In the last week Tony Sparano has called out his offensive line.
The question remains if anyone has answered the call.
Sparano, a former center at New Haven and a former offensive line coach at both the college and NFL level, keeps a keen eye on his offensive linemen. One wouldn't say they're his pets. But they are his dogs.
Sparano, you see, wants the Dolphins offensive line to be the personality of the offense. He wants them to attack the other team. He wants them to win their battles. And, if it escapes him it certainly does not me, they should be doing this because they are the highest paid unit on the team at a whopping $156 million.
One problem: The Miami offensive line has been up-and-down inconsistent this year.
The unit has been dominant in games against Indianapolis and the first meeting with the Jets. The unit has also been unspectacular in games against the Falcons and the second meeting with the Jets. And that's not what Sparano wants.
“I just want to see better play," the coach said Thursday. "I want to see [fewer] sacks. I want to see [fewer] minus plays. I want to see more of us on the other side of the line of scrimmage. I want to see us finish blocks, do some of these things that are necessary for us to win, and that is something they can do."
When he was in Dallas coaching players such as Flozell Adams, Leonard Davis and Andre Gurode, Sparano believed his unit determined the destiny of the team. Those guys could take over games.
The coach wants the same from the Miami offensive line.
"I told you before, I believe a line, a good line, can take over a game, can be the personality of a team," Sparano said, "and that’s what I would like to see out of that group.”
So Sparano laid down the challenge to the group prior to the New England game. And the Miami OL returned mixed results. The club did rush for 4.3 yards per carry, but only because Pat White got loose on a 33-yard spread option run play that New England obviously wasn't expecting. Chad Henne didn't get beat up, but he was sacked twice and hurried an additional five times.
It was an average performance. And it wasn't good enough for Sparano, who this week has a new set of problems.
Right guard Justin Smiley is having persistent shoulder issues, which he has had the past two years, and has not practiced all week. On Thursday Smiley was sent to the shoulder specialist for an MRI and a more definitive diagnosis of the problem.
That means the team is looking for a right left guard to fill the potential vacancy at right guard by, basically, holding tryouts. Nate Garner took first-team snaps Wednesday, Lydon Murtha took some Thursday, let's see if Joe Berger or Larry Little take some Friday.
It's safe to say Sparano, who challenged his linemen last week, desperately needs someone to answer that challenge.