The beginning of Liam Eichenberg’s career hasn’t gone exactly the way that he or the Miami Dolphins may have hoped. Even though he’s had his struggles, coaching staffs continue to give him opportunities to start (oftentimes at the dismay of the fan base).
While it can be frustrating, I’m here to explain why the organization is correct in their decision-making. Eichenberg has the requisite tools to excel in the NFL, the pedigree and work ethic to improve, and only has a season of experience as an interior player. I know a lot of you have already started scrolling to the comment section, but let me lay out my case before you rip into me.
Physical Tools to Excel
Eichenberg was viewed as a safe pick in the 2021 NFL draft. He may not have the ceiling or elite traits like some other prospects, but you’re getting a dependable player. Evaluators were surprised when Eichenberg posted a 7.53 3 cone, 4.58 shuttle, and 33 reps on the bench. All three ranked in the 75th percentile or better for offensive tackles (80th or better for all offensive linemen).
This meant that Eichenberg had better short-area quickness than most folks thought and he had clearly been taking the time to fully prepare for the combine; two very positive signs for a prospect. The 33 reps of bench press also helped alleviate concerns about play strength that could accompany his slimmer frame (just 305 pounds at 6’6+). That strength and short area quickness especially bodes well for his current position and scheme.
Pedigree and Past Results
One of the biggest pluses for Eichenberg was his collegiate experience. He came from one of the most prominent offensive line programs in the nation (Notre Dame) that had produced NFL talents like Ronnie Stanley, Zach Martin, and Quentin Nelson in recent years.
Eichenberg started each game at left tackle for the Fighting Irish from 2018-2020. He played through injury, improved each season, and didn’t give up a single sack in either of his final two seasons. This was a team-first guy that would put in the work and knew how to grow as a player.
Learning a New Position
When Eichenberg left Notre Dame for the NFL, there was concern about his ability to stick at offensive tackle in the NFL. There were two things that drove that concern: first, he had really short arms and a short wingspan for the position. You can count on one hand how many offensive tackles have thrived in the NFL with sub-32.5-inch arms in the last ten years. It’s possible to do so, but you need to have your technique down perfectly... and even then, some guys with length could give you trouble.
The other thing that caused concern was his hand usage. In the NFL, successful offensive tackles can utilize a one-hand punch. In other words, when they load up to punch an edge defender, they can use their hands independently. At times they may utilize a two-hand punch, but they absolutely need the ability to punch with one hand and place the other on the pec or in the armpit (differs from tackle to tackle).
Eichenberg utilized a two-hand punch through college and had trouble moving off of that in the NFL. That got him in a lot of trouble through his rookie season and along with the fact that he lacked the ideal length for the position was enough for McDaniel and company to make the switch to guard for Liam.
Liam Eichenberg has almost exclusively been an offensive tackle. He played nothing but left tackle at Notre Dame and was an offensive tackle coming out of high school. He has little to no relevant experience as an interior offensive lineman. His sophomore season (2022) in the NFL was his first opportunity to play guard (which he did exclusively for 600+ snaps). He’ll reportedly get some snaps at center this offseason as well.
Are we Really Quitting on the Guy?
Let me recap: numerous fans have given up on a guy with one year of actual experience at his NFL position (making the switch from tackle to guard or center is no cakewalk). A player that has high-level traits and a career filled with year-to-year growth and improvement. Does that really make sense?
I’m not saying Eichenberg will be an all-pro this season; this upcoming season could go either way for Liam. I’m just saying that he’s earned the opportunity in year three to show that he can be a quality interior offensive lineman, and there’s a chance that he’ll do so.