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Miami's offensive line continues to be a problem

You want to know where the Dolphins running game went this year?

Look no further than the offensive line.

(Well, the line isn't totally at fault as the running backs have had too many moments when they've showed little explosion and don't often break tackles and the offensive coordinator has abandoned the run on more than one occasion.)

But I digress.

It is mostly the offensive line. I would say the problems with the running game are located in that group about 60 percent of the time.

So what is the problem? Well, let's start at the beginning:

The Miami coaching staff and personnel department had a good-not-great offensive line in 2009 after committing to nearly $156 million in contracts, the first overall selection of the 2008 draft, a fourth-round pick in the 2008 draft, a sixth-round pick in the 2008 draft, and a sixth-round pick in the 2009 draft.

But something happened to the Dolphins en route to having all that free agency money and draft resources become an excellent line: The bottom fell out.

The Dolphins signed Justin Smiley who came with a repuation for getting hurt and having a bum shoulder. And he got hurt and had a bum shoulder so bad the Dolphins asked him not to show up for offseason conditioning last March because they were afraid Smiley might hurt himself. He turned into a free agency bust because the team signed him to a big contract with the hopes he'd be the left guard for five years. He was the left guard for only part of two years.

The Dolphins also signed Jake Grove to a big contract in 2009 with the expectation he'd be their starting center for five years. He came with a reputation for getting hurt and the Dolphins were apparently surprised when, shockingly, Grove got hurt. Free agent bust.

Shawn Murphy was a draft bust. Donald Thomas, who showed much promise for about 10 minutes, got hurt in his first professional game and missed the rest of his rookie season. He came back last season and was a disappointment. He was cut in camp this year. Draft bust.

Andrew Gardner? Never really developed because, at the end of the day, he was a triple option blocker and no one in the NFL runs the triple option. Draft bust.

So those wasted picks hurt. 

The Dolphins did hit one draft home run by picking Jake Long with the first overall selection in 2008. He's been everything you might want of a franchise left tackle. So he's a draft exclamation point, as first overall picks should be.

But he's been playing injured practically the entire year.

I asked him after the Green Bay game how he was feeling. "I feel great," he said with a big smile.

That was perhaps the one time this season that's been the case. Long suffered MCL damage in one knee the final preseason game. That was an issue for a while. Then he injured his ankle. Then he suffered a shoulder injury that will likely require surgery after the season. And lately he's got knee problems again, which are limiting him in practice the last week or so to the point he hasn't participated in all the drills.

Long is playing well. But he's not as good as he could be simply because he's not 100 percent and really hasn't been all year, with the possible exception of that moment when he answered my question.

There is, of course, the right tackle spot, also. Vernon Carey is out for the remainder of the year. The Dolphins placed him on IR on Tuesday with a knee injury. Carey was not exactly setting the world on fire before he got hurt. Unofficial stats show he had allowed three sacks and was responsible for five penalties this season.

But Carey's departure is a big loss because the drop from him to the next best tackle on the team is significant. Lydon Murtha played right tackle on Sunday against New York. He yielded one sack and had a penalty. I do not know how he graded out run-blocking but the Dolphins averaged 3.2 yards per rush, so it is hard to imagine Murtha played great in that area.

And the tackles have been the strong points for the Miami line. Can you imagine?

The interior of the Miami line is a problem. A big problem.

Joe Berger is an over-acheiver and as many over-achievers do, sometimes he's up, sometimes he's down. The Dolphins are getting more than their money's worth for this second-tier free agent signee. That's good because they got so little for Grove. But is Berger dominant? Elite? No. No.

Rookie John Jerry showed hopeful signs of being a big-time acquisition when he earned a starting right guard job early on. But then he got sick and missed four games and was never really that good when he returned. Jerry actually started losing ground, playing poorly against Chicago and Oakland, so he was benched. So much for rookies developing from the jump and showing constant improvement.

This doesn't make Jerry a bust or a disappointment. But he's not exactly looking like a star, either, especially when you consider Pat McQuistan, a career backup who had not started a game until this year, is now starting at right guard.

