last year, one of, if not the, biggest liabilities for the Miami Dolphins was the play of the offensive line. All Pro left tackle Jake Long was injured throughout the year, left guard Richie Incognito struggled without Long's normal level of play, Vernon Carey tried to make the switch from right tackle to right guard, and right tackle Marc Colombo was a complete failure as a free agent signing. The most consistent player may have been rookie center Mike Pouncey, who finished the year as a Pro Bowl alternate, maybe even outplaying Long, who was selected to his fourth Pro Bowl in his fourth year in the league.
Now, with a coaching regime change, the team is transitioning out of the power blocking and running scheme they played last year, to a zone blocking system this year. They are also looking to completely rebuild the offensive line, specifically the right side.
While the left side of the line is strong once again, with Long returning to form (and easily making the switch to a zone scheme) and Incognito playing well because of that, Carey and Colombo are out of Miami now, and the team is looking to upgrade their positions. The Dolphins drafted Stanford left tackle Jonathan Martin in the second round of April's draft, with him working to make the transition to the right tackle position. Free agent tackle Artis Hicks signed with the team earlier this offseason, and seems to be set to start at right guard for Miami, while the recently added Eric Steinbach could also complete for the job.
All of the positives and flexibility the team has been seeing from the offensive line has spelled doom for one player this year. Guard John Jerry, the Dolphins' 2012 third round draft pick, has lost any hope at competing for a starting job, and possibly a roster position, after just four days of training camp. Jerry reported to camp about 25 pounds over his ideal playing weight and, while he passed the team's conditioning test, has looked slow and out of shape in practices. Jerry should be able to give the Dolphins some depth at guard, able to step in and play either position, but with his performances and weight issues early in training camp, Jerry could quickly find himself off the Miami roster.
The Dolphins offensive line should be much improved over last year, when the team gave up a team record tying 53-sacks. The line should also have some flexibility as which ever player, Steinbach or Hicks, does not start at guard, can backup multiple positions, along with Lydon Murtha and the addition of tight end Will Yeatman to the offensive line as a tackle. The only disappoinment so far is Jerry, who will either be buried on the depth chart or completely fall off of it.