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Debunking the myth of OL position flexibility

For several years now, since Bill Parcells-Jeff Ireland-Tony Sparano took control in Miami, we've heard the term "position flexibility" mentioned time and again as an asset, indeed a necessity, for Dolphins offensive linemen.

I suspect you'll hear the term more in the coming months based on the fact the Dolphins selected Mike Pouncey with their first overall pick in this draft and he has played both guard and center at the University of Florida.

"... He really only played the center position for one year," Ireland said following the pick, "… and like I said, it’s going to be up to the coaches on where they put him. I think we have great position flexibility with he and Richie (Incognito) and so ... but right now, I think we’re going to slide him in at center and go from there.”

I would tell you Pouncey will slide in at center and he better not slide out. I would tell you his value is at center as the signal-caller for the entire line. I would tell you picking a guard at No. 15 overall is not nearly as good a deal as picking a starting center.

I would tell you the Dolphins better cast off these freaky ideas of position flexibility with Pouncey and all their other good linemen.

If coach Sparano is reading this, he's not happy. The man loves the ability to mix and match, move and coordinate different combinations of linemen on offense. He is like a scientist in a lab.

I hate that.

Football ain't no lab project. I think the way to make an offensive line great is picking your five best guys and leaving them at their spots until something significant like a world war dictates otherwise -- position flexibility be damned.

Frankly, to me, position flexibility is a euphimism for not good enough to keep one spot. Jake Long has zero position flexibility. The man is going to be Miami's left tackle until he retires.

That's not a bad thing. That's a good thing!

Meanwhile, guys like Nate Garner, Richie Incognito, Joe Berger, Pat McQuistan can bounce around at left guard, right guard, a little bit at center, some at tackle, and they're just ... ok. Not great. Not amazing. Not Pro Bowl players.

Just ok.

I've had it with just ok position flexible offensive linemen.

The Dolphins should decide that Pouncey is a center and leave him there. Period. The Dolphins should figure out if second-year man John Jerry is a left guard or a right guard and live and die with that decision. The Dolphins should know Incognito is best at right guard and anchor him there until someone rips the job from his cold, clammy hands.

Period.

Flexibility, schlexibility!

Toying with all this position flexibility is necessary for the scrubs. But the guys that you want to start? It's bad. It's a path to confusion.

Position flexible players are jacks of all trades ... and masters of none.

I hope, I pray, the Dolphins are not telling their scouts, "Go out there and find me an offensive lineman with position flexibility," because that is code for, "Go out and get me a replaceable backup."

And that leads me to my next beef about Miami's approach to building the offensive line: I hate all the constant experimenting.

The past two seasons, the Dolphins have toyed with their offensive line the first three, perhaps four weeks of training camp and into the early preseason games.

No!

Note to coaching staff from the guy who knows nothing: Your 2011 starting offensive line should be LT Jake Long, LG John Jerry, C Mike Pouncey, RG Richie Incognito, RT Vernon Carey. That's it. The only possible tweak might be to switch Jerry and Incognito if Jerry still hasn't figured things out well enough. But that's all. Period.

I don't want Pat McQuistan to get a chance to earn a starting spot. He's not a starting-caliber player. I don't want Rey Feinga tagging in and out wherever it is he's playing these days.

Pick your five and commit to them. Let them grow together. Let them struggle together, if necessary. But let them do it together. That forms a bond. That forms chemistry. That forms kinship.

I remember Don Shula drafted Richmond Webb and Keith Sims in 1990 and put them at LT and LG, respectively, and that was that. There was no room given for experimentation. They played every single snap of the preseason. And they played all but one snap of the regular-season side by side.

By 1991, these guys were so in tune with each other, they actually would walk out to practice and then off the field with Sims on Webb's right -- just like they lined up. They lockered that way, too. It became the natural order of things for the two.

No mixing. No matching. No experimenting.

The only option they got was do or don't do. Succeed or fail. It wasn't, "Well, if you don't play well at left tackle, Richmond, we'll move you over to right tackle."

I'm sure a coach reading this could present a dozen reasons why experimentation is important with the likely starting group. Fair. I can give one reason why experimentation is not smart: It failed last year. It failed horribly.

Pick a group. Stick with them through some adversity. Let them grow. That's how good offensive lines blossom. 

[NOTE: Same drill today as yesterday. I'll update later with whatever information I dig up. Don't go anywhere. Follow me on twitter. And there will be a live blog starting at 6 p.m. when the draft gets underway.]

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THOUGHTFUL ARTICLE TO READ AND LEARN........ GOOD POST .

Good Article Armando...and good case for Pouncy....

Is this the same Mr. Salguero? No punches pulled. No measure given. I like it. THIS is the voice of the fans. This is a well reasoned and popular argument.

but i'm still not buying in......

