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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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JAKE LONG IS MICHAEL JORDAN AND MIKE POUNCEY WILL BE HIS SCOTTY PIPPEN!

SOME OF YOU GUYS MAKE IT SOUND LIKE WE WERE A #1 PICK AWAY FROM THE SB THIS YEAR! LOL.........

Dying Breed....I don't think we have agreed on anything in weeks????? WTF is going on. Do I have a fever? lol

Who do you think is our pick in round 3?

Position flexibility is good as a strategy in that it supposedly saves money and also as a tactic where you use all those bodies to hurt key opponents and get them out of the game. Personally, I don't like it but, boy, did we put the Hurt last year on some People!

Oscar, you're missing the point. Mawae is a HOF'er in my opinion, I'm not saying Pouncey will be THAT good. But if he ends up being a top 5 C in the league, that makes him a game changer. I know its not a sexy skill position pick, but he can still have a huge impact.

Jake Long isnt a skill guy, but he has an enormous effect on every game. Taking away the other teams best pass rusher. Anyone notice how many pass rushers were taken in the 1st round last night?

Mike Tomlin after last year's game against the Dolphins, "the buses are running and we want to get out of Miami".

Reggie Bush is available. He's not the Answer, but he can help.

DyingBreed: I'm all for boosting our line, but not at the expense of having someone to block for. Harder to find touchdown makers in FA then OL. BTW, the difference between Michael Jordan and Jake Long?... Jordan scored points!!!!! Kinda like having Rodman on your team, and drafting Birdman. I like Pouncey fine, but it WAS a punt for field position. Stillllll waiting for something to change.

Daryl....You may laugh ar me...but i wanted Mallett...(still do).....I think you get your QB....then build around him...not Vice Versa....

Especially since it will take time for a QB to grow in the NFL....

I wanted 1 of the following....

Mallett
Locker (gone to soon)
Ingram
Impact DL player

DD,

Everything went so freaky in the 1st rd and may have disrupted the natural expectedn flow in this draft. I expect a few more freak works in the 2nd, so there's no telling who may or may not be available in the 3rd.

Al Davis has a 2nd rd pick so we may see 3rd rd projected Taiwan Jones go then. Who even knows if 4th rd rated Ricky Stanzi comes off the board in 2nd.

Freakky, freaky draft. I have no idea who or who not may be available and what our options will be. I expect day 2 to be as freaky as day one is all that I can say. LOL.........

"CHECK"dis out @BMarshall19 http://t.co/kMx1Y8A @VontaeDavis21 @brianhartline @KendallLangford @davonebess @11JuPru @Kold91

Hey, garbage, don't misunderstand me. I want the best for the Dolphins even if I am completely wrong in my assessments. Amen.

DD,

DON'T FEEL BEAD BUT FEEL REAL GOOD B/C DYINGBREED DIDN'T GET ANY THING RIGHT IN THIS DRAFT SO FAR ...............

MALLET ?
INGRAM ?

Couple of thoughts....

I like Pouncey but I have doubts that he can be an elite NFL centre, especially from day one. I hope I'm proved wrong. So if he can't, I think he can be a good guard but did you really want to spend the 15th pick on a guard. I think he can be a good guard for us for 6-8 years, maybe more, but I'm just not sure that's what we needed. Who would I have rather had? Well trade back would have been ideal. That obviously wasn't going to happen. Aldon Smith would have been a nice add but he went earlier. All things considered I'm not upset with Pouncey at 15.

I still think the Saints could have got a better deal by moving up 9 places with us and taking Ingram. They gave up a lot to get back into the first round and get him and while I think Ingram will be a good pro, I think they will regret not having a first next year. I'm not in love with their first round pick and think they would have been better served to have traded up with us and only given up a second round pick.

Kudos to the Falcons for moving up and getting another piece for Matt Ryan to play with but the price was very steep! Anyone thinking these are the kinds of moves we should be making at this point are nuts!

I don't like what Tennessee, Minnesota, or Seattle did last night. Next time you are ready to crucify Ireland, ask yourself if you'd rather our GM was making moves like that. I think Rick Speilman just wrote his ticket out of town in Minny.

Another reason Pouncey ended up a smart pick:

Bills: Marcel Darius, the guy is a beast in the middle

Jets: Muhammed Wilkerson, dont know much about him, dont watch much Temple football, but Kiper was raving

And the Pats still have Vince Wilfork

JS in LA,

Almost any rb and qb can look at least really good behind a great oline. HOF'ers can look average behind bad ones. LOL.......

GO TO PFT AND SEE THEIR 2RD DRAFT PICKS.... RED SKINS GETS ANDY DALTON AND CINY GETS MALLET AT NO 47

Pouncey will be the 4th opening day starting center in the 4 years these boobs took over.

