As free agency has unfolded over the past week, the Miami Dolphins have focused their efforts mostly on the defensive side of the ball. Since the Dolphins' pass defense in 2015 was the worst in franchise history, and since Miami has selected a defensive player in the first round of the draft only three times in the past eleven seasons, the vast majority of the team's fan base has appeared to largely applaud this strategy.
Still, there is a subset of fans within that base which has increasingly implored that the team sign, at least, one starting caliber offensive guard, to help protect the quarterback and make the offense a more efficient unit this season. To be sure, there is nothing wrong with that idea, and Miami may yet sign a guard, perhaps after a few more days have gone by and prices start to come down.
In the interim, while we wait to see what the rest of the free agency period will bring, we thought it might be a good time to discuss why the Dolphins have struggled at the offensive guard position the past couple of years.
Right off the bat, you almost have to look at coaching. Nearly two months after the final game of the 2015 season, the Super Bowl, Miami's offensive line coach from a year ago, John Benton, has yet to be hired by another NFL team. Let that sink in for a moment -- with all the vacancies on the various teams that fire their coaching staffs, barely a month before the draft, Mr. Benton is, as far as we know, still unemployed. The Indianapolis Colts interviewed Benton last month, to see whether he might be a candidate to coach their offensive line in 2016. The Colts ultimately ended up hiring Joe Philbin as their offensive line coach. Forgive us for being critical, but when you're getting beat out for a job by Joe Philbin, that would certainly seem to suggest that perhaps you're not very good at whatever it was you were applying for. Joe Philbin is a class guy and highly respected by many around the National Football League. With Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill having been the most sacked quarterback in the league the past two seasons, however, one wouldn't think either Philbin or Benton would be a hot commodity around the league when it comes to coaching linemen. Given the choice between the man who coached the entire Miami Dolphins team last season, versus the man who coached the team's offensive line, the Colts chose to go with Philbin. So, there's that.
Something else to consider is that if we look at the composition of other teams' offensive lines, most of them are obtaining their starters from a variety of sources, not just high profile free agency signings or high draft picks. The New England Patriots, for example, started three relatively low draft picks in the middle of their line a season ago: guards Ryan Wendell and Tre' Jackson and center Bryan Stork, the latter two of whom were both fourth-round picks, although New England did have the foresight to jump ahead of Miami in last year's draft, to select Jackson.
Finally, we need to consider scheme; when you're going up against three of the toughest, scariest defensive fronts in all of football, in the Bills, Jets and Patriots, it's probably not a real good idea to employ a finesse based blocking scheme, but rather, a more physical, 'line up and blow them off the line of scrimmage' based approach.
We would be interested in hearing what the rest of the Phinsider board has to say, regarding the Dolphins' situation at offensive guard.