A lot of Miami Dolphins fans aren’t satisfied with where the offensive line is, and I can’t say that I blame them. When you look at the final four teams in the NFL playoffs, three of them have dominant offensive lines (Chiefs, 49ers, and Eagles). One of the two teams eliminated (the Bengals), struggled offensively because they couldn’t protect their franchise quarterback. You might not need a top-5 offensive line to win the Super Bowl, but man does it help.
It is also important to look at the progress the Dolphins have made on the offensive line. In 2021, they had a historically bad group up front. This isn’t meant to discourage those players, but many of them weren’t put in a position to succeed. Robert Hunt, Liam Eichenberg, Austin Jackson, Jesse Davis, and Michael Dieter. Those were the five Miami Dolphins offensive linemen with the most snaps in 2021.
That is an inexperienced group with no solid veteran leadership being led by a first-time offensive line coach (Lemuel Jeanpierre). It was a bad idea then and looks even worse in hindsight. So what did Miami do in the offseason to improve this position group?
Adding Connor Williams and Terron Armstead made such a massive difference for this group. The fact that Terron Armstead missed time (and has for much of his career) is unfortunate, but that man has been worth his weight in gold. A true professional and an absolute brick wall when he’s on the field.
Terron Armstead through the first two games of 2022:— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) September 21, 2022
88 Pass blocking Reps
3 total pressures
83.3 pass blocking grade (4th among all OTs)
Here he is on the final two TDs (Game tying and game winning) this past Sunday. (Slowed to 75%)
WORTH EVERY PENNY pic.twitter.com/TN28wo8uXI
Connor Williams doesn’t get the same level of fanfare that Armstead does, but you could argue he was equally as valuable this season. Connor Williams and Robert Hunt were the only two Miami offensive linemen that played all 17 games and went over 1,000 snaps. Hunt was the 9th highest graded guard and Williams the 4th highest graded center (per PFF). Both really helped to solidify the interior offensive line.
Beautiful touchdown run early. I think there are two main things that make this play. Edmonds bites on the counter and takes himself right out of the play and Connor Williams blocks his dude into another dimension. Easy Touchdown. pic.twitter.com/Tgkc0jnO49— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) September 27, 2022
Well, that was the good news, let's talk about some of the negatives from this season. Outside of Williams and Hunt, no one played more than 13 games in 2022. That meant that Miami had to turn to backups for a big portion of the season. That isn’t a surprising or unusual situation. The problem is that Miami did not have very solid depth on the offensive line and it did cost them at times.
They also face uncertainty at two positions along the offensive line; left guard and right tackle. The two players that started the season in those positions, Liam Eichenberg and Austin Jackson, are controversial figures for many Dolphins fans. Jackson hasn’t lived up to his status as a first-round selection and Eichenberg has struggled to find his footing at either tackle or guard.
The Dolphins are still likely to give both of those players a chance to win starting jobs in 2023. The offensive line is much more complicated and technical than most fans realize and players don’t usually hit the ground running in the NFL. They both deserve a chance to compete, but how can the Dolphins hedge their bets here?
If you look at the best offensive lines around the NFL, they prioritize the position. They draft players when they don’t need them and they spend big money for stability up front. When your star tackle has struggled to stay healthy, your swing tackle is extremely important. I’m not saying that Greg Little will never be a good NFL lineman, but he struggled mightily in that role this past season.
Brandon Shell was solid at right tackle filling in for Austin Jackson, but he’ll be a 31-year-old UFA this offseason. Eric Fisher and Kendall Lamm were both added during the season as well with only Lamm seeing (limited) snaps. It seems obvious that the Dolphins identified this weakness and are likely to address it this off-season.
Addressing left guard and your interior depth should be a much easier process. Good interior linemen routinely slip to day two or three of the NFL draft and you can add quality players for cheap on the open market. Competition brings out the best in players and it will be crucial for the Dolphins to add someone up front to compete with Eichenberg and Robert Jones.
Maybe they didn’t fix it in just one offseason, but the Miami Dolphins at least have a solid base up front to build around. It would be surprising to see Miami spend big on the position group again. It would make a lot more sense for them to target the second or third wave of free agency to add players on cheaper deals or maybe spend a mid-round pick to augment the group. They have a strong foundation, this upcoming offseason needs to be about building depth and filling holes.