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Offensive line play as a grand, poetic dance

Offensive line play is like a ballet, which is ironic because I don't remember the last time I saw a 320-pound ballerina. I make the analogy because offensive line play has to be synchronized. It is about footwork. It values both strength and skill or technique.

It is beautiful when it is done well. It should be played to a soundtrack.

But it looks bad when someone butchers the technique or the execution.

The Dolphins offensive line last year was both poetry and an incomplete, no-sense-making sentence. (As the author of many incomplete, no-sense-making sentences, I know of what I speak.)

Anyway, coach Tony Sparano doesn't want his ballet to fall flat this year after struggling with inconsistency so often last year. 

Sparano, looking for answers, sometimes made changes along the offensive line. The right guard spot was often a revolving door that dropped one player off and picked another up. And that was probably too much switching week to week.

“The combinations of people sometimes from a mental standpoint can lead to the one or two mental errors per game that can hurt you,” the coach admitted Tuesday.

So whenever training camp begins, Sparano wants to build a line and stick with that group of starters. That's going to take some work because there is precious little the coach knows for sure about his offensive line.

He knows Vernon Carey will stay at right tackle. He said a move to guard is not in the cards "right now." Carey, seemingly slow at times last season to my eyes, can be a very good player. And he can also be very ordinary. Last year he was both.

But he was not fat. At least that's what Sparano said. The coach said Carey missed weight only once.

Sparano knows Jake Long will continue to be his most impressive and productive player. And, the good news is, Long should be healthy in time for camp. I asked the coach about Long's status and he said that while he wouldn't be ready to fully participate in offseason lifting or conditioning were a lockout not in place, the schedule was to have him ready for training camp. (You see what I meant about those crazy sentences?)

Richie Incognito is also a question mark. He can play either center or guard and Sparano said he is not 100 percent certain which one he'll play yet.

John Jerry? He was a right guard last year. The Dolphins want him to win a guard job this year and pay dividends on his draft stock and potential. But to do that he has to strengthen his core, according to the coach.

"He plays too bent," Sparano said. "I want him to play more erect."

Ahem. Moving on.

I wish to say something that will bust a myth wide open: Players with position flexibility is not what the Dolphins should want. Yes, I said it. A very wise and successful football man taught me recently what his definition of is of an offensive lineman who has position flexibility.

It means the guy is not good enough.

If the Dolphins are drafting offensive linemen, they should want a great center or a great guard. They should aspire to find someone who can play guard and tackle or center and guard. Why? Because only backups are position flexible.

If a player is a great center. That's where he'll go. That's where he'll stay. And no one will move him from there. Long? The guy is a left tackle. Period. End of story.

It is the journeymen and have-nots that have to find value as position flexible linemen. The Dolphins should not aspire to have-nots on the roster any more.

NOTE: As you know, the offensive line play and running back production go hand in hand. My column in today's Miami Herald examines why the Miami running game struggled and why you should not be buying Ricky Williams or Ronnie Brown jerseys this offseason.



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Mando, I'm glad you brought the OL subject up, I still believe a starter at OL is the most value we can get, immediate results, I also believe we should be able to address skill positions later, except QB, not this year in draft anyway

We NEED to take the best player available each time we pick! We need playmakers and speed...period. You know, good ole fashioned athletes!

We don't need no pat white or teddy ginn types of ham-curtains

Ahem. OK. Good one.

All of you guys who keep saying that we should not address the QB position this year because some say that this is not a good QB class, are absolutely crazy.

QB is the most important position on the offense and to not attempt to improve that area of the team is MAD.

Some of you ignore a very large reason that the running game was bad last year and that is, our QB play was so bad. Defensive Coordinators did not fear Hennes passing, so they stacked the line, bring 7 or 8 players. They overwhelmed the OLine and clogged the running lanes. The DCs did this because they knew that Henne did not make quick decisions or accurate throws when hurried.
Better QB play would have helped us greatly and this is something that Ross has been saying from the start.

We need to take a chance on a QB with serious upside. We need to have a QB with mobility and accuracy on the run.