You want to believe the reason McQuistan is starting is because he is simply a beast. The truth is he is starting because he's the best candidate of a struggling lot.

Interestingly, the biggest gamble the Dolphins took along the offensive line this year is working out. Richie Incognito came with an ugly reputation for losing his mind at precisely the wrong moment. That is the reason he got kicked off a college team, got kicked off the Rams and the Bills wanted to go in another direction so they cut him.

The Dolphins are lucky to have him now. Incognito has started every game. He hasn't freaked out at any point on the field. He's good enough that the Dolphins have made attempts to extend his one-year contract. He is not a big problem. He's good enough. But he's probably playing out of position because he seems to me to be a more natural and comfortable right guard. The fact he's playing out of position is a sign of Miami's weakness at left guard because, best case, Incognito would be at RG with a superior player at LG.

The picture this all paints is of a unit that the personnel department and the coaching staff have been trying to get right for three seasons with no success. They got somewhat good at the beginning of 2009 but they have fallen off since, never reaching a point where anyone with decision-making power feels the OL is solid and a non-issue.

Nope, the offensive line is an issue. The Dolphins will have to draft for more OL help this offseason. I imagine a guard or center will do the trick and the hope here is they pick someone early enough that he's good enough to play immediately. If Jeff Ireland is thinking outside the box, perhaps he can draft a right tackle and move Vernon Carey inside, although that would make Carey an overpaid guard. Whatever works, folks. It's not our money.

In the meantime, the offensive line is the black hole that swallowed Miami's running game. Frustratingly, the line doesn't seem dramatically better now than it was in 2008. On any given Sunday, it might even be worse.

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i notice the name HENNING didn't come up even once in this article .

the OL IS THE WORST ,WE CAN'T BLAME HENNING .

this a the funniest video in the world. a jets fan crying about their loss to the mighty phins with a bag over his head. he evn admitts that rex ryan and sanchez sucks and their strength coach was wrong

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4StKd1DkTVo

guess i was second

WHY ARMANDO ISN'T TAKING SHOTS AT THE PRIME OL PLAYERS AND NOT THESE THIRD TIER PLAYERS ?

im not the smartest guy in the world but if we fire henning and draft a speedy rb, qb,speedy wr in the late rounds who can also return kicks and a couple o linemen we'll be ok next year cuz to be above .500 while playing like this is amazing

It's funny that we can point to the offensive line sucking as a reason why the running game can't get going but the two of them together, (sucky o-line and no running game) for some reason are not a good enough excuse for the reason why Henne is struggling.

I was as mad as anyone else after the Cleveland game but after putting some rationale thought into the situation I backed off of my stance a bit.

Every time Brady or Manning play poorly the entire world blames the offensive lines struggles. And they're future hall of famers. So it seems very odd to me that Henne doesn't get to use those same excuses considering not only does his o-line blow and the other team has no fear of our running game, but he has no deep threat opposite Marshall AND he has someones great grandfather calling the plays.

8tH!!!!

Bingo. Look at that line in N.E.- thats why they win. This year and the 18-1 year Brady was virtually untouched. The guy gets 3-5 seconds every play it seems like.

I spent some time reading jet blogs after the dolphin victory and over 95% were calling for the firing of rex(fatboy) ryan, benching sanchez and getting rid of shotty (OC) . For a moment I thought I was still on a Dolphin bloq

That N.E. line made Danny Woodhead look like Jim Brown.

Seriously think about that. Peyton Manning has struggled all year with his accuracy and interceptions. And every game he plays in the commentators blame most of it on the o-lines injuries. "Well what do you expect him to do, he's getting knocked around back there".

Fast forward to the Jets game and you have commentators saying how Henne struggled, isn't seeing the field well, may not be the answer in Miami, but not once did they mention how many times he was sacked, pressured, blitzed, knocked down. Not once.

So are we saying that a 12 year veteran QB that is going to the hall of fame has no fault in throwing interceptions because of his o-line but a second year starter with less weapons should be able to handle it? Seems like something is off there.

