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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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Garbage,

I'm on the Todman bandwagon too. You showed me the light!!....after Murray (I think Williams and Leshoure will be long gone before we pick again)., Todman is probably next on my list. I like Vereen also.

demarco would be awesome

dj wills is not dropping passed the mid 3rd and i think we can use him as dual weapon and he has sure hands

Didn't we have a top 5 line 2 years ago & finish 7-9? I don't want a top 5 line for bragging rights. I want a Championship. The last 4 SB representatives have not had top 5 lines. They have had elite Qb's. 2 of them went on to become Champs. The other 2 were previous champs.

Jacknsonville, Titans & Minnesota realized whats needed & they went out on a BIG limb to try to get it. Whether they made the right calls or not, time will tell. But, at least they seem to get it.

Pouncey may be good & he may help. All I know is, last night Miami got passed up riding the slow lane content w/mediocrity.

Poncey was picked for good reason. That reason is simple folks. It doesn't take a detective or the FBI or CSI to figure it out.

They picked the center so that when December 2011 arrives and the record is 3 and 13 Ireland, Soprano and company will lay the blame on Chad Henne failure and the season failure on the center who cant snap shotgun and loses the ball during the season.

This will cover them and why they choose NOT to go after a QB as Ross congratulates them and rewards Soprano and Ireland another contract extension.

It's over before the pick arrived last night.

I totally agree with your premise but would like to see the line as this:
LT Long
LG Pouncey
C (top free agent replacement)
RG Incognito
RT Carey

The only advantage of Sparano's incessant experimentation is that he has developed lineman that can be plugged-in when/if a MAJOR injury happens. It that, he has created more value in his lineman.

However, the line isn't solidified until a RG, C, LG is chosen for the next few years. This group needs to work together as if they are ONE.

Pouncey comes flexible, but his natural position, in my opinion, is LG. Let him focus on that position...so much so, he feels joined at the hip with Long.

Incognito's natural position is at RG, leave him there. Let Jerry develop behind him.

We are not finished until a natural center is found to compete with Berger. Let the owner find one with his deep pockets!

Well said Armando.

I hope Sparano is listing.

No more excuses.

Go Phins!!!!

JS,
like i said in my response to craig i also like the murray pick and i'm with you on stanzi. wouldn't mind them taking powell in addition to murray. but, like you i don't have a say and i sit there and watch them draft everyone but who i would like; and i've got a number of guys i like not just one or two.

There is Kyle Rudolph, dr. roberts, and Julius Thomas but there are concerns about both.

dj in the 3rd

taiwan in the 4th

mark my word taiwan will not go in the 3rd round

Pouncey was not just the "safe pick" he was the only viable pick at 15. Fins needed to improve the OL and Pouncey was the highest graded OL in the draft. No brainer.

Want a better passing game? Improve the running game. Poucey will help do that.

Joe, J'Ville & Minn will spend a couple years recovering from this years mistakes

After all these years of passing up on star offensive playmakers for offensive lineman, defensive linemen and special team players like Eddie Moore & Ted Ginn Jr, why dont we just get it over with and draft a PUNTER in the 1st round to further solidify our relentless quest for better field position?? When we will our beloved organization arrive at the conclusion that we need to score more points than the other team?

The best way to express our displeasure is to NOT ATTEND ANY GAMES!! When they get 30,000 fans in the stands on Sundays, they might consider offensive firepower!

This is simple, DON’T BUY TICKETS!!!

Trade future 2012 1st round pick---Not to the patriots, but to some1 in the first 5 picks in 2nd round----And if you believe in Mallett Talent but had questions about him off the field---at this point in the draft

The reward outweighs the risk, b/c he is a 1st round talent, the money involved would be cheap for a qb---(like Clausen to carolina/it doesnt stop them from getting cam the next year cause he wasnt making alot of money)


I also think at this point mallett will have a chip on his shoulder, and will have to perform to get to the big contract evry1 player wants.

Third, if you think he can start from day 1 with his talent)
You built the oline wit pouncey long carey
You can draft Running backs later in draft
You have a good defense
The 1st round pick you are giving up next year shouldnt be a high pick b/c your a team that will play better then we were this year.

I only take mallett if you think he can step in like Sanchez, Ryan, flacco, Freeman, Bradford, etc

There's not much left out there at QB really guys. I don't think many of us like Mallett, even in the second. Dalton will likely be gone and likely Kaepernick with him in the second. That pretty much leaves us with Stanzi and McElroy. I suppose I'd be fine with either one of these guys but with all the other needs we have I'm not sure we can do anything before the 4th round. Maybe we get an extra 4th round pick and pick one of these guys in the 4th. Have him as third stringer and hopefully have him develop a little over the next three years.

My post was supposed to be addressed to Mando.

my biggest fear is there are guys on the offensive side, like murray, available when we go to pick at #79 and we here, "with the 79th pick in the 2011 nfl draft the miami dolphins select mason foster, olb, washington." you may as well put me in the home.

JS in LA,

"MALLET A STUMP WITH A ARM" That's too funny! Are you trying to say he has 100yr old roots? LOL.............

