The biggest weakness of the Miami Dolphins offense - and maybe the entire roster - over the past few years has been the offensive line. From poor play to injuries, the line routinely has fallen apart on the Dolphins, leaving the quarterback running for his life and the running back unable to find any space. It is a constant frustration for the fans and the offense, but one that, no matter who the team has thrown at it, and how many first-round picks they have used on it, never seems to get better.
Except, this year it actually feels a little different. This year, the offensive line feels like it is ready to move from being a detriment to being an asset. Will it actually happen? Will Ryan Tannehill be able to have the time to throw the ball? Will Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore find holes to exploit? Could the Dolphins offensive line be a strength in 2018?
The Dolphins come into this year with Laremy Tunsil entering his third year, his second at left tackle, and looking to find the form that made him the 13th overall pick in 2016; Josh Sitton, a four-time Pro Bowl guard, joins the team to lock down the left guard position; Daniel Kilgore joins the Dolphins via a trade from the San Francisco 49ers, replacing Mike Pouncey as the starting center for the team; Jesse Davis, a 2015 undrafted free agent who spent time with the Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets prior to joining the Dolphins in 2016 has worked himself up to a starter at right guard and provides depth at tackle as well; and Ja’Wuan James returns to his right tackle position, a spot where he played well last season before being injured.
Will that group of five starters be better for the Dolphins in 2018 than any of the previous iterations of the Miami offensive line? “You guys know this,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains told the media this week of Miami’s offensive line. “I’m not telling you guys anything you don’t, but being able to protect from the inside out, that’s something (Head Coach Adam) Gase really wanted to do and get better at, and give Ryan (Tannehill) the ability to climb the pocket and do those things.”
He also spoke of the addition of Sitton to the roster. “He’s a really good player,” Loggains explained. “You guys will get to meet him. He’s really surly. He speaks his mind. You guys will have a lot of fun with him. He’s really intelligent. You drop a really smart player into that room, with a young room and it’s a talented group of starters, and all of a sudden guys like Ja’Wuan (James) and Laremy (Tunsil) can really lean on him and his veteran experiences. He’s bright. He’s really, really intelligent. Put him with Daniel Kilgore and the interior offensive line has gotten a lot better. That’s what Josh does really well. He’s really good at outside zone, he’s a really good pass protector and just the intelligence. He’s not a vocal leader. He’s a lead-by-example guy and there’s certain things, like the way he finishes in drills and stuff. We’re early in the process, two weeks in, but you start to see some of these younger guys watch him. He doesn’t talk a lot but they start to mimic what he does and how he finishes.”
Mike Tannenbaum, Executive Vice President of Football Operations, also recently discussed the status of the Miami offensive line, saying, “We’ve put a lot of time and effort into that, going back to the end of the season. Getting Josh Sitton, we felt that was a great opportunity for us (and) trading for (Daniel) Kilgore, then being able to keep Ja’Wuan (James) on his fifth-year option. That was really important to us and some of these other guys, it was a little bit like the tight end position. We feel better about the depth and having Ted Larsen come back and Jake Brendel and Jesse Davis. Eric Smith, we’re excited about him. Zach Sterup played meaningful snaps last year in the Buffalo game (in Week 17). Those guys have played a lot. (Offensive Line Coach) Jeremiah Washburn and (Assistant Offensive Line Coach) Chris Kuper do a good job. We feel better about the depth of that position.”
That depth could be critical for Miami, with Larsen able to fill in at guard, Brendel likely the primary backup to Kilgore, Smith and Sam Young working as the reserve tackles. Should a player be injured, Miami appears to have the depth to be able to immediately plug in another solid player and keep the offense moving. It is a strange concept, but the Dolphins offensive line may be ready to put the past behind them and move forward.
The Dolphins expect a lot out of this season, with the return of Tannehill as the starting quarterback, Drake’s emergence last year, and the re-tooling of the receiving corps, including the addition of Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson as well as the selection in the second-round of tight end Mike Gesicki. The offensive line will be a huge part of any success the offense has, and it appears the team will finally be able to call the position group a strength.