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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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While Vernon at 4 mill per as a guard is a lot, is it too steep?. You get a safety net included in that price. that way the Dolphins will have 3 players capable of playing tackle and the drop-off to murtha wont be anything like what we saw last week. Big Vern isn`t looking like a tackle these days to me anyhow.
Trade down in the first again to get a second rounder again.Derek Sherrod or Joseph Barksdale should be avalable late in the first.
A running back like Shane Vereen can be taken in the second. This will help us immensly.

I don't know if he has been improving actually. Believe me I have been a diehard since 1974 man, I am all for the guy improving but I just don't see it and IN CASE he fails we have Tyler Thigpen and no one else and we can't put the hopes of the 51 other guys and coaches if he doesn't improve. I realize it's a big investment but it is also a plan for the future. We need another QB in the mix.

Anyone of us can make that read, that is a very simple play. I am sure there are much more difficult reads when the pieces are moving. That one was based on alignment at the snap and everyone and their mothers can see that. My view is more encompassing. He did not play well though I know weather affected both QB's and WR's. There were dropped passes on both sides.

Everytime I take a huge, stinky dump, I think of Chad Henne. Those of you that believe in him are just full of man love. He will be a career back up. He has no feel for the game, he can do nothing more than throw darts to an already open receiver, but he hesitates and so he gets picked. He has 4 years starter at Mich and now 3 years in the NFL, 2 yrs playing. Time to call it like you see it. Bust.

If anyone really notices we went out and only got only 7 real solutions in this regimes 3 years here and:

1. Jake Long

2. Carlos Dansby

3. Brandon Marshall

4. Cameron Wake

5. Vontae Davis

6. Sean Smith

7. Chris Clemmons

2 of these 7 were a real roll of the dice because we never knew how Wake's talents would project on the nfl level. Clemmmons is just now starting to really come on and there's no way you can a guy you drafted 5th rd you 100% thought he would make it.

Also gotta give some kudos to the rookie Jones too. He looks like Bell's future replacemant.

Also anyone not named jake Long on the oline can use replacing too. We're now going into year 4 and the oline isnt right yet.

DB, left out Bess, no? And in fairness, I'm still not ready to give up on Misi or Jerry...I mean, it took #1 overall pick Mario Williams 3 years to show his true form.

Bottom line..the speed of the NFL is too much for Henne period. He was only decent in college with the game speed and he really sucks in the NFL. Guys that is a crucial skill needed to be a good QB in today's NFL. All his games he's gotten no better at that skill and I dont think he will ever get it. Probably time to move on at QB unfortunately...

Agree or disagree?


Bess is undrafted free agent. Had choice to go anywhere so I dont look at him as thier find. But I should have added Carroll because he's coming along nicely. You're right Misi makes the list too.

Im also hopeful of being able to add Odrick and Edds next season. Jerry may need next year too. Actually the 2010 draft class could pan out to be the best overall class ever by this regime.

Especially if Edds, Odrick, and Jerry pan out. Everyone else has made nice contributions this season.

Deytreder- You said it .Mario Williams took 3 years to come into his own. And he was the first pick in the draft at a position that takes half the skill to play than quarterback.
I don't know where you stand on Henne. But don't you think if the number one overall pick can have 3 years to show his worth. We can afford to give Henne another as well?


I kind of understand with Jerry because its extremely rare for a 3rd rd rookie lineman to come in, start and be dominant right away. That's why I think Jerry may have been started a year too early.

But Thomas was playing so crappy he was cut and hasnt been pick up by anyone as of yet.


Good observation. The read was one that should be easy. Rex had his guys in an underneath zone at the goal line(I believe). Marshall just took the LB to the inside a little and created a seam. I myself don't like any kind of zone coverages on the goal line. Rex thought he could get away with it and Henne/Marshall made them pay.

I was a Henne fan at Michigan and I still am. First and foremost though, I'm a Miami Dolphin fan. I'm all for bringing in anybody we can to push Henne or take his job away. Provided whoever starts earns it.

I just don't think we can afford to give up what it would take to bring in a high profile guy in the draft.

These guys want to run Henne out of town and leave us with Thigpen, a free agent and/or a draft pick as our options for next year. It's ludicris. I think that would leave us in a worse position than we are now.

I myself would keep Henne and Thigpen. Try to get a vet in FA and look for the next Brady with a 5th, 6th or 7th rounder.

