When 2008 first overall pick Jake Long left the Miami Dolphins over the weekend to sign as a free agent with the St. Louis Rams, second year tackle Jonathan Martin became the most likely player to start for the Dolphins at left tackle in the upcoming season. Today, head coach Joe Philbin discussed Martin's development, and what the former Stanford Cardinal needs to do to succeed at the NFL level.
While it's assumed that Martin would be the starting left tackle, Philbin played it cool, not quite sure that Martin would have the position. "There's still a lot of things we can do to this the roster," Philbin explained. "The roster's going to be different when we even start practicing. I think we're going on the field May 21st or 22nd, so it's hard to say right now [that Martin would be able to win the left tackle spot]."
But that doesn't mean Philbin would doubt Martin's ability to play the position. "If he's the best one that we have, absolutely," Philbin replied when asked if he would be comfortable with Martin as the left tackle. "As you guys are well aware, there's a lot of time between now and September. There's a lot of variables, a lot of things could happen. But if he earns the spot, I would be comfortable with it."
Asked if Martin has the ability to play either the right or left tackle position, Philbin responded, "I think he's demonstrated an ability on film in the National Football League that he has a chance to play either side."
Last year, Martin shifted over to the left tackle position at the end of the season when Long was lost due to a torn triceps muscle. During that time, Martin struggled as he tried to rely on his instincts from his time as Stanford's left tackle.
Philbin was asked about what Martin has to do to be a good NFL left tackle. "Consistency I would say would be the number one thing that you're looking for out of your left tackle. I always use the saying, especially in pass protection that tackles block ends in the National Football League, so you have got to get to the point in your career where you're able to block defensive ends and not just 11 out of the 16 defensive ends. That's not always easy.
"Not that you can't help guys and scheme guys and double team guys and chip guys. There's nine million things you can do as a coach to help players and you certainly need to, you can't do the same thing all the time, but, we'd like to say at the end of the day, you have to be able to block a defensive end if you're an offensive tackle in the National Football League in our system. The ability to do that consistently well is the mark of outstanding offensive tackles and that's something."
Miami will continue to look at tackles in free agency and in the draft, but Martin seems like the first option at left tackle this year. The majority of the available tackles in free agency are projected as right tackles, while the Dolphins will likely look at the position after the first round, meaning the team will be able to find a right tackle easier than a starting left tackle.