The Miami Dolphins came away with a 31-24 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, doing it without three of their five starting offensive linemen. Left tackle Branden Albert is dealing with the dislocated wrist he sustained against the San Diego Chargers two weeks ago, while center Mike Pouncey has had a re-occurrence of the hip injury that required surgery over the summer and led to him missing the start of the season, and rookie left guard Laremy Tunsil injured his shoulder last week.
Heading into the game, SI.com’s Monday Morning Quarterback took a look at the Dolphins offensive line - the full strength offensive line - and likes what they see for the rest of the year, as well as for the next few years.
Even if the Dolphins manage to drop six straight to end the season, this year will be a success. They’ve come up with an identity they can win with (one that can probably include, or not include, Ryan Tannehill) on offense. It’s been a run game headlined by Jay Ajayi but fueled by a hugely improved offensive line.
And the beauty of it is: The four guys who really make that line work—Mike Pouncey, Laremy Tunsil, Branden Albert and Ja’Wuan James—are all locked up on reasonable deals through 2018 (sorry Jermon Bushrod, it doesn’t matter whether they bring you back or not). Tunsil was drafted as a tackle, but he’s been a stud when he’s played inside this year. Maybe they’ll cut Albert loose to make room for Tunsil on the outside, but if they keep Albert and have two “franchise left tackles,” that’s not a bad problem to have.
Of course, the Dolphins will be limited again on Sunday when they host the Niners with Pouncey (hip) out, Albert (wrist) likely to sit and Tunsil (shoulder) likely to slide outside despite being banged up himself. But for the first time in a while, Dolphins fans can look at this line and feel good about the future.
The Dolphins offensive line did well against the 49ers. It was not a great, dominating game like it maybe could have been with Albert, Tunsil, and Pouncey, but Anthony Steen, Kraig Urbik, and Sam Young did a solid job. The 49ers clearly were out to stop the run, stacking the box with more players than Miami could hope to block, but the line gave quarterback Ryan Tannehill time to make throws throughout the game.
Now, the Dolphins will be hoping to see at least Tunsil back this week against the Baltimore Ravens, and possibly Albert as well. Pouncey seems like the player least ready to return, among those three, but, depending on the prognosis of his hip, he could come back at any time.
More importantly, the Dolphins have their offensive line - when healthy - that can continue to carry them over the next few years.