I believe that if the Rookie salaries decrease to where they should be, there will be no more need for this "position flexibility".

Kris...I'm not going to call anyone out, or laugh at anyone. We all get to give our opinions, who's to say which ones will workout, and which ones will not. I'm not a Mallet guy. But I certainly understand why some think he could be a fit here...

don't worry it will all fall apart for sparano and ireland and henne and they WILL all be gone for sure this season!

Joe Shmoe,

I hope Pouncey wins you over in 2011. As a very passionate dolfan Im sure you wish the same thing too.

DD,

I was thinking that same thing about DB. It's nice to see him thinking rationally for a change and making some sense. I'm waiting for the medicine to kick in and for him to pull a Mr Hyde on us....LOL.....kidding, DB!!

My fear on Pouncey is that he's not big enough. This regime got rid of Satele because he wasn't big enough and Pouncey is around the same size. My take on him is that he is an athletic OL but is he strong enough? He's going to face some challenges going up against Dareus, Wilkerson and Wilfork six times a year. Can he handle it, especially from day one?....time will tell.

Not a surprise to me how the 1st Round went. There is much uncertainty in the League and Teams are desperate for NFL ready players, specially QB's. Today will be =.

Pouncey played against Dareus this year and from what i read he more then held his own against him.

Not a sexy pick by any means but if he can become a fixture at center for the next 10 years then thats a good thing. Left Tackle and Center are the top 2 positions on the O-Line unless of course you have a lefty QB then Right Tackle would be as important as LT but Miami could be set at those 2 positions for a long long time

DyingBreed: I hope to heck you're right. Cause right now Henne and Lex Hilliard are the guys that are supposed to look good behind him. I'd rather have a stud QB and RB, and take my chances finding some decent OL in FA. Tiem in the pocket, ro not - still hard to look good passing when the DB reads your QBs eyes and jumps the route. Maybe FA will be better than expected, or some gems land our way in the next few rounds. Not optomistic, but not giving up yet.

There's still lots of good players and talent out there guys. If Ireland is able to walk away with a Murray or a Todman or a Vereen and a Virgil we'll have a couple more weapons for the offence. I expect he will be quite active in FA too.

The majority of guys didn't want a first round RB and instead wanted a 3rd or 4th round pick. Looks like you are going to get your wish.

CraigM,

Will you please stop "tickling the worm". Im trying to be as patient as I can be, can you just please just completely move on. We both were a little right and wrong in our past disagreements.

Youre begining to preturb me making it looks as if though I were all the way wrong and you were all the way right. Its a stalemate. Please stop tickling a dead worm.

To all the folks thankful that other teams' GMs were stupider than ours... may be. However. Minn really only needed a QB, and they got their man. Maybe he'll suck, but they had balls. Tenn needed a QB, and grabbed him. Again, maybe they're wrong, but they had balls. We really needed a QB and an RB. We grabbed a center. Punt.

Most of the guys hear have blasted this regime for adding guys like Smiley and Groves in FA. This is a different approach. You can't have it both ways guys....

“It was a quiet day. The phones were not ringing,” Ireland said. “He was a player I had targeted. I’m always interested in going back or forth, but the phones just weren’t ringing, so we took the pick.”

“When the phone doesn’t ring, you kind of lose your leverage.”


And there you have it, fans. Like a fat girl on Saturday night hoping the phone rings.

Craig, have you ever heard the phrase, "no risk no reward"?

Those teams you didn't like last night, took a chance. Took a chance to improve dramitically. They don't have the conservative Miami approach. You must take chances if you want to succeed. PERIOD.

Pouncey doesn't make Miami better than a 7-9 team in the short or long term. But, a QB might.

If you end up missing on him, so what? You're in no worse of shape. You're in the same hole you've been in. Needing that elite guy.

Ireland would have more supporters today had he took a risk on an elite talent. He played it safe, by his own admission.

I'm also not saying Pouncey was a bad pick or not value. He fills a need, that's about it. I would have taken Mallett, Ingram or even Prince Akamura whatever his name is before him.

Miami continues to play it safe. With that comes a mediocre team incapable of winning a championship.

In the last blog you wrote GB took o-lineman the last 2 years early. So what? You conveniently left out the fact that they had their elite QB, RB, TE & 2 WR's. They built around their elite players. The complete opposite of what we do.

Is there any surprise they won a title & we missed the playoffs?

JS in LA,

Remember there's still the rest of the draft and fa to come. Just placing lipstick on a pig doesnt work either. Even with the lipstick its still a pig. LOL.......

Outstanding Job Armando!

Spot ON!