P.MANNING IS HE WORTH 30 MILLION HE'S ASKING FOR ?

I SAY IND WILL PASS ON HIM , PEOPLE THINK MOST TEAMS HAVE FIGURED HIM OUT .

News flash -Henne aint Peyton or Tom. He sucks.

You're right, That Guy. It irks me that Brady is standing back there drinking margaritas while the O-line is putting up a decent wall and creating gaps for little Woodhead to run through. Maybe we should grab their O-line coach.

SORRY, 30 MILLION PER YEAR ,ENOUGH TO FEED THE PEOPLE IN HAITI FOR A YEAR .

Interior line is so godamn important. Your qb has to be able to step up into his throws. You gotta be able to run between the tackles to play fake. We have Jake, and Vernon on the outside but Jesus - you can have the rest.

Some will say the problem is that Hennings playbook is for the girl scouts hopscotch tournament. Could it possibly be we need better players? Or is that too far-fetched? I think Armando makes a valid argument here.

"that guy", wow, wow, wow. That was so profound. You must be a genius or something. I'm so glad I took the time to write a well thought out post and you answered with "newsflash Henne AINT Peyton or Tom, he sucks".

I mean just look at how much you added to the conversation.

Why comment if you're too ignorant to understand simple concepts? Why try? Why get out of bed in the morning if you can't have a rationale adult conversation with someone but instead just regurgitate the first piece of S**T thing that comes to your pea brain? What's the point of living if you're that stupid? Boy that was such a great post.

Don't forget Nate Garner for next year Mando. He is a solid guard/center that could take Incognito's spot which would allow Richie to move to RG. Just need a nasty center, Carey and Long to heal...and we would be in good shape.

Logan Mankins man.

No doubt we will have a new OC next year. If we draft all offense, oline, TE, RB, we should be in pretty good shape. Often there is a fine line between mediocre and great.

SAIMON IN FOIL HAT
RICE W/PORCINI MUSHROOMS
FRESH SPINCH STEAMED W/LEMON
LIME CHEESE CAKE

I've been saying the same thing..... interior o-line is awful, no running game, mediocre TE, young inexperienced WRs, awful OC, but hey, it's all Henne's fault because he's an emotionless robot.... Hello, A.J. Feeley was an emotional mess that would get too high or too low.... you want a starting caliber QB to stay even keeled and cool under pressure. Let's bring in a veteran QB and bring in a young guy, but a new OC is the first order of business!!!

You are right on the money G-Money. We need a dominate center. Think about Dwight Stevenson....Jim Langer....someone to give the QB an extra second is huge!!!

J.Long will end up like T.Boselli because of his shoulder injury. That pretty much sums it up with most of the draft picks that the Trifecta sign and brought in. Why do they take players with broken legs, pre existing injuries(Grove,Smiley,Pennington,Curtis,Odrick,Marshalls,etc.) This is why the Dolphins are an average team.Bill Parcells did not really made that much of an improovement, the reason being is the QB position is not solved and the OL is a revolving door with poor run/pass blocking no matter who is in playing.

Denny,

Excellent post @ 8:12

The best the Henne bashers have to offer is "Henne sucks".

The smarter Henne bashers, (if there is such a thing-lol) are sitting at home thinking, Duh............................

Henne and any others they try here, simply have the deck stacked against them right now. But hey lets give away some picks, trade up and draft Ryan Mallet-ROTFLMAO!!!!

Cam Newton or bust for me. We MUST get him or someone else will.

JAKE GROVE MADE 30 MILLION W/DOLPHINS AND STILL LOOKING FOR A TEAM .............

A wise man on this blog over a year ago said that Carey should be moved inside and that the Dolphins should draft another OT.

Who was that wise, handsome, and charming Canadian?

DOES ANY ONE KNOWS HOW MUCH MONEY IS GUARANTEED ?