I have said this before, the fans are willing to take big risks if there is a chance for big rewards. I like Newton a lot, I can deal with Locker, I like Kaepernick, Mallett is a statue, Ponder is fragile, the rest will have to be very very very lucky. Take Newton and put him in, take your lumps and maybe you get another Josh Freeman.

Fix the QB play and watch your average OLine look better and holes open up for your RBs because the safties will have to back off.

My 7 - 8 players can beat your 5 players on the Line of scrimage but if my Qb can make quick reads and make quick throws, he can beat the blitz and make the LBers and Safteys back off. The O-Line looks and plays better and the running game is better.

Better QB play = better O-Line play = Better RB play = Better Team.

Take a chance for greatness with Newton, Locker, Kaepernick or Vince Young or continue to stay the same white bread, vanilla team with Henne, or palmer, Devlin or Henderle, Ponder or Stanzi.

Take a Chance, Be Bold, Be Aggressive, Be Dynamic, Be Explosive.



I too can be great. If I put my mind to it.


"It is the journeymen and have-nots that have to find value as position flexible linemen"

Well said. That's the big reason our running game dropped off last season.

I completely agree with that last statement. It is good to have an offensive lineman with position flexibilty, but those are the guys you want backing up the starters. I think the offensive line should be much improved this season as long has there health stays up.

I'd much rather get a very good offensive lineman that can give me years of stability then get Newton or any QB in the draft, because 2 years from now we're going to have this same conversation about quarterbacks, but with another wasted 1st round pick. Besides, if you want Newton just get Vince Young -and- in the draft a OL or what would be perfect would be a solid Center to build around. Long and Carey and Incognito can stay, give me a center and an improved John Jerry and our running game and QB will improve instantly

I have been a football fan for many years, and regardless of all the changes in the game over time one thing remains constant. You win up front. Miami invested in both lines when Parcells took over. Aside from Long, the moves of the offensive side have failed. The moves on the defensive side have worked. (Except for possibly Phillip Merling) This more then anything explains why we are where we are.

A franchise QB and a star RB are both strong needs, but it still begins up front. Without acceptable lineman no QB or RB will excel.

Point is, I dont think you can fairly judge the production of any skill player while we field a very below average OL.

if sparano believes carey really wasnt 25 lbs overweight what does he think led to carey's feet being in concrete throughout the season? the man cannot move and whiffs on his blocks. murtha was just as bad. carey getting multi millions guaranteed before the season didnt help.

Oh, he said "erect" ha ha, snicker.

Jesus, Armando, are you 14?



The more I continue to hear all of these, ahem, statements flowing out of TS's mouth, the more I become convinced that he wants to remain the Dolphins head coach for as little time as possible. Does anybody really think he has forgotten his ill-treatment by Ross? My Lord, what have we Dolphins Fans have done to deserve all this?

WOW! You just realized that having roster flexible players means you don't have good players? Good Lord.

Another WOW....Sparano just realized the constant rotating of players, even on a series by series basis, was detrimental? Every halfway knowledgeable football coach or man talks about cohesion on the line & that comes from playing the same guys together for awhile. Yet, as a former line coach, he didn't know what he was doing was hurting the team?

Good lord Dolfans. Enjoy your 6-10 season!

Mando, tell Tony to use the word "upright" instead of "erect".

lol turd....

RIP Elizabeth Taylor

I think TS needs a political or military spokesman and quit giving interviews. He hurts himself every time. As a former offensive line coach, that is the one area we should have shown signs of improvment over the course of the season. Then he hires a guy that absolutely has no threat what so ever to take over as head coach. Oldest trick in management. GEEZ, give a break.

We need a GAME CHANGER! If ur going O Line with the pick, he better be the badest MF on the Planet. If not give me someone very scary (Hankerson, Jones) on the outside to keep theses Defenses thinking.



sparano is the key mystery right now

prior to 2008 there was a level of despair in fin fan land that had not been reached before

sparano arrived and in conjunction with henning (yeah i know henning) introduced a no nonsense pragmatic style of leadership and coaching(i know, i know) the success of that year compared to what had gone before should be remembered it was a phenomenal turnaround. How much of it was down to sporano and his coaching and management skills and how much of it was luck and pennington etc who knows but the way he spoke yesterday is really no different from the way he's always been. I dont know if he's even a good o-line coach let alone head coach , results are what count

i really don't know the answer coz the averageness of the last 2 seasons has come from very mixed play - still in with a chance in 2009 after starting 0-3 (sweeping the jests)

last season we were great on the road and rubbish at home until the end of the season

but next year is year 4 and if sparano stays and if we make it to a conferance game in the next two years or 2 out of the next 3 years we're gonna think he's a great coach and has built a great team.