Dying Breed @ 10:33 You forgot........Lex Hilliard!! I kid.I kid. Just playin'

Darryl Dunphy,

Everyone forgets Henne was drafted 2nd rd not 1st rd. Still Henne-bashers continually wanna judge him by what the 1st rd drafted qb's are doing. IMO he's actually pretty much holding his own against them.

Darryl Dunphy,

Hilliards actually a great find for a 7th rd rb. Seriously! LOL.........

I think fans grow increasingly more impatient waiting for the next franchise qb to appear as the gap since Marino last played grows wider.

I think Misi's doing just fine and has steadily improved (which rookies often DON'T do, even ones that wind up being very good).

The criticism of him earlier was just strange. Sometimes, it seems as if there's almost a mass hypnotism among fans regarding certain players and whatever the prevailing "party line" is that's what gets repeated regardless of how a guy is ACTUALLY playing, good or bad.

Same with Sean Smith to some degree. Sure, he needs to hang onto some of those int's, no question, but anyone who can't see how much better he's been overall is still stuck in that same mindset (and I suppose loathe to admit they're wrong).

DB - I keep forgetting about Edds, the preseason camp gossip was very favorable. Also, Odrick, if he doesn't turn out to be injury prone, we just may have the problem of too much talent on the D line.

Darryl, I will tell you I was high on Henne going into this season. I expected him to really ahine this year but it seems he has regressed. He rarely shows any fire or like he can be the type to carry the offense on his back when necessary. Many bloggers blame it all on Henning. Not me, I blame it more on the quality of players around him, particularly interior oline. The only time I saw henne show the spark he had last year was when he came in off the bench for Penne during the Tennesse game. I'm stumped. I'm ok for giving him one more year since we really don't have many options. I don't want to sign some other teams cast off and get Henne2. Still, I've been waiting too long this season for Henne to boost my confidence in him, and it hasn't happened yet. That Cleveland game he really looked like the mummy. I mean the whole season and playoffs were on the line and I just didn't see any desperation or determination in him. Still, its hard for us mere fans to know how much of it is him and how much is lack of supporting cast.

We have to have a plausible plan before even thinking about replacing Henne. I'm not going to argue with those who think he will never have it. You may be right. But to me, at this moment this is not the point. If there were better options in the free agent market, maybe I would be more on board to replace the guy. But in my eyes, there isn't. Also, we would be taking a huge risk by going after a quarterback in the first round. We have bigger fish to fry. Also it's not like our team is stuck in the cellar. We are an above 500 team. That if we could have had some bounces fall our way be in a real spot challenging for a playoff spot. The glass is half full. The Henne bashers have every right to feel the way they do. I'm not sure that Henne is going to be the answer. But in the situation that our team is in now. I think we have to be responsible, and as easy as it would be to make Henne the scapegoat. I think it would be wrong.


I think the thing with Hilliard is that he isnt particularly speedy, shifty , or slashy. He's a straight up downhill runner who needs room to build a head of steam. Our oline isnt dominant enough to cater to his strength.

I believe Hilliard can be a beast if allowed to build a head of steam.


I have to disagree. Only in regards to "moving on".

Even if we "FIND" somebody to replace Henne, I think we still keep him as a back up. He could end up developing ino something special later on and even if he doesn't, he's the better option than Thigpen as a back up.

Agree or disagree?

dr roberts... I have to chime in and agree with your Sean Smith comment. He has taken a beating in the blogs. Now the Jet game, ok, yeah, maybe he could have caught some of those balls, but...gee..a knocked away pass is still considered a pretty darn good play for a corner. He knocked a bunch away and that certainly contributed to the W.

I think the recurring theme here amongst a few of the bloggers is that we shouldn't consider rookie or 2nd year players as busts simply because they are not making the pro bowl.

Everyone well knows by now I want Mark Ingram. I believe just like a great oline can make an average rb look good. Maybe a great rb can also make an average oline look better.

If we had a young Ricky Williams I guarantee there wouldnt be so many questions surrounding our run game right now. Ricky would be still averaging over 5yds per carry and right at 100yds or so a game.

Only question would be if we had a great oline Ricky averages over 2,000yds per season. LOL..........


I agree with that assessment. Do I have confidence that Henne will ever be the long-term answer? Nope. Not at all.

But here's the thing: A lot of folks act as if it would almost be EASY to upgrade there when the reality is it will be VERY hard.

Miami will go into the offseason with very limited ammunition to get anything done via trade. And even if they could, who would it be? Palmer? Kolb? Both come with HUGE questions, and if you're going to part with a first-rounder (which you'd have to) the answers all better come up right.