24 MILLION AND THAT MAKE IT EASY ,WE WILL NEVER RELEASE HIM .

The truth is whoever assembled this group is accountable. This may lessen the responsibility
of the Offensive Coordinator, however he's not
exactly off the hook...

CAM NEWTON AND LUCK WILL BE GONE IN THE FIRST 10 DRAFT PICKS .

Bill Bilicheck has a good system in place, he changes OC,DC and players through the years and his team competes year in and year out. That is why the Trifecta must go along with Henning and Sparano.What ever coaching philosophy Sparano got is not working that good
It looks like another 500 finish------ again..

To get Newton it would probably cost us at least our 1st and 3rd.

That would leave us four picks to address a lot of needs. I myself would want to use 4 picks on the o-line alone.

Nothing against Newton, but I don't see Ireland thinking this way at all.

I think we need to pick some O-lineman, a RB and a speed receiver. In addition, Fasano seems to be a solid SECOND TE. We need an upgrade here as well.

I'm hoping we fill one or two of these needs in free agency. Even if we do, it still doesn't leave a lot of leeway on draft day.

SMILY CONTRACT WAS 25 MILLION FOR 5 YEARS.SO MUCH MONET SO LITTLE TIME .

Wow. I'm impressed that finally some people actually aren't blaming our entire offensive woes on our second year QB. The fact that Henne gets slammed back there every other play and NEVER yells at the line or throws them under the bus is an attribute of his character that makes him a super steady level headed guy. THAT isn't something you can teach. Henne is still learning but we also have to question why we make it so hard on him. Taking him out every other series for the wild cat-- making him have to come into 3rd and long when the defense knows they must pass. And the dropped balls these last two games-- check them out from the play by plays and you'll see that several drives stalled due to incomplete passes or sacks. Henne is too young to take this team and put it on his shoulders. Matt Ryna would fare no better. He's got an amazing o-line, running game, wide reciever, hall of fame TE, etc , etc. and a coach that tailors the game plan to their offense strengths. Funny how our coaching staff would defend their shying away from the run and then once the heat came over it, we started finding ourselves running again. Meaning that we did in fact intentionally shut our run down. I think Sparano has had zero control over Henning. Its obvious when you watch him on the sideline after certain calls. They say the execution isn't there but running plays that make no sense at specific times in the game are impossible to execute.
Offense needs tons of work and someone who actually can be held accountable for what he does. Not someone that does fear losing his job. Henning doesn't care if he does or not. Watching the Pats play makes you see that the system can play to the personnel and not the other way around.

I say Try and sign Logan makins.

tweet

Look, the reality is the Fins have done nothing but build 1/3 of a team at a time for 3 decades now. Either the O is great and everything else sucks, or the D is good and everything else sucks

Yes sign Logan Mankins, then we will have the most Fresno State players of any NFL team, the key to winning the next SB.

I would trade those picks up to get Newton then our QB situation would be given a boost. Let Coach Lee let him run a WildCam package.

Also sign Champ Bailey using the Mike Nolan connection. Niners QB Alex Smith is possible also, they were talking about him on the Michael Irvin show.

ddave
~Alum of Guess Who?

For whatever reasons, the state of our O-line has to be considered a big red flag waving right over Tony Sporano's head.

After all, his forte, his only NFL experience was as an offensive line coach. This was supposed to be his area of expertise.

I love his attitude, the Hall of Fame Fist Pump and even his goofy "Tony Speak" press conferences. However, this will the 4 off season since he's become the head coach and other than Jake Long, we're virtually at ground zero with the O-line.

SO THE PATS GO THROUGH HELL FOR LOGAN MAKINS SO THEY CAN HAND HIM TO US ,

I'll try again.

Odin. This question, or comment is for you.
You saw a lot of Henne back at Michigan. It looks to me like his mechanics have taken a step back since his days as a Wolverine. In college Henne looked like an addonis when he would drop back. Perfect rythm, perfect balance. He also, from what I remember was much more accurate. You watch him now, and he looks off balance, and very uncomfertable in the pocket. His footwork is really bad. These are all things I think can be fixed. Some of this blame(I'm not playing pass the blame game, a lot of this is on Chad)has to fall on the shoulders of David Lee. Before a new coordinator gets his paws on Henne. These simple things need fixed. You said you used to coach. What say you?

