The Miami Dolphins offensive line has been a position of flux over the past few years. Head Coach Tony Sparano grew up as an offensive line coach, and he uses that knowledge to continually turn over the line, looking to find the combination that best serves the franchise.
The constant tinkering, however, has irritated many fans. It seems as though the movements of personnel among the different o-line positions, and on and off the first team, has resulted in a team of very skilled individuals that lack cohesion as a unit.
In 2011, that cohesion has to be there if Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll's new "explosive" offense has a chance to succeed.
So, who plays where on the 2011 offensive line?
Well, offensive tackle Jack Long is an All-Pro, perennial Pro-Bowl, future Hall of Fame stalwart at the left tackle position.
That's one spot down.
Playing next to Long at the left guard position is currently Richie Incognito. Listed behind him on the depth chart is Ray Feinga - although Feinga has been practicing as the second team right guard as well.
Anchoring the middle of the line, rookie Mike Pouncey seems to have the center position locked down. Veteran Joe Berger continues to backup Pouncey.
The right guard position is currently manned by former starting right tackle Vernon Carey. As he makes the shift one position to the left, Carey is backed up by the Dolphins' starter from last year, John Jerry.
And finally, at right tackle, the Dolphins have newcomer Marc Colombo, with Nate Garner backing him up.Add in Lydon Murtha, who is doing a very noteworthy job at the left tackle position while Long is listed on the Physically Unable to Perform list, Alan Barbre, Ray Willis, and D.,J. Jones, and the Dolphins currently have a lot of depth for Sparano to test out this preseason.
So far, the Dolphins offense line has struggled, both in practices and in the first preseason game against the Falcons. They have been beaten in both pass blocking and run blocking. The offensive line, Sparano's supposed strength, is one of the glaring weaknesses on the team.
How does it get fixed? And, who starts on the offensive line?
Personally, I think the line ends up being Long - Incognito - Pouncey - Carey - Murtha. That leaves Berger, Jerry, Columbo, Feinga, and Garner as the back ups. And that assumes the team keeps 10 offensive linemen.
No matter what the starting lineup eventually looks like, the team needs time to gel. I would expect the starting offensive line to get plenty of playing time this week against the Carolina Panthers.
As Coach Sparano told the entire team about the starters this week, "Well, I told the team today is that they all need to be ready to play until I’m tired of them playing, so I don’t know what that is, I don’t have a number yet so we’ll see where we go, but I think we will see some guys in there deep into the second quarter and maybe into the half."
Looks like we could see some exhausted linemen on Friday night.