The Miami Dolphins’ offensive line has been a work in progress all season long, allowing way to many sacks and reacting to players changing positions, being added, and losing Pro Bowlers. It’s been ugly at times, and things have not always gone well. Sunday, however, was a day when things did work out.
The starting offensive line on Sunday was nothing like the offensive line that took the field for the Dolphins just three weeks ago. Sunday’s starting line up at Tyson Clabo at right tackle, John Jerry at right guard, Nate Garner at center, Sam Brenner at left guard, and Bryant McKinnie at left tackle. Reserve guard Danny Watkins and tackle Dallas Thomas also saw playing time, meaning all seven offensive linemen who were active for the game got on the field.
With Jonathan Martin away from the team, Richie Incognito suspended, and Mike Pouncey sick this weekend, the offensive linemen stepped up and did their job. Brenner, an undrafted rookie who was on the practice squad on Friday, suddenly found himself not only starting, but starting at left guard after playing center on the practice squad most of the time. He allowed a sack during the game, but otherwise played surprisingly well. Garner, meanwhile, was moved out of the left guard position, where he was filling in for Incognito, and to the starting center, a position he had never previously played in an NFL game. The ultimate utility man, Garner once again proved his value to the team, by not only playing center, but playing it well, both in blocking, and with the basic responsibility of snapping the ball to quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Former first-round draft selection,Watkins made his debut for the Dolphins, having joined the team this year after being waived by the Philadelphia Eagles. He has not been active most weeks, but was ready to not only be on the active roster, but to see playing time. He took his first snap when Garner had to leave the game briefly, meaning Brenner had to move to center and Watkins took the left guard spot.
Dolphins third round draft pick this past spring, tackle Dallas Thomas, also made his debut on Sunday, in this case his NFL debut, coming into the game as an additional offensive lineman, reporting as elligible and lining up in the tight end position. He may have only played one snap during the game, but he at least has now moved up into a position where he is an option to get on the field. The Dolphins seem determined to keep Thomas as a tackle, rather than move him inside to guard, which could explain why Brenner started over him, but he at least has now made the active roster and a game. He could be used more in the sixth offensive lineman role if needed, replacing Will Yeatman, who tore his ACL this past week, with that assignment.
Miami’s offensive line was not perfect. They allowed three sacks on the day (with Tannehill running himself out of bounds for the fourth sack), and were not always in position to open up running lanes, or were caught standing around blocking no one during a screen pass attempt, but it was not the disaaster anyone would have rightfully expected them to be before the opening kickoff. For the way players were willing to step up and get the job done, the offensive line deserves the fourth teammates of the week nod.
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