Henne can't read defenses, that is the problem. Can we wait for him to improve there? No, I don't think so. He MAY and probably WILL get better there but let him do it w/ some competition. If we get Ryan Mallett good! He can have a Michigan reunion w/ him.

Henne doesn't have NFL finesse, he is good at throwing a bullet when a guy comes open, but very poor on the timing and touch throws. QB's either have those or they don't. I don't want to see us wait 5 years to figure out Henne is a backup.

Unlike at QB, where I hate to say it but Miami has virtually zero chance at upgrading through free-agency or trade, there are usually decent OL options out there in the offseason.

It would be different if they were in desperate need of a LT with such a premium (rightly so) on those guys, but at the interior spots you can normally find some vets that would at least give you a decent shot at upgrading.

It's fixable, despite the frustration of missing on some of these guys the past few years. Nobody has five all-pros on their line. You just need a couple of studs (we have one already) and servicable guys to round it out. I believe one or two upgrades---along with health, obviously, would kick Miami's OL into a much higher echelon.

They have to keep trying, despite the mistakes that were made.

Also, in the previous blog entry I completely agree with the poster about Vernon Carey.

No, he's never been spectacular but anyone who didn't notice the HUGE dropoff on that side without him in there must have blinders on.

He will be sorely missed, folks. That side of the line is just begging to be blitzed now and even if you change your blocking schemes to try to cover it, that necessarily weakens your other options.

Sure, I was Carey was better---who doesn;t?---but he's never deserved the kind of criticism I've seen about him. We're going to keep finding out why the next few weeks.

Those double down drafts have absolutely killed this team. Only the Sean Smith/ Vontae Davis double downs have even come close to working out. We've even had cases where both double downs have not worked.

Now add this to bad free agent signings, Pat White signing, and players we chose not to sign at all. Then its easy to see why we are where we are today.

Too few hits and too many misses.

The answer to all of our draft woes:

DOUBLE-DOWN BABY, DOUBLE-DOWN!

Last year's line was dominant when all were healthy (see the Indy game and the jets game played in mia). It's just a shame that one of our strongest units has regressed so much in so little time. I believe this unit will end up costing Sparano his job. Who is John Jerry supposed to be learning from? Move Jerry to LG and get some contiuity going between he and Long. Draft Mike Pouncey in the 1st round to play center. Franchise Ronnie and trade him to a team that is willing to give up a 2nd round pick to sign him (Jerry Jones has been looking for a player to run the wildcat for the last 2 years, and would have picked up Pat White in the 2nd Round had Miami not took him, too bad for the phins) With the Brown pick get Marcus Cannon TCU in the 2nd round (6'6" 340 with no body fat to speak of)to play right guard, then draft Noel Devine in the third round. Pick up Graig Cooper from the U in the late rounds, and let Cobbs, Hillard, Devine and Coop compete for carries behind the vaunted O-line. Let Carey and Garner compete for the RT spot. A mediocre offense will suffice due to the product Mike Nolan will put on the field next year. This unit is really coming together, and it's exciting. Maybe Champ Bailey would like to reunite with Nolan. If so, that would sure up the only weakness the D has, not enough good covermen. Smith is coming around but he needs to work with the receivers a bit. I see why he was moved to D in college, hands of stone. Isn't this the same guy who picked a pass with one hand in the preseason last year? Go Phins

Darryl,

First of all, I'm not sold on David Lee as a quarterbacks coach. To be fair, I don't have any ammunition to knock the guy and I won't/can't blame him for Henne's mechanics. I think Henne was PROPERLY coached up on NFL level mechanics.

I agree with you, Henne's mechanics have been less than stellar, especially since about week 4 and 5. Henne has to be held accountable for his slide in this department. With that being said, I think I can explain it, or at least I have a theory on it and it's a common explanation/theory for young 1st and 2nd year starters.