Armando,

After just barely escaping being out on his arse, didn't Sparono vow to stop the rotating and experimenting??

Now that Sparano has the talent he should just trust his oline coach and get the hell out of the way!

Guess the hardest thing is for him to get hell out of the way since he is a "former" oline coach. But he has to get it out of his system and realize that his present position isnt:

"FORMER OLINE COACH, IT'S HEADCOACH'!

I completely agree with this article. Start the best 5 Offensive Linemen and let them gel together. They do not tire as much as Defensive Linemen who need to rotate some to catch a breather.

The only competition i see is at guard with 2 out the following 3 winning jobs Garner, Jerry or Incognito.

Garner in my opinion offers Miami all the versatility they need just by himself if he can stay healthy of course.

Right on..Dolphins need to take some lessons from Shula on how to build a Team. That said, offensive line is key to success, so Pouncey a good pick, but like you said, put him at center, or guard if thats better, and keep him there.

I know many here will disagree, but kinda surprised about the way the Sparano crew keeps blowing up the offensive line up, sending supposedly talented players (at one time or another these players had praise from many corners) packing before they had time to truly grow and develop, read: Donald Thomas, Samson Satele, Jake Grove...but especially Thomas.

First you pick the berries (QB)...then you make the pie.....

Making the oie before you pick the berries would make you quite foolish.....

but we do it year in and year out.....12 years running now I think....

i like the locker location thing. i wonder if they have it that way now. it wouldn't be a bad idea to have the starting o-line to have their lockers next to each other in the order they line up on the field. it's a psycological thing.

I only halfway agree.

I agree as far as stability and cohesion on the o-line being critical to their success, and obviously the musical chairs game of 2010 was a disaster.

But if we are saying "set the line and (barring injury) everyone stays put until it either starts to work, or completely fails and then we blow it up and try again in 2012", why should they handicap that effort right out of the gate by moving the shiny new rookie away from his strength at guard (I admit I am partially borrowing an opinion there as I am a Phinfan out of water living out west and following mostly local college teams. I didn't see much UF football the last few years, but by all credible accounts I've heard and the bits I've seen, Pouncey is a guard and a monster one at that) and leave Incognito at guard where he is a liability where his natural fit is at center.

to me the starting line would be Long-Jerry-Incognito-Pouncey-Carey, and then I agree, leave it alone!

How much money do we have invested in your starting OL now? The price of mediocrity has come at a price due to Miami's poor drafting and free agent signings over the last 10 years!

goodbye to another season of dolphins football. It is over and because of a "SAFE" pick. There is a reason this coaching staff was under so much scrutiny. We need playmakers not "FLEXIBLE" offensive linemen. Who is going to run the ball!!???!! LEX HILLIARD or PATRICK COBBS?!?!?! Come on...

ireland needs to prove he is a capable GM. sparano must do the same as a head coach. they had 3 years;one year left to prove they belong or they are both gone! thats the way pro football works. players are evaluated the same way so its fair. everyone has to do their job.

What really bothers me about Sparano is that he is a heady guy. Remember it even slipped out of Ricky Williams mouth at the end of the season. Sparano is so caught up in statistics and and things that really don't matter. Pick your players and allow them to do what they do best. If they have to constantly think about every stupid little coaching analysis you are going to make them fail. Players lose confidence when the coach doesn't questions they every move and position they play. Stop being a busy body!!!

Pouncey should be the center, he is the future, he needs to step up and be the leader for the OL from day one. He will earn respect and a starting spot that way. He was the #15 pick, step up and prove you deserved it and you weren't just a name drafted high because of your brother.

I completely agree with your article. Well written sir.

sparano loves stats but one can manipulate them to prove anything you want. when bellichek was asked about stats he replied only one stat mattered; WINS AND LOSSES!

Well said, Armando! 100% agree.

And the next time I see that human turnstile Pat McQuistan in a Dolphins uniform will be far too soon.

Sorry Mando, get used to the idea since Pouncey is not a polished C. Another reason I hate the pick. NO FUKKIN VALUE INA GUARD AT #15!!!

can jerry pull? we need a pulling left guard and we drafted a guy who played right guard and a little center in college. in jerry we took a guy who was one of the better rated right tackles in college and put him at right tackle. now, you want to move jerry to left guard and incognito to right guard and putting jerry even further out of position but you don't want "position flexibility". gheeez!

He can't perform a shotgun snap which takes place on 50% of snaps at this level. he has trouble detecting rush up the middle. yep, super!!

sorry, i'm so upset i meant to say, "with jerry we took one of the better rated right tackles in college and put him at right guard."

Mark, there was no value at 15 for anything the Dolphins needed. They were stuck at #15 and made the wise move.

