August 24, 2012; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jake Long (77) blocks Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Abraham (55) in the second quarter at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE
Yesterday, Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long was forced to leave practice due to a knee injury. He was treated on the sideline, with trainers looking at his right knee, before walking back into the team's training facilities, under his own power. Head coach Joe Philbin was asked after practice if he was worried about Long's injury, replying, "No, I'm not. But I have no information, and even if I did at this point, I wouldn't be sharing it."
There's the problem. The team feels like it dodged a bullet, with Long not tearing his right Medial Collateral Ligament but spraining it. However, the team still is not sure how serious an injury this is. Long underwent an MRI, with the results still pending.
Long could miss anywhere from a few days to the season, if the trainers are wrong and the MCL is torn.
With Long injured, the team is having to shuffle their offensive line. Rookie right tackle Jonathan Martin was moved to left tackle at practice yesterday, the position he played in college. The danger is, the more reps Martin takes at left tackle, the fewer he gets to increase his ability at right tackle when Long comes back.
"Well, if that comes to pass," Philbin said about moving Martin to left tackle, "he's got three or four years at Stanford of a lot of productivity at left tackle since April 25th or whenever he came by here and got drafted, the 27th, I'm trying to remember the date. He's been getting 98 to 99 percent of his work at right tackle, but at least one of the thoughts when you draft a player like that is does he have, not many people draft strict right tackles anymore because you like guys that have a little bit more versatility. I think when we picked him, we felt like he was a guy who maybe if we got in a pinch or something could fit the bill outside. Hopefully, we don't need to figure that out, but if we do, you have to have contingencies. It's a tough game these guys play. There's a lot of injuries out there."
With Martin moving to the left side, Artis Hicks, who has been battling injuries himself, moved from right guard to Martin's right tackle position, with John Jerry moving in to the right guard position.
The starting lineup for the Dolphins' opening day roster was looking like Long at left tackle, Richie Incognito at left gaurd, Mike Pouncey at center, Hicks at right guard, and Martin at right tackle. Now, through all the shuffling, the lack of depth on the Dolphins offensive line, a fact that Philbin mentioned in the past, becomes apparent.
With Jerry moved into the lineup, the only two healthy offensive lineman who is capable of filling in is undrafted free agent center, Josh Samuda, and veteran backup Nate Garner. Other linemen include the injured Lydon Murtha (with the same foot injury that caused him to miss all of last season), Ray Feinga (who missed time this preseason with an illness), Will Yeatman (who is transitioning from tight end to tackle this offseason), Will Barker (who was on Tampa Bay's practice squad for part of last year before the Dolphins poached him for depth), Chandler Burden (an undrafted free agent guard), and Andrew McDonald (an undrafted free agent tackle). The team could be looking to add offensive lineman depth as roster cuts continue.
The Dolphins need to hope Long's injury is simply a minor strain and he will be back in time for the first game against the Houston Texans on September 9. Otherwise, a long rebuilding year will have just become an even loger year for fans.