When Henne was thrown into the mix the playbook and game plans were shrunk down and simplified. The running game was working like a freight train as well. His mechanics at that time looked good and he wasn't being asked to do as much as he is now.

As the game started to slow down for him he was progressively being asked to do more and more things. At this point, like many sophomores do, he's paying more attention to pre snap reads, live reads and not making the big mistake. In so doing, he's been letting some of the little things slide.

For what it's worth, that's my theory and I'll only blame Henne on the mechanics. I think the coaches just need to stay in his ear while looking at game films and Henne himself has to ingrain his mechanics to the point they become instinctual. It just a matter of putting it all together on a consistent basis.

I say draft a 1 round pick Center, a dominating force, 3rd a Tackle and move Vernon, then do whatever...Joey Haynos is a descent TE, but we could use another, Kory Sheets is speedy RB that was starting this season but ended in IR, Kory sheets and Lex can do some damage if OL improves Speedy WR but keep Kevin Curtis if he plays if he is 100%. Marshall at 100%, Curtis 100%, Bess and hartline cant get get any better than that. Give Henne another chance or start thigpen, wait for next draft for QB...nothing descent for QB this season.

True the OL has problems but for many games Henne has had enough time to eat breakfast back there and will still miss the open guy throw into the ground or into the stands. So if he is rushed or has all day you get the same. Please Santa give Henne a bus ticket to anywhere but here. Thats my story and i'm sticking to it.

We won't be in the playoffs. We suck. Almost doesn't count. We suck. Another year. Next year will be the same thing. Another year. Another decade.

It's the Great "AWFULENCE" masters of a 10pt game! and saved by a punter or a kicker.
As i broke the game down the Jets defense played better than Miami's. allowing only 142yds of awfulence. while da doofin defense gave up double that 380's. The game was more of case of miscues from the Jet offense. Batted down passes continued, you would think adjustments would be made. But our OC and the coaches on that side of the ball are costing us games. You think henning is bad shotty has a WC QB who can throw, but he runs it??? go figure. The defense has Bart covering marshall on a critical play, costing a td. where's revis?
He kept bess from catching anything. cromartie stuffed marshall, and wilson blanketed Fatszono
Another unbelievable loss to da doofins ( made up of crate paper and castoffs~~~

DolfanDave,

Henne has been improving at reading defenses.

I admit his progress has been slow and there is MUCH room for improvement.

The TD to Marshall Sunday was an excellent read. They had Marshall mismatched on a linebacker with inside coverage. Henne read it, found him and delievered a big time strike.

I know Henne has a long way to go, but lets be fair. He has been improving at reading defenses.

Jets will be home, just like us.

I feel that we have Henne one more yr under contract. Give him some help. The two undrafted receivers Moore and wallace are horrible. How can anyone expect Henne to play well when they keep 7 players to protect him and 3 receivers to run routes. Keep brown and draft for new players on the o line. Speedy fast wr. New te! D is playing great! I remember last yr always thinking of the d giving up big plays. This yr with the new improved d with wake is playing great!!

They should seriously consider drafting Rodney Hudson with the first pick, if its outside the top 15. The guy is a beast who can pull and get to 2nd level blocks. He could play guard or center. I like the idea of Carey moving inside, but unless he takes a pay cut he'll get cut while there's no salary cap hits to take. Same with Crowder and Starks. As far as FA goes, Max Starks from Pittsburgh and Mankins from the Pats are options, if you can put enough zeros on the check.

Odin, Well said. And I think you bring up a very good point that has been missed. For all quarterbacks their first year the playbook is simplified until the can prove they can handle it. Most if not all quarterback digress a little if not a lot in their second season because the playbook is opened up more, and they have a greater responsibility in the offense. Usually it is in the third year of play when you can fairly judge if a quarterback is going to be a player, or a stiff. I hate comparing Flaco, And Ryan to Henne. But both regressed in their second year. Even the great Tom Brady struggled(for him) in his second year behind center.Giving Henne third year is the right thing to do.

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