OK, all whining aside, here's what's left in the draft to actually fill positions that score touchdowns: DeMarco Murray (RB)- has all the tools to be big time. Size, speed, strength, hands. Worth it if he's there at 3. Shane Vereen (RB) - strong, fast, might be big time. Taiwan Jones - chancey. Fast, elusive, snazzy, but slight. Needs to bulk up, and learn how to lean with shoulder pads. QBS= (Dalton will be gone) Stanzi - love his pocket presence, head snaps through progressions. Probably NFL ready, but who knows. McElroy - just plain smart and a winner. Throwback to Griese style, game manager. If no QBs, then take nearest beast WR, hybrid small back/receiver, or even OLB who promises to crush opposing QBs.

Spot on Mando! Pretty much what I said at the tail end of last blog. Ireland's doing something Sparano vowed he wouldn't do this year: Tinker with the O-line.

Like I said, I would have been OK with this pic IF they would leave Pouncey at his natural position. The one he's been playing all his life. The one he's good at.

GarbagePlate,

After seeing 3 TRADEDOWNS before our #15 pick, I knew we didnt have a snowball's chance in hell of trading down.

If "WE" had to call teams, then "WE" would have gotten very little in exchange. Conversation would have went something like this"

Ireland:

We're looking for a 2nd or 3rd for our #15 spot.

Opposing GM:

Well Jeff we really arent that interested but we'll give you our 2014 7th rd pick for it.

Basically if the team isnt calling you the value seriously decreases. You aint getting close to what you are seeking.

Garbage Plate...@11:40 that is the whole point. Well said. Peolpe that do not get this point are going to continue to be upset.

Should have picked Mallet?????
Should have taken Ingram ?????
Anybody but Pouncey..We are doomed. Run Godzilla is coming....RUN!

Round 3: Jordan Todman, RB, UConn

Round 4: DJ Williams, TE, Ark

At some point: Noel Devine, RB, W.Va

Those 3 plus Pouncey would be a serious offensive talent upgrade

JS in LA,
don't even go there. after last night don't even try to speculate on what's going to happen today because you're going to be disappointed. if we don't get a 2nd, and i believe we won't, we're as good as boiled chicken. there's a lot of talent that is going to come off the board in the 2nd rd and, unless somebody does something stupid, like a bunch of teams picking guys too early we are going to be left with scraps. there are going to be 47 players taken before we pick again. take a look at who is available and see what you think.

Daryl D....its not doom and gloom man....its mediocrtity that scares us....

Exactly DB. I thought the same thing. Those previous trade downs doomed us. I was holding out hope maybe the Saints would want to move up for a DE, and Miami could get a 2nd rounder, but thats the way it goes. It takes two to tango.

The safe pick. Safe. Throw it out of bounds, that's the safe play. There's nothing wrong with punting the ball. Pick a offensive guard, that's the safe move. What we need is a Quarterback and they played it safe? Screw Miami.

wow Mando actually makes sense for once!

....There was little to no chance we were going to get to trade down yesterday. I have been trying to make that point for weeks. The fact was. There was no 1 player with similar value that a team behind us couldn't get if they just stayed put. Now I had no idea the draft would play out the way it did. But as Ireland said....No phone calls crickets for 15..

So we did the right thing. Get over it. For those who are upset. What pick makes any more sense? We can debate evey idea until the draft starts back up. But this pick, for our position in the draft, for our needs is a solid proffesional pick.

GarbagePlate,

Guess some of our fans here may have taken a 2014 7th rd pick for our #15 spot! LOL..........

I have a sneaky move for Miami to make today. I heard rumors Dallas is enamored with Mike Leshoure in the 2nd rd.

If that pick happens i would try sending a 4th to Dallas for Tashard Choice who i feel can be a solid RB for them and then make a run at Sproles or Reggie Bush if he gets cut to become their 3rd down back slash kick\punt returner.

If the FA rules stay the same i think Deangelo would then only be a restricted free agent and he was already tendered and Miami would have to give up a future 1st if Carolina did not match or if they worked out an agreement at least a future 2nd to obtain his services.

dm1dolphan: Excepting Murray who probably goes before we pick, all those dudes I said may be available. Why shouldn't I go there? We ARE going to make more picks. We ARE going to eventually address QB and RB with either draft or FA/trades. But yeah, I get the doubts as I too speculate we'll find a way to use our next few picks on punter, waterboy, and chain-gang. After all, we're building for the future .. as we've been doing since Marino left. Oh, Future - whereart thou?

Right on, Armando.

Tom@Jax...

Your right.....

This STINKS of kneeling the ball on the 50 YARD LINE at GB......when the score was tied and we could have thrown a hail marry with 1 second on the clock.....that was "SAFE".....

so, is ireland going to sit around today waiting for the phone to ring so he can pick it up and here on the other end, "jeff would you like to trade up into the 2nd rd?" or, is he going to be aggressive and try to get that pick back like he said he would? we will see.

