The first preseason game is not something to which any fan should overreact. It is still early, the team is not truly game-planning for the contest, the play calls are basic, and the team is looking at individual execution more than they are worried about the end result of the game. The first preseason game is more like a highly intense practice than it is a reflection of what the team will look like during the season.
That said, the Miami Dolphins’ offensive line did not exactly instill confidence in what they might be during the season. While the pass protection of the first team was fairly solid, the run blocking left a lot to be desired. The team struggled to open holes and were pushed back into the play too often. It was not a horrible performance, and it was not all on the offensive linemen, but the loss to the Chicago Bears did not leave fans feeling like Miami had the solution to years of offensive line struggles.
The Dolphins are thought to be considering trades for a veteran offensive lineman, and they may have to go that route. They could also continue to tinker with the players they have, adjusting who is playing where along the line, trying to find the right combination. Rookie lineman Liam Eichenberg missed the game and has been working as the starting left guard with Solomon Kindley stepping in for him.
“Liam is day-to-day and working his way to get back out there,” head coach Brian Flores said on Sunday. “We saw him at left guard. We’ve seen him at right tackle. I think Solomon did a nice job yesterday so that’s good competition there at left guard with Liam. But like we’ve said, we’re going to play the best five and they’ve all got some versatility. Liam obviously has some versatility having played tackle and guard. We’ll play the best five guys. I think the most important thing for us is to get him back and get him back out there. Wherever he plays, he plays; and he’ll have an opportunity to compete.”
Eichenberg coming back to the starting lineup could be the boost the team needs. But, it is not a guarantee to fix anything, with Eichenberg still being a rookie.
At tackle, Austin Jackson struggled, getting beaten back a few times and not looking completely comfortable facing the Bears.
“I thought he did some good things,” Flores said of Jackson on Sunday. “I thought he competed well. We were playing against a good front, some good players over there. I thought he competed well. I thought he did some good things in the running game, did some good things in pass protection. I thought he did a lot of good things. Obviously, there were some instances where his techniques and fundamentals weren’t as good and we’re making those corrections right now. But I was pleased with how he played.”
Flores also discussed Michael Deiter, who started the game at center. Deiter and Matt Skura are competing for the starting position in the middle of the line, with Flores saying, “ I think he’s done a nice job. Good communication, good fundamentals, good techniques. He had some tough matchups this week against Chicago in practice and in the game, and I thought he handled himself well.”
The line did give starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa some clean pockets, which he mentioned during his post-game media availability, but there were not enough of them - even as Tagovailoa and Flores highlight the positive. The running game was a mess on Saturday. The passing game was solid but not great. The second team offensive line did not provide any confidence in the team’s depth.
The offensive line was a mess at times on Saturday and that will not cut it this season. It is still early and issues can be fixed. But, the team has to see improvement this week.