Free-agency? Zero chance opf getting franchise guy there.

That leaves the draft, and regardless of what anyone says we have NO idea how any of these guys will do. All you can say with certainty is that most will likely be busts or marginal players at best because it's ALWAYS been that way.

That doesn't mean Miami shouldn't TRY to upgrade the position---they absolutely must---but they will almost have to get a little lucky to do so.

You can't just cut Henne and move on after the season under that scenario.


Yes, those five dropped picks by Smith is still 5 passes defense. That's still absolutely phenominal in one game! LOL.........

Dying- I think the team is grooming Lex to play fullback. This would be a better spot for him because of his explosion.(he did have the second or third fastest 20 yrd cone drill at the combine. This makes up a little for his sad 40 time) We talked about this last week. But it could come down to some economics in Lexs' case. If they decide Lex can be the replacemant for Lousaka it would come on the cheap.

The tip Smith had near the end of the ballgame may well have been a Jets touchdown had it been caught.

He'll start making some of the grabs. He did it in college.

I like the guy's future.

Griese was bashed during the SB era. Crtics always said he was crap and any qb could look great with Warfield to throw to. Griese shut them up after Warfield left with a couple pro bowl appearances. LOL...........

I think Misi has played great for a rookie starter at SSLB.

In Chicago game Greg Olsen was schooling him. I think most of that was Olsen's experience and technique.

Other than that game he has held his own. He should be force next season!!!!

DB, Ricky in his day was a rare freak of nature. I truly believe had he been on a better team he'd have been one of the top 3 RB's in history, and yes that is a pretty bold statement. He broke tackles and punished defenders as mean as anyone. I remember a Monday night game against Green Bay many years ago, he got into the secondary and bulldozed the safety into Canada! Standard behavior for him. Not to mention his great hands out of the back field. Ingram is no RW, not close, but I would be all for picking him if we can get him.

I saw some scouting service (forget which one) that ranked Misi as grading out MUCH better than Jason Taylor at the same position this year. Maybe some of you fellas saw it as well?

That could be a matter of opinion, of course, but sometimes it's seemed Misi gets more respect from those viewing him dispassionately than among the actual fanbase.

Agreed he's been doing well and should have a very bright future.

As should the entire defense, frankly. For all the moaning about the offense (justifiably) there's PLENTY to be excited about with this yound D.

People really thought Griese was crap after 24-3 SBV loss to the Cowboys. Griese did look like crap and even crappier with that 20-something yard sack loss he took to Bob Lilly, then a SB record.

I remember that sack like it was yesterday. Seems like Griese wouldnt ever stop retreating back towards our goal line until big Bob Lilly finally caught up to him. Im sure if we had internet back then most fans would have called him a bust too after watching that game. LOL...........

dr roberts,

I saw what youre talking about. Misi graded out 8th among 3-4 olb's. Taylor 17th. Wake was #2 or #3. We have a bright future at our olb position as well as the ilb position no matter what they say about Crowder. LOL..........

Digressing...speaking of quarterbacks, then you have those rare few who are 2nd rate back ups for 12 years and then come out gunslinging like HOF'ers. (Gannon, Plunkett). Who knows. Think of a football team like a band, sometimes its just a matter of having the right players that can gel together, get on the same page and groove. How do you draft that? Lady Luck has her say....

You know one Ricky game I'll never forget? The one at Buffalo his first season with Miami.

He was literally unstoppable. Had almost freakish numbers heading into the 4th-quarter...to the point where I actually believed (with good reason) he would break the single-game rushing record that afternoon.

But it was also a Dave Wannstedt classic. Terrible defense combined with boneheaded Jay Fiedler turnovers---and before you knew it, Miami was playing desperation catch-up in a game that should have been won easily.

Had they been able to stay on the ground, I fully believe Ricky would have had over 300 that afternoon. He was THAT dominant.

(I gotta go Google the stats from that one...be back)


I was always a Griese fan, but that sack looked absolutely retarded-LOL!

Announcer: Griese drops back to his right.......

too his left...........

back to his right.......

.......ah........to the left AGAIN...........

Wannstedts game plan...run Ricky right. Run Ricky left. Run Ricky up the middle and repeat for 16 games. No wonder the guy retired! Wanny just abused him, tried to get Ricky to carry the whole team to the SB.


Plunkett was a Heisman trophy winning first overall pick that had the great misfortune of going to a then flat out awful Patriots organization. he did absolutely squat because evrything around him was absolutely squat! LOL........

We all know how the story ends once landing at a then proud team called Raiders.