Great Job Armando!

i agree 100 % leave them in one spot thats it

iralnd talks all the crap that he will start at center but pouncey cant snap & pull or snap in shotgun ... the gators line sucked last year.. so he will play guard and thats why the value of the pick is not there

because we're not offically taking the best center in the draft at that pick so a guard at that pick was a reach

maquistan should not be resigned with the phins he was the reason we potentially lost some games

for those of you unhappy we didnt get ingram

we can get trent richardson or lemichael james next year

Craig M...Small Centers are not always bad. Think about leverage, and movement. I don't know if Dabolls offense will require some zone blocking. But I imagine running 2 tight end sets. It is going to require some movement by the interior. Center of all positions on the line can be a little undersized. They are already lower to the ground, so as I pointed out. They can use leverage and speed to make up for size...

Craig,

You make some interesting points regarding Pouncey's size. I just think we have to believe Ireland and Sparano have done their due diligence on this guy and he becomes a solid Center.

Personally,when his name was called,i wasn't best pleased but now that i've had time to think about it,i like Pouncey. Some people dont understand what a great Offensive line can do to the success of an NFL team and now we have the potential to be a top 5-10 line.

Who do you think we take in the 3rd? I'm thinking a TE?

DOES ANYBODY KNOW....DID THAT FAST LITTLE RETURNER FROM FLORIDA A&M COME OUT THIS YEAR?

With all the pressure put on Ireland and Sparano by Ross, it was to be expected that they would Draft in Fear, I just got too enthusiastic and didn't see it coming. I understand now.

Joe,

We don't agree, so it's a fruitless conversation.

You don't win Championships by CONTINUALLY taking chances. Pat White in the second was a CHANCE....wasted pick. Tedd Ginn at 9 was a CHANCE....wasted pick. If you keep getting them wrong, you'll be where the Bills and Raiders are. Bills picked Spiller last year at 9....I think it was a wasted pick. I think Cam Newton at one, Locker at 8 and Ponder at 12 will all turn out to be wasted picks....let's see who is right.

Now lets Debunk The Myth that Man cannot control the weather

When in fact

HE CAN!

AND HE DOES!

These tornadoes are man made w HAARP

U were warned by Home for over a year now
U dismissed Home's knowledge because u were scare of things u did not/cannot understand

Now U & your families will suffer

Severe Weather as a Weapon will get a lot worse

have a HAARPy day :(

dj williams looks like our next pick

ok, i said i wouldn't speculate anymore but, here it is. when we get to the 3rd rd ireland is going to go a round early on his pick. so, if someone like virgil green is there he's going to take him in the 3rd. so, anyway, here a the guys with 2nd rd grades on offense:

mikel leshoure
ryan williams
kyle rudolph
torrey smith
mallet
hankerson
randall cobb
rodney hudson

jerrell jernigan
luke stocker
marcus cannon
orlando franklin
kendall hunter

that's 13 players on offense with 32 picks. plus another 14 in the third before we pick again. the tweeners are:

wisniewski
dalton
ijalana
dj williams
titus young
daniel thomas
demarco murray
greg little
colin kaepernick

so, another 9 in there. on the defensive side you have:

da'quan bowers
martez wilson
brandon harris
akeem ayers
aaron williams
stephen paea
justin houston
jabaal sheard
marvin austin
brooks reed
christian ballard
rahim moore
curtis brown
brandon burton
drake nevis
davon house
bruce carter

the tweeners on the defensive side:

sam acho
allen bailey
quinton carter
ras-i dowling
kenrick ellis
chidmi chekwa
quan sturdivant
jarvis jenkins
johnny patrick
dontay moch

so, you have 17 in the first tier and 10 in the 2nd tier on the defensive side of the ball. so, is there a chance a guy we need can fall to us at #79 if we don't move into the 2nd? what do you think?

I HOPE WE GO ALL SPEED THE REST OF THE DRAFT JONES, RODGERS, DEVINE SPEED SPEED SPEED

DB...The first round was awesome..It was rapid fire, all over the place. I thought that when it got to our pick that there were so many options that Pouncey may have flown by the waist. Obviously he was the guy the whole time.

By the way..I have no beef with you, or anyone here. You have strong opinions, and that is cool by me. I look forward to the debate. That is part of the reason to participate here..

look at it this way depending on free agency its still not looking good for us

so for the next coach that takes over he will have a solidified line

my vote Mike nolan for head coach although he is better coordinator than HC hire from within and the players respect him

Joe Shmoe,

Taking high risk for the sake of taking high risk is the surest road to disaster too. There is a time and place for all things.

A smart general dictates a fight, not have a fight dictated to him.

As I said earlier, hope Pouncey makes a believer out you in 2011 and know that you hope the same too. Whats done is done and can not be undone.