I'd have thought it would take 4-5 yrs to turn things around from 1-15

i think he's an uninspiring coach for fans to listen to but maybe not players, its "in his nature" to play (slighty/ very [delete as necessary]) boring football (ground and pound)we wouldn't care about either if we got the results we want- a sb season

but losing and being boring is the pits

the only way he can prove he's got what it takes is to get results next season but unless its a complete disaster i'd actually give him the next 2!!! ( i know iknow)

I too, prefer to play erect. But a couple of Tony Sparano fist-pumps later, things are back to normal.

I KNOW Tony is a good HC, confirmed by commentaries from Teams that have faced him,"Sparano's Teams don't beat themselves and are very physical". What concerns me are the possible repercutions of those ugly incidents of the past on the upcoming season(if any). From that aspect, has everything been ironed out and everyone now content? I certainly hope so, for everybody's sake. We'll see.

Damn someone actually said something intelligent, way to go Dark Matter Bomb. Idk what anyone see s in Henne!!

None of us have a freaking clue as to how good Newton can or will be and if you are saying that you do, you are lying to yourself. Some will make assumptions based on their own bias and that is fine but to imply that you know what the kids future holds and how good he could be is foolishness.
If you bet pennies, you win pennies, after nearly twenty years of searching for a QB, you should know that to win big you have to bet big and Newton or Kaepernick or Locker are the best bets for the money.

Logic tells us that if a Defense does not respect the QBs passing, they will simply stack the line and fill the running gaps, forcing the opposing QB to beat them with the passing game, which many teams did to us last year because of Henne.

Tell you what, I will give you 5 probowl O-Linemen and I will take 3 probowl D-linemen and 4 prowbowl LBers and we will see who wins the line of scrimmage and how will your mediocre QB performs

Take a Chance, Be Bold, Be Aggressive, Be Dynamic, Be Explosive.

Oscar, his teams are good enough to not beat themselves. That's not a compliment. What it basically means is that they are also not good enough to beat the opponent.

You heard it from allot of players at the end of the season, Sparano's micromanaging & harping on the basics wore on them. Sparano is a basic guy. He isn't the type to evolve & adjust with the times. He is proving that with his latest comments.

He is clinging to an outdated & extinct winning philosophy. He stubbornly sticks to it even though very few teams, if any, win with it anymore. Including his own.

These players aren't babies. It's time to stop treating them like it. Playing not to lose only loses games. Players need more than fundamentals & basic X's & O's. Instead of harping on the basics, be innovative, creative, aggressive. He coaches scared to lose & that's how the players play.

Every time he opens his mouth lately, I cringe. He just doesn't seem to get it. The 80's were a great time for music. But the way his Buddy Bill won back then don't apply now. It's time to catch up to the times or get out of the way.

OK, so where are the ones who will blame Henne for the offensive line? I know your out there...

Anyway. Good article here. the line played well on some plays and beyond awful on others. Because of this our running backs and QB's were inconsitant, because nothing was heppening consistantly on the field. I really think that was our biggest problem last year.

Everyone predicting a last place finish or a 3-4 win season, may not want to place money on that right now. If this O-line can come together and play like a O-line should, this could very well be a VERY dangerous team.

sparano is old school. he gets comfort when the coaches who beat him in the game compliment his teams toughness. he may win an occasional battle but loses the war. bottom line; sparano is afraid of losing which cripples his chances of winning. a tiger doesnt change his stripes;tony wont change either. another 6-7 win season at best.

Dark Matter Bomb...

Well I respect your opinion, and all i have to say is "CALL ME CRAZY UNTIL THE COWS R COMIN HOME!"