No matter which direction Griese turn to try and avoid Bob Lilly while fastly retreating backwards. Lilly stayed right on his heels. LOL......

I believe Ricky average 35 cpg under Wannstadt. I believe a couple games that season Ricky may have even gone over the 40 carry mark.

It was a wonder Ricky's legs didnt fall of right on the playing field that year. LOL..........

Ricky finished with 228 yards on 27 carries in that Bills game.

Miami was down by 10 heading into the 4th, and wound up losing by 17 (38-21).

That was a true lost opportunity for Williams to put up an absolutely staggering total (as great as his final numbers were, anyway). He barely touched the ball in the last 20 minutes of that game.

Damn Wanny.

Wanny coached like a pimp. Nothing more to say.

You guys remember Mark Higgs? He was always good for a great game every couple games or so. Problem was everytime he had a great game, the very next outing he was challenged to gain 30yds.

He could never have back to back even good games because it always seem his legs never fully recovered from the week before. LOL........

The O-line problems are especially troubling considering that it's supposed to be Sparano's area of expertise.

Then again, the secondary sucked under Saban and that was supposed to be his area of expertise.

They're going to have to start using good draft picks and free agent dollars to get skill players. You can't keep rebuilding the line forever.

I just got off the phone with Ireland. The plan is to trade down as much as possible and see what acorns we can find in the 6th and 7th round. Rumor is they will send Long to New England for a 3rd round pick and their 3rd string right guard.

I'll give you a semi-forgotten back who I thought was headed to a fine career: Aaron Craver.

Remember his dominant game versus the Chargers in that rainy playoff game at Joe Robbie? He was a brute that day.

I think it was the next year's training camp where he totally blew out his knee. I was even there that day, unfortunately.

Pretty sure he went on to play a couple of servicable years in Denver, but he wasn't the same guy.

Always wondered what he might have been. Overstreet, too, as long as we're on memory lane...


Still no matter your expertise you still need opportunity to assemble good talent. You cant ask a great block layer to build a great house and give him blocks made of flour and water. Right buddy? LOL.........

Memory lane...how about the two problem childs, Lawrence Phillips and Cecil Collins. I remember Marino saying finally we got a real deal RB for each of them. Then Cecil thought it was ok to break into the neighbors apartment one night to merely look at the girl while she sleeped. Phillips totally f'd up too, I think neither lasted a season.

My name's Betty and I'm a Tampa skank HO. You ever come to town, you ask for me.



Betty, thats thrilling. Thanks for stopping by. Last time I was in Tampa I saw about 9000 skank ho's......each one cheaper than the next.

Philips and Collins. Oy vey.

Collins was like a child trapped in a man's body and Phillips could probably be classified---quite accurately---as a literal sociopath.

Two great JJ specials.

The best running back to come to Miami in between the Czonk/Morris and Ricky Williams was undoubtedly Delvin Thomas. Do you guys remember when we got him from the 49ers?

Delvin Williams was a beast for 2-3 seasons.

DB they both had talent! Just couldn't stay out of major felony trouble!

Ain't no Tampa skank ho's cheaper than me! I'll do it for a roll of quarters and a Winston anyplace from Busch Gardens to the middle of Dale Mabry Boulevard.

Delvin had serious game...but was injured. It was just an endless jinx, we could never get a steady top notch RB to complement Marino. And if I ever run into Shula, I have just one question...Why the hell did you stick with Olividouchebag for sooooo long?????

Loved Delvin Williams.

Geez, I can remember his exact stats from 1978...1258 yards. Why that stuck with me I don't know.

Great trade, even if we had to give up Freddie Solomon as part of it (my favorite player as a kid)

yeah ok betty...we'll surely come looking for ya.....sit tight now...

One truly positive that I can say about the Dolphins franchise. We can go 40yrs back and never see a year where at least one Dolphins player didnt make a pro bowl.

Our problem has never been no talent, but it has been not enough talent quite alot! LOL..........

OK, how about this one: Chuck Muncie.

Remember when Shula traded for him on the eve of the 84 season?

As I recall, Muncie failed the drug test and the trade was voided.

He could have put up monster numbers in that offesne, though.

Shula then went after Pete Johnson, who was basically a fat tub of lard at that point but still scored a bunch of easy TD's on short goal-line plunges.

"Hollywood" Henderson was another Dolphin (briefly) who came with a lot of baggage...mostly of the white powder variety.

He matured into a really cool guy, by the way, and was always funny and smart even in his wilder times.

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