The Miami Dolphins will celebrate their 50th NFL season this year, spanning from 1966 to 2015. Thousands of players have hit the field for the team over that time, helping the team appear in five Super Bowls, winning two of them, including the only undefeated season in league history. Despite spending the last decade stuck in a purgatory of mediocrity, the Dolphins are still hold the fourth highest winning percentage in the NFL at .565, behind just the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears, and Green Bay Packers.
The team has eight Hall of Famer players, Nick Buoniconti, Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Jim Langer, Larry Little, Dan Marino, Dwight Stephenson, and Paul Warfield, plus one Hall of Fame coach Don Shula. Another three Hall of Famers, Cris Carter, Junior Seau, and Thurman Thomas, all had brief stints in aqua on their way to Canton.
As we all look forward to better days for the Dolphins from this rut that has been the franchise since the turn of the century, we can also look back at one of the premier franchises of the NFL as they turn 50. We will do that over the next few days as we build the Miami Dolphins' 50th Season Depth Chart.
We continue into our fourth day of building the depth chart by taking a look at the offensive line.
We will build a starting offensive line, then build a group of reserves without regard to position.
Left Tackle: Richmond Webb
Left Guard: Bob Kuechenberg
Center: Dwight Stephenson
Right Guard: Larry Little
Right Tackle: Jake Long
Reserves: Jim Langer, Ed Newman, Tim Ruddy, Keith Sims, Jeff Dellenbach
Typically, the write-ups of the players follow in the order in which they are on the depth chart. For the offensive linemen, however, the write up will discuss the entire grouping, starters, then reserves, rather than in a specific order.
Little and Stephenson were the easiest decisions to make, putting two Hall of Fame inductees into their positions on the line. Little joined the Dolphins in 1969 after two seasons floundering in San Diego. He made the first of his five Pro Bowls that season, taking over as Miami's right guard, a position he would not relinquish for 12 years. Little played in 159 games for Miami, starting 152 of them, and earned Pro Bowl berths in 1969 and every year from 1971 to 1974. He was also a First-Team All-Pro selection every season from 1971 to 1975. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.
Stephenson was the second-round selection for the Dolphins in 1980, and only played eight seasons, yet was still a Hall of Fame inductee. The amount of talent Stephenson had was ridiculous, and, if not for a knee injury that ended his career early, he would probably have led the Dolphins' offensive line for another decade. During his career, Stephenson led the Dolphins' offensive line to six straight years of allowing the fewest sacks in the league, an NFL record. Stephenson played 114 games for Miami, with 87 starts, including 107 straight games, with 80 straight starts, a streak that was only ended by the 1987 strike. Seven games after the strike would come his career ending injury. Stephenson was selected to the Pro Bowl every year from 1983 through 1987, and was a First-Team All-Pro selection from 1984 to 1987. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
Webb takes the left tackle position, a spot he held for 11 years with the Dolphins, after being the team's first-round pick in 1990. He immediately claimed the starter's position as a rookie and was selected to the Pro Bowl. He backed that up with Pro Bowl selections each subsequent season through 1996. Along with his seven Pro Bowls, Webb was selected to the All-Pro First-Team twice, once in 1992 and again in 1994. Webb played in 164 games for the Dolphins, starting all but one.
On the opposite side of our All-Time Dolphins line is Long, who played left tackle for Miami, but gets slotted as the right tackle here. You could argue he should take the left tackle spot over Webb, but Webb's longevity along with Long's injury history, gives us Webb at left tackle and Long at right. Long was the first overall pick by the Dolphins in 2008, and appeared ready to have a career similar to Webb. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons, with a First-Team All-Pro selection in 2010. Unfortunately for Long, his body began to fail him, with multiple injuries landing him on injured reserve in multiple years. In five seasons with the Dolphins, Long started all 74 games in which he appeared.
Our last starting position goes to left guard Kuechenberg, who spent 14 years with the Dolphins, playing left guard for 13 of them and one at left tackle. after being a fourth-round pick for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1969, Kuechenberg joined Miami in 1970, appearing in all 14 games, but only starting five. The next season, however, he claimed his starting role, and held on to it every year until the end of the 1983 season. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1974, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1982, and 1983; he was a First-Team All-Pro selection in 1978. He has been a Hall of Fame finalist eight times, but inexplicably has never been inducted.
The fact that a Hall of Fame center is sitting in the top reserve spot says something about how much talent the Dolphins have had on the offensive line over their first 49 seasons. Langer joined the Dolphins in 1970, playing 20 games over his first two seasons before taking over the starting center position in 1972. He held on to the position for eight seasons, playing in a total of 129 games, with 109 starts, in his 10 years in South Florida. He was selected to the Pro Bowl every season from 1973 to 1977, and was a First-Team All-Pro selection in each of those years, except 1976. Langer was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987.
Newman spent 12 seasons with the Dolphins, first as a reserve guard from 1973 to 1978, then as a starter at left guard in 1979 and at right guard from 1980 to 1984. He played 167 games over his career, with 113 starts, and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1981, 1982, 1983, and 1984, as well as being a 1984 First-Team All-Pro selection.
Ruddy was selected in the second round of the 1994 Draft by the Dolphins, spending his rookie year as a reserve and special teams player. He then moved into the starting lineup at center in 1995, continuing to hold the position through the 2003 season. Ruddy earned a Pro Bowl selection in 2000 and played in 156 career games for the Dolphins, starting 140 contests.
The Dolphins added Sims in the second round of the 1990 Draft, immediately plugging him into the starting lineup at left guard. He locked down the position through the 1996 season, then worked as a reserve for 1997 before leaving the team for two years with the Washington Redskins. During his time with the Dolphins, Sims played in 113 games, with 108 starts and was selected to the 1993, 1994, and 1995 Pro Bowls.
Dellenbach takes the jack-of-all-trades role on the depth chart, having spent time playing every position on the offensive line for the Dolphins. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 1985 season by Miami, and started his career at center before filling time at left tackle, right tackle, and both guard positions for the club. he started all 16 games of the 1988 season at center, then started all 16 games at left tackle in 1989, just as an example of his versatility. In 10 seasons with Miami, Dellenbach played in 145 games, starting 87 of them.
The Dolphins have a ridiculous number of deserving offensive linemen, and just no way to put them all on the depth chart. We honorable mention Norm Evans, Wayne Moore, Jon Giesler, and Mike Pouncey, all of whom could make a case to at least be in the reserves of most team's All-Time Team, but can't find their way onto our depth chart.
We will conclude our look at the offensive side of the ball for our 50th Anniversary Depth Chart by building the Dolphins' wide receivers group tomorrow.