Really? How are you any more qualified to call people here crazy for not wanting to take chances on YOUR big 3 QB's? You are chancing a draft on that guy, and if it does not work out you are 3 more years in the hole...

The truth is all of the guys you mentioned carry far more risk than the likes of Rivers, the Mannings, Ryan, Brees, Bledsoe.

In fact all the guys ou mentioned graded out more poorly than Couch, Harrington, Carr, Leaf, Palmer, and list goes on.

Newton, is an athletic freak, and that is his attraction. Bt frankly his QB over all skills are questionable at best, footwork, reading D's and playing in a non NFL offense.

All other QB's in the draft have upsides but have some of the same bad grades.... so it is not crazy for ANYONE not to want to draft these guys next year if they believe in the grading system.

I am not saying you are wrong, that these guys may be great. It is just a bigger stretch than other guys, especially Luck next year.

I am just giving you the Devils advocate view from the "CRAZY" side, and it makess as much sense as your "ABSOLUTLY CORRECT GAMBELING VIEW" cough cough.

oscar don't know what games you saw but i saw the miami dolphins beat themselves 8 times last year. what some other team says is hype.

@Dark Matter: Its not that some of us are saying dont draft Newton because I know he's not gonna be any good. You're right, he may end up being good. Personally, I think thats a coin flip and its gonna be a number of years. Thats the problem.

By the time this guy is any good, at what point in their careers are Marshall and Dansby and some of the other guys that are big investments financially.

The wiser move is to trade down and draft the best O-lineman available who can make an immediate impact. And hope Henne makes the 3rd year leap that many QB's do. Give him one more year without Henning. If he shows no improvement, then move on, either thru the draft or free agency

Sparano is a "rah-rah" guy. The kind of coach you see in College. His skill set is VERY limited & very conservative.

The 1st year here was a mirage. With a better roster & tougher schedule the last 2 years, we have sucked.

Dead giveaways:
1. His tinkering of the o-line, his "baby"
2. Inability to have his teams lack of speed addressed.
3. Having to reassemble the entire defense & roster after 2 years.
4. Having to reassemble the offensive coaching staff & personnel the following year
5. Being unable to field a competent special teams in 3 years & actually approving the cutting or trading your 2 best special teams players.

Like Jerry Glanville once said, the NFL stands for Not For Long. In Tony's case, he has overstayed his welcome

Another problem is Miami has no 2nd round pick. With only one pick before the 3rd round, do you want it spent on Jake Locker? Uh, no thanks. Cam Newton? Like I said, he may be a player some day, but Poizen pointed out some of his deficiencies. Plus he played only 1 year of major college football. Theres just so many red flags.

I dont mind taking a QB in the 1st round, but this is not the year. Red flags everywhere


How long are you gonna wait to address the QB position? Are you waiting on the perfect candidate? many NFL pundits had jake Locker as the #1 QB coming out last years with most saying that if he had come out he would have been the 1st player taken and now he may drop completely out of the 1st round. Whose to say that the same thing doesn't happen to Andrew Luck next year?

There are no gaurantees that you are going to get luck and every QB that comes out have questions marks, but what is their potential?

Are you willig to lose every game for the next couple of years to gaurantee that you get the best QB? there is always a risk, but again after waiting for nearly 20 years, how much longer do you wait?

I say we take a risk to gain the rewards, we take our lumps for a year for the chance to be Dynamic, Explosive, Aggressive and Exciting and get back to the playoffs.

again and again us crazies say the same thing if (if) ireland can draw up a decent d board based on 1. talent,speed etc and 2. needs, then he sticks to the board for each pic, maybe he rates a qb more than the general opinion of the media but if so they are not starting next season unless henne regressess to an 11 year old schoolboy (possible, he's that unpredictable)
otherwise we build the team for the longterm and stop screwing up with reaches

what both the defence and offense need to draft from the hopefully not locked out sports companies the most (though i can't find "slips that really mattered stats" anywhere) is decent footwear wr's and the secondary missed a whole bunch of plays by falling on their a*s every time they changed direction

reckon we ranked 32 in slips that mattered rankings

Best option for Miami is to trade down late in the 1st, get a 2 this year & a 1 next year for it. Get your RB & OL in the 1st 2 rounds this year & use your 2 #'1 next year as ammo to get a QB with less risk.