Tom, should we have traded up for Ponder? Just because you think they need a QB doesnt mean there will be one available. Exactly what would you have done being stuck at 15. Essentially trade away the rest of your draft for Ponder or Gabbert? That would be insane.

The Ponder pick was crazy. And honestly, of the top 6 or 7 QB's in this draft, Gabbert looks like the big flop to me. He's got Klingler/Joey Harrington/David Carr/Alex Smith written all over him.

Kris..I understand. But tell me what pick would have made our team better? We all know that our line needed help. The offensive line struggled in the second half of the season. We addressed the problem. Offensive line better...Team better. I see improvement, not mediocraty.

The only argument that I can see would be skipping a corner back. This argument will get laughed at(that's fine) But our defense sucked against good passing teams. Especially in nickel situations(which we are in more then our base 3-4) Can never have too many good cornerbacks.

Glad we selected Pouncey 1st rd. Until this pick we our oline was:

"JAKE LONG AND THE SHORTS"!

the only thing that made me feel good about the first round were the jake locker, christan ponder, james carpenter picks. when i saw them i said to myself, "wow, there are gm's out there that are dumber than the one running this team."

Amen Mandy...Amen

"Donald Thomas was a godsend..", Bill Parcells, 2008. WTH is going on in here?

And for those who think a C isnt sexy enough, ask Peyton Manning how he feels about the Colts drafting Jeff Saturday. Ask Chad Pennington how he feels about Kevin Mawae. The Same Kevin Mawae who ripped us a new one for years. Ask Zach Thomas if he thinks a guy like Mawae was a "safe pick". He made Zach's life miserable when they played the Jets.

dying,
sounds like a good 60's band to me.

HAVING JAKE LONG AS THE LONE UNQUESTIONABLE TALENT ON THE OLINE WAS LIKE HAVING MICHAEL JORDAN AND NOT GIVING HIM ANY HELP.

jAKE LONG IS UNTO MICHAEL JORDAN AS POUNCEY WILL BE UNTO HAVING HIS SCOTTY PIPPEN! LOL........

chris....still can't trade players...only picks.


Interesting interview with Falcons GM Dimitroff. Talking about the point value system, and how it is outdated, and not a factor in modern trades...He said like positions on the field. The draft has evolved as well. The point system is garbage if you have a team that only requires a few players to fill your roster. If you are a team with a bunch of needs. Perhaps you stick to the point system a little closer. WE(the Falcons believe we are 2 positions away from being a real contender) So we think the risk is worth the reward.

If you have 5 starters... don't move them. If you've got 3 starters and 2 backups for your top 5, sometimes you can move them around for advantage.

2 years ago, within the wilcat, we had a crappy right guard... so when we wanted to run right... we had Carey slide to RG and Long move to RT. Sure you're telegraphing the play... but our guys are better than yours... try to stop us. It worked for a year. I didn't see Long play RT much last year.

JAKE LONG GOT HIS SCOTTY PIPPEN YESTERDAY! LOL............

"If coach Sparano is reading this, he's not happy. The man loves the ability to mix and match, move and coordinate different combinations of linemen on offense. He is like a scientist in a lab."

What ability? Has anyone seen the results? If anything he has a POOR ability to mix n match.

Mike Pouncey is no Kevin Mawae. It will be proven.

dying,
thus my constant defense of chad henne. jake long is, unquestionably, THE offensive line. the remainder of the guys are just there to get in the way.
tony sparano's blocking scheme: ok, jake, i don't need to tell you what to do so just go out there and do you're thing. the rest of you guys, try and get in the way as much as you can. waive your arms in front of the defenders face if you must but just do something. that should get us some yards.

Rich,

Great post 12:05 PM! Absolutely!

Darryl: Good point, getting off the field on 3rd down was an issue. It was usually the nickel corner getting beat. Or a LB in coverage (i.e. the comical effort of our LB's trying to cover Ray Rice last year).

AJ Edds when drafted was supposed to a top notch cover LB, hopefully he'll be 100%, that would fill a big hole. That said, I think there is too much need at other places to invest in a DB in rounds 3 or 4

so, is ireland going to sit around today waiting for the phone to ring so he can pick it up and here on the other end, "jeff would you like to trade up into the 2nd rd?" or, is he going to be aggressive and try to get that pick back like he said he would? we will see.

Posted by: dm1dolphan | April 29, 2011 at 11:55 AM

Exactly. Like a fat girl on Saturday night waiting for the phone to ring. Have better luck if you pick up the phone first.

ARMANDO - you must have read my blog post from the previous blog.

This is exactly what I was saying.

I hope Sporano doesn't play with the line like he has been the past years - you need continuity - they have to play a while together to figure out the little nuances of each other.

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