As another draft looms for the Miami Dolphins, both the team and its fans are wondering whether this will be the year that we finally see an effective, cohesive offensive line on the field for the Dolphins this season. It may not be easy. The Dolphins have a top tier player at left tackle in Laremy Tunsil, a decent starter at right guard in Jesse Davis, an underachieving, try hard guy at center in Daniel Kilgore and not much else.
As always, it often helps to look at the team from a historical perspective to see what has happened in past drafts, as it relates to Miami’s offensive line. This team has a history of just missing out on some real studs in the draft, watching other teams pick, or trade, ahead of them and snap up the good players before the Dolphins can get them. We saw this in the first round of the 1995 draft, when in Don Shula’s final draft for Miami, Minnesota selected all America Ohio State tackle Korey Stringer with the 24th pick. You would think, that with the top two tackles off the board (Tony Boselli went 2nd, to the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars), Shula would have gone in a different direction, but no -- he plowed ahead and chose offensive tackle Billy Milner from the University of Houston with the 25th pick . Milner played in only nine games for the Dolphins.
In 2004, the Dolphins were mired in what has become an irksome trend for them: instead of a viable player at a given position, they often instead prefer a gaping hole with a big neon sign above it that reads, ‘We Need __________, Bad’. In 2004, that gaping hole was the entire right side of the offensive line. Gaping holes with neon signs above them allows other teams to project who your favorite team is likely to select at a given spot, and then trade with another team that’s picking ahead of your favorite team, so they can draft that player before your team can get him. Shawn Andrews was the top guard available in ‘04, so naturally, the Philadelphia Eagles traded ahead of the Dolphins and selected Andrews with the 16th overall pick, leaving Miami to settle for hometown product Vernon Carey, from the University of Miami. Carey played eight seasons for the Dolphins, and had a decent career, but Andrews made two Pro Bowls in Philly before he got injured. Remember that embarrassing 1-15 season in 2007? To be sure, the Dolphins had lot of problems that year, including at the center position, but if the Carolina Panthers hadn’t taken center Ryan Khalil with the 59th pick, Miami wouldn’t have had to settle for pint sized Samson Satele with the 60th. Khalil would go to five Pro Bowls for Carolina, and not getting him was a big reason why the Dolphins had to burn a number one pick on Mike Pouncey four years later.
It was in 2012, though, that the Dolphins really missed out, and did it ever cost them. Having finished with an identical record as the Buffalo Bills, the Dolphins’ strength of schedule was a couple of hundredths of a percentage point higher than the Bills’, which gave Buffalo the 41st overall pick and Miami the 42nd, in the top half of the second round. Former Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland wanted University of Georgia’s Cordy Glenn, but was forced to settle for Stanford’s Jonathan Martin, a quirk of fate that still haunts the Dolphins seven years later. Martin eventually imploded in Miami, and touched off the BullyGate scandal that made the Dolphins a national laughingstock. Glenn was good enough in Buffalo that the Bills were able to package him with some other picks and move up in last year’s draft to select their quarterback of the future, Josh Allen. 2014 was a similar scenario to 2012, but at least when Miami missed out on four time Pro Bowler Zach Martin, Ju ‘Wuan James didn’t bring any scandals to the Dolphins. He also didn’t go to any Pro Bowls, either and he now plays for the Denver Broncos.
To be fair, many of the above events were beyond the team’s control, but they didn’t have to take the players they chose after better guys at the same position had already been selected by other teams. Aside from hoping that their abysmally bad luck takes a turn for the better, is there anything Miami can do for itself, to improve the offensive line? I would say yes. Get rid of that ridiculous finesse blocking system that both Joe Philbin and Adam Gase’s staffs used, and go back to a more physical, power based scheme. Maybe the X’s and O’s guys on the Phinsider can help me out a little bit here, but I’ve read that if you see the guards pulling on running plays, that’s an indication of a power based blocking scheme. Most of the top offenses I’ve seen the past couple of years, the Kansas City Chiefs, etc, have had their guards pulling frequently, and I didn’t see the Dolphins doing any pulling, at least in the games I saw. As I’ve said before, you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight and you don’t send finesse blockers to contend with the physical odd front defenses that are found in the AFC East. That’s the wrap for today, have a great week, everybody.