When 1 so called expert says a QB has issues it's 1 thing. When all the experts say all of them have issues, it should give everyone cause for concern.

Fact is, your 1st round pick HAS to pan out. Better be sure you know what you're getting.

Garbage Plate,
I'm sure that there are no gaurantees that any linemen that you get at 15 - 32 will be an upgrade over anything that we already have, it is a risk that you are willing to take in the hopes that the light goes on for Henne. I have no faith that the light will ever go on for Henne. I think that what you have seen is what you are going to get, and next year will be the first year with a new OC, new QBC, new veribage, new terminology, new playbook, possibly new RBs, will you then say that henne deserves another year because everything was new to him?

We may have the opportunity to grab a very unique dynamic player in the most important positions on that side of the ball. We have waited for nearly 20 years for a franchise QB, yes there is risk, but the rewards could be great. Sooner or later we will have to take a risk but will the potential reward be as much?


Well you pose a good question. I am one of the people, I admit, in the minority, who have seen some things from chad henne that look good and look that if coached properly could be GOOD starting NFL caliber.

That being said, I place more blame on coaching, and play calling, and the inconsistant O-line for our offensive struggles last year.

I am not a michigan guy, I am a hurricane fan for the record. And I do not have one poster of Chad Henne anywhere, nor do i have a Jersey of him. So...

I think taking a chance on one of the guys from this draft is a bigger risk than previous drafts, it looks a lot like the 2007 draft Russell, Quinn ect... That is MY view and may not be right. But because I see that I would not want to waste our pick on that guy this year.

Luck was just an example of a guy I WOULD take a chance on from what I have seen. All the guys this year to me have to manyrisks/per possible reward. I think there will be a better QB availbale next year @ pick 28 than there is @ pick 1 this year. So in my mind that means, even if we get to the AFC championship game (if we play)we would still have a shot at a great QB.

So I am willing to wait one year from what I see. And I do think that if the O-Line gets more consistant and the coaches work WITH Henne and not scare him from taking chances that we might see a real good QB out of him.

That being said, He already got us a fine through no fault of his own by saying he has the playbook and studied it. GREAT, he likes it... GREAT.

If he poops his pants this year like last year, then we cut ties with him.

I do not think he will fail, I think he has the tools to be a great QB in the league. If I am wrong, I will be the first one here to take my shots from all of you...

But I hope that answers your question.

The problem with our O-line (and the running game) is the fact that we don't have a Guard that can pull! We got rid of the ones that could and replaced them with guys like Incognito. Last year, the only lineman that I ever saw pull to open up a hole for the runningbacks was Long! That's an awful long way to ask a left tackle to move, pulling to the right, past both a guard, a center, and then another guard to open up a hole to run through. Don't believe me? Look at the tapes!

Joe Schmoe, in the NFL, Teams that are referred to as not beating themselves are those that do not commit many penalties. My Lord, what have we done wrong to deserve these Fans!NFL speaking).

@ Dark Matter, I was gonna respond, but Poizen pretty much took the words right out of my mouth. Agree 100%

Good point Tracy... That is why I can't blame Henne yet. If the two running backs we had could not run the ball even average, there are signs that O-line and play calling were terrible. If the Running game was great, and Henne had Brady time in the pocket and we got the performance we did from Henne. I would blame Henne all day.

But until we get half odf what I just mentioned, I don't think anyone can truly blame Henne for last years disaster. He had his issues, but no more that anyone else.

Poizen, I defended Henne last year because I thought allot of things went wrong around him. However, with that said, you have to judge him on what he's done. Fair or unfair, that's reality. It's not always fair.

This team needs a Qb 1 way or the other. I'm all for giving Henne 1 more year. Considering this team has holes everywhere & is still not ready to compete, I see no harm in giving him another year to either get it together or prove he is incapable. Someone has to come in to challenge him regardless.

For me, too many risks with all these Qb's. I'd rather trade down & try to get a 1 next year. If it's not possible, at least try to get the 2nd rounder back. If not, stay where you are and take the best guy available.

