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Cincinnati Bengals’ Super Bowl loss should provide learning lesson for Miami Dolphins’ front office

NFL: JAN 09 Patriots at Dolphins Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2021 Cincinnati Bengals had a stacked team.

Joe Burrow is a stud quarterback.

Joe Mixon is a dominant running back.

Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins form one of the most spectacular receiving corps in all of the NFL.

Free agent acquisition, Trey Hendrickson, was a monster on the Bengals’ defensive line – amassing 14 sacks in just 14 regular season games played.

All of these players, and more, helped Cincinnati get all the way to the Super Bowl, and gave them the lead with less than two minutes left to play – nearly delivering the franchise’s first championship.

However, with less than a minute left on the clock, and the offense driving down the field with a chance to score the game-tying field goal, the Bengals faced a 4th and 1, do-or-die conversion attempt.

What happened?

This studded team’s achilles’ heel reared its ugly head for the final, fatal blow when Cincinnati’s offensive line gave up immediate pressure, resulting in a hurried pass attempt from Joe Burrow that fell at the feet of his intended target, sealing a championship for the Los Angeles Rams, and ensuring that Bengals fans all around the country would once again recall the bitter taste of defeat.

When it was all said and done, and the final stats were recorded, Joe Burrow was sacked a total of 7 times – tying the record for most sacks taken in a Super Bowl.

The Miami Dolphins’ brass – new coach and front office alike – should take Sunday’s result as a massive learning opportunity on how to construct a winning team. Yes, you can have the all-star quarterback, flashy wide receivers, and elusive running backs, but when your offense’s core – the building blocks for any true contender – are the weak link, you will be heading home at the end of the season without a Lombardi Trophy to place in your team’s headquarters, just like the Bengals are today.

Miami has invested heavily into their offensive line, yet the results have been pretty substandard to this point, to say the least. Does the blame get placed on the players? Do they lack the talent to be quality NFL starters, or is coaching the reason why this unit has under-performed so badly for the past couple of seasons?

Time will tell how Chris Grier and his colleagues answer that question.

Maybe they’ve already hinted at how they plan to attack the offensive line problem with the recent hire of Matt Applebaum as the new offensive line coach – replacing Lemuel Jeanpierre after just one season on the job. Applebaum, formerly Boston College’s o-line coach, is skilled in the wide-zone concepts that Mike McDaniel implemented with great success in San Francisco. Miami’s new offensive line coach led the BC Eagles to the 11th ranked o-line in all of college football last year according to Pro Football Focus.

If Applebaum – with the assistance of new head coach, Mike McDaniel – can coach up Miami’s young talent like he did in the college ranks, Austin Jackson, Liam Eichenberg, Robert Hunt, Micheal Deiter, Solomon Kindley and others could find themselves a strength on this Dolphins team, instead of a glaring weakness.

If Miami decides their offensive line needs new additions instead of relying on the growth of their young investments, their league-leading cap space could prove to be an ace-in-the-hole.

New Orleans Saints left tackle, Terron Armstead, is slated to be a free agent when the period opens in roughly one month. The Saints are very hard up against the cap – currently in the red with negative spending cash available. It has been widely rumored that Armstead will not be retained by New Orleans, and if that is the case, Miami figures to be heavily involved in the bidding for the 30 year old tackle from Cahokia, IL.

If spending free agency dollars on proven NFL talent isn’t the route Miami chooses, there are plenty of intriguing options along the offensive line front in this upcoming NFL Draft. One name that makes far too much sense right now is former Boston College star, Zion Johnson. Coached by Matt Applebaum for the past two seasons, plus an additional year when both were at Davidson in 2017, Miami will have all of the intel needed to decide whether or not Johnson can be a big contributor in South Florida for years to come.

Regardless of how the Miami Dolphins attack their offensive line problem, knowing they have a problem is the first step in correcting it. Surrounding Tua Tagovailoa with flashy weapons is a must, and is something that Grier, McDaniel and company will certainly do, but building a brick wall of quality linemen in front of him absolutely must be done first. Yesterday’s Super Bowl loss by the Cincinnati Bengals proved that.

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How would you attack Miami’s offensive line problem? Would you purchase one via free agency or would you draft young talent that can be molded into quality starters? Would you try a combination of the two strategies? Let me know on Twitter at @MBrave13 or in the comments below. Fins up!