DB, I'm hip. Indeed there's some nice talent at RB to be had 2-3rd rounds. Even a few QBs 2-4 maybe. If we nab some of the guys I mentioned before, then my faith may be restored. I'd not fault Ireland for taking RBs and QBs even if they flop, becuase at least he's TRYING to win. But Murray will probably be gone, Vereen might too. So now you have the reaches and blands at RB prospect. Qbs? Who the heck knows where to pick them (Leaf at #2, Brady 6th round). Get one somewhere and give it a whirl. Yes, we can come out on top in this draft if we're lucky and we try. We'll see, and I'm still hopeful. Not exactly confident though.

Armando, you nailed this one on the head.

Sometimes people can be too smart for their own good, and I have to think that is the case with Sparano - his first love being the OL.

That said, Sparano did leave Carey at RT and Jerry at RG at those spots all year, and only moved Incognito to Center when Berger showed he was "not good enough" or a "jack of all trades" as you say.

But Sparano did experiment in camp last year. But this year? This year has to be different. You better know who your starting 5 are going to be by training camp and keep them there, no experiments. The starting 5 you listed is it.

You don't draft Jerry in the 3rd round then move him around. You know Incognito is a very good guard, you don't "try him out" at Center when you just drafted Pouncey. You don't draft Pouncey in the 1st round and force him to learn two NFL positions as a rookie.

But it would not surprise me in the least if Sparano experiments and keeps switching Incognito and Pouncey between Center and Guard. That's a mistake, but Sparano might not be able to help himself. Too smart for his own good. If he thinks Pouncey is not "getting it" at Center fast enough, he'll put Incognito there which will only serve to slow Pouncey's development.

Too smart = stupid.

BTW - I loved this line:
Note to coaching staff from the guy who knows nothing: Your 2011 starting offensive line should be...

DD,

I don't get why Satele was too many thre years ago and Pouncey is ago. They are about the same size. I don't know the difference between Daboll and Henning's system when it comes to the center position but to me it seems like just ANOTHER change in philosophy. I actually like Satele and we ended up giving him away for like a fifth or a seventh. this is the kind of stuff that kills us...drafted in the second and pawned off a couple of years later for much less.

Mark, I'm hoping like heck for Demarco Murray. I think we need a young back. This guy has a lot of talent and if not for being banged up a bit he's be a late first/early second pick. He be great in a tandem with Ronnie for a year.

Should have said 'why Satele was too small three years ago'....

Typing sucks today....

I don't know anymore about what Ireland will do today or tomorrow, but whatever it is it will be "safe" and I agree.

@ JS I like Vereen also, and he may be gone, but its not all reaches after that. I'm still driving the Jordan Todman bandwagon. I think hes the best of the bunch and a great 3rd round pick.

Hopefully in the 4th DJ Williams is available, or the kid from Nevada

DB,

Exactly right....'no risk/no reward' is not something you hear from Bill Polian, Bill Belichik or Ted Thompson. These guys are the best at what they do and these are the models we need to follow...

Good column and agreed, Armando. Cohesion is absolutely the key to an effective OL and you don't get that with a revolving door. The "tinkering" phase needs to end in camp, not the regular season.

That said, I don't have a problem with the pick. It's who I anticipated anyway if the team was unable to move down. Pouncey addresses a very real need that has prevented the OL from excelling dspite Long's individual brilliance. And let's remember that a good/great line can make even average skill players a lot more effective simply by winning the trench battle. The Giants and others have won a lot of games with that philosophy.

No question the need for upgrades continues elsewhere on offense, but the names available were either serious reaches or came with too many questions and concerns to risk it.

Besides, it's not as if the draft is over or that there won't be FA once the labor impasse is settled. There's little question team brass recognizes the other deficiencies and will try to address them.

Who do you fellas think would be a good target in the 3rd? Taiwan Jones intrigues. Any TE's that would be good value there?

JS in LA,

Who know how far Mallet falls. Stanzi's supposedly still in play upto the 4th rd. Plus there are solid rb's to be had upto the 6th rd.

All is not lost just yet.

craig,
i'm with you on murray. with no pick until #79 they would have done a great job in shoring up the o-line and then getting one of the best backs in the draft. two solid picks with not much to work with. i would be happey with that. like i said before i wasn't a fan of pouncey but if he turns out to be a good lineman for us and we get murray i think ireland deserves a lot of credit.

dm1dolphan- just because I want it, it will be NONE of these guys. But I say Murray is tops RB. Vereen second. T. Jones 3rd. The others are too small/slight for our old school power running system. I'm not wise to WRs but maybe one there too. Qbs- Mallett is a stump with an arm (see Jamarcus Russell). Try Stanzi or McElroy. I'll also be happy with DeAngelo Williams and Palmer in FA/trade. But alas, the Fins never go my way. So bet on anyone else.

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