Joe Schmoe, in the NFL, Teams that are referred to as not beating themselves are those that do not commit many penalties. My Lord, what have we done wrong to deserve these Fans!NFL speaking).

Posted by: oscar canosa | March 23, 2011 at 12:00 PM

The Packers were 1 of the most penalized teams in the NFL last year & they won the Superbowl. Miami was one of the least penalized & didn't make the playoffs.

So please, let's not get carried away on penalties. Being penalized less does not guarantee success. As you can see in the example I just provided.

In fact it can be argued that penalties, more often than not, are the result of aggressive play. Which is what allot of us think. Miami is far too conservative which results in fewer penalties. More aggressive teams commit more penalties, especially on Defense.

I think most "fan opinion" stuff is harmless (and occassionally interesting and informative) but to actually take it seriously? No.

Let's be honest. Nobody here is an expert, nobody has some special 'insight' that allows them to ascertion whether this player or that will succeed. The closest anyone gets to these guys is a few minutes of tv or youtube highlights, with occassional parroting of what they hear from ESPN talking heads thrown in in an attempt to sound more informed.

About the only thing you CAN be sure of is that most of these projections will prove to be astoundingly wrong, but unlike those paid to actually make those decisions a fan can just move on to another round of delusional "expertise" with no penalty.

No harm in any of that but also no reason to really take any of these opinions seriously and certainly not genuinely informed.

You might have a point, Joe Schmoe(specially in these days), but I have to see continued evidence that the most penalized Teams will be succesful.

Ran into some awesome videos on youtube about The U if your a fan it`s a must see !! We always get critisized for having to much swag but we should get credit for revolutionizing the sport and killing the wishbone O`s of the 80`s to a certain degree by emphasising speed above all else, something everybody does now days. If you watch the parts of the video in the 80`s it almost looks like were in fast foward and everybody else is in real time.


Hey guys I don't want you to think that I am just advocating taking Newton. I simply prefer mobile, dangerous QBs who can also throw the ball.
I know the original topic was about the O-line, but I think that the QB play has a lot to do with the O-Line play and the play of the RBs. DCs coach differently when the know the QB can get the ball out quickly and to the right receiver and I think that Hennes play was poor enough for our O-Line to always be outmatched by sheer numbers, forcing Henne to try and beat teams with his arm. yes, there were other issues with the o-line and the running game, but Henne is part of that equation.

Vick and Rodgers were the two most exciting players last year, followed by Clay Matthews. they were exciting because they could run and pass and you never knew what they would do, so you had to defend the whole field. that is what i want for the Dolphins.

I would take Newton, Gabbert, Locker, Kaepernick(but not in the 1st)maybe Ponder (he is sooo fragile. The 1st 2 will be gone before we pick but we need to address the QB position and it needs to be someone with Elite talent even if he comes with some worts.

The O-Line was bad last year, no question about it. This made Ronnie and Ricky look bad as well, I still believe that Ronnie has a couple of good years left in him, it may not be with the Fins, because Ireland is clueless.

Berger, McQuistan, Murtha, etc... are not even NFL caliber players, Sparano is kidding himself with this.... They need to draft 1 or 2 lineman, and sign one when free agency arrives, a good line is critical.

Draft a speed back and WR, work on the line, and sign a veteran QB. This is Henne's last chance, if he can't do it this year, he gets pulled halfway through the season, and draft a QB next year...

I don't know about others, but to me, the coordination between the OL, QB's and runners, is poetry in motion.

I'm bored


I get what you are saying there, and that makes sense.

I am in the same church as you, but a different pew.

That being said, I like what I see from Henne a little and in my ideal would will hope he gets a fair chance without to much pressure next year, and if he makes a mistake the coach does not make it seem like the end of the world.

If Henne still is crap next year with an improved line, then I am all for a new QB. And I love next years crop vs. this years crop.

Either way, I just pray we have football this year, and the dolphins DONT suck.

Marc, you might consider jerking off.

One guy says I'm pushing 50 the other asks if I'm 14.

Why don't you dudes take your eyes off ME and put your eyes on YOUR TEAM?

And post comments that actually advance the conversation.

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