Who cares, lets go 1-15 again so we get the first pick and get Andrew Luck next year. The Dolphins were not going to do anything this year anyway no matter who they picked. There is no QB or RB in this years draft that is a 1st round talent.

i'm liking MJZ.

DB, I'm not throwing the towel, just having a healthy tantrum. ;) Don't want Mallett, but it would be ballsy. Disagree there's solid back throught he 6th round. Most are vanilla this year or they'd go sooner. 2-4th tops we get starters.
Garbage- Maybe on Todman. Like his feet, and sharp cuts. Needs a tad more power for our system I'd wager, but we'll see. Might be a good steal. Murray, Vereen, Todman, T.Jones, then.

What do guys think Carolina will do with Claussen now? I'm not a fan but would it be worth picking this guy up if he ever gets chopped by the Panthers? I know we can't trade players right now but would it worth having this guy on the bench for a couple of years, even if it costs us a 7th round pick? I'm not a fan but maybe for a 7th it wouldn't be bad value. Thoughts?

roly,

i feel your pain

the daboll hire

the draft picks

switching coahces around that have never coached those poositions

doesnt make sense

seems like our teams being taken form us

but lets see what they do in free agency

and how aggressive they get with that they did pretty good last year with marshall and dansby so we will see

if not im the first one to start a fan strike!!lol

I also don't think the Dolphins had viable trade-down possibilities, which almost assuredly would have been their preference. Once those "move downs" happened ahead of them it became pretty clear they would probably have to stay at #15.

Takes two to tango.

craig,
they will probably just put him back in the pickle jar.

I don't see any RB left besides Leshoure that will impact at first asking.

Im out guys gotta take a break. I know we'll al be here most of today and well into the night.

IT's DRAFT DAY WEEKEND! LOL...........

SureShockMiami...Want to make a bet about Tawain Jones? Crazy as it sounds. He could go in the second to Pittsburgh. I don't think he makes it passed Green Bay in round 3..No way.

..I don't know if any of you guys watched the Parcells piece. It doesn't mateer if you hate him, or appreciate him. He offered some very good insight. We may all agree that The Parcells years were a little bit of a letdown. Perhaps the expectations were to high after year 1(2008)

What Parcells said that makes sense.You have to stick to your plan. Any deviation and you get a Pat White. That was a mistake, and a perfect example of going against you prototype, or your blueprint.

We may all disagree with the way this regime does its draft buisness. Or the whole Pacells doctirine(I have been critical). But it is a plan. Will this plan have success? This is the make or break year. We will see if the philosopy of this young GM, and inexperienced head coach will bare fruit.

they will want to keep him fresh for when newton gets FIGGED.

DONT SHOW UP TO GAMES!!! GO HEAT!!

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.

Posted by: Craig M | April 29, 2011 at 12:40 PM

Dude, let go of the right & wrong, it's for girls. Just articulate a point without getting defensive or about who's right.

Secondly, the Bills beat us last year so how much worse are they than us? At the end of the year, they were a better team than we were. Stop assuming we are better than bottom feeders, we really aren't since we lost to almost ALL OF THEM.

Thirdly, Pat White was not a first rd pick or 1st rd talent. Gabbert, Newton, Mallet, Ponder(to some) & Locker are. You're not even making a fair comparison when you compare them to Pat white. Almost all of those guys have elite skills but a deficiency here or there. Pat white isn't in the same universe as those guys talent wise.

You say it's a fruitless conversation? That's because your comparing an Apple to a rhino.

Oscar, Rudolph would seem to be a great value if he was still there, but I'd be surprised if he lasted that long.

As an aside, I'm nearly positive they'll go after Carson Palmer pretty hard when FA resumes. Not at a King's Ransom, however.

Shouldn't the guys who are down on Sparano, Irleand and Henne be rejoicing at the pick from last night? Their argument is that OL aren't 'game-changers' and that it's a wasted pick. If that's the case won't be be worse this year and a guy like Andrew Luck will have an even better offensive line to play behind next year. I don't get the negativity all the time...

I just read the post and I just don't believe what happened - I agree 100% with Armando!!

There must be frost warnings in Hell.

Ryan Williams
Delone carter
Jordan Toddman
Dion Lewis
Alex Green
Jaime Harper
Allen Bradford

Some Running backs i Really like late in draft From 3rd round to 6th round

allen,
aaaand- THE WARRIOR johnny white

If I were, again, if I were Ireland(God forbid!), I would trade into the 2nd round and pick Pat Devlin asap.

Craig, I'd say that's a pretty damning indictment of Claussen that Carolina just made.

Still, I wouldn't anticipate him going anywhere for the time being since Newton will likely be brought along slowly and Carolina obviously knows they won't be winning much with either guy right now.

oscar,
pat devlin? c'mon. that pick stinks like swiss cheese.

Jaime Harper is a beast Talent wise for a 4th , 5th round pick

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CprghseCTe8

Alex Green Haiwii--- also really intrests me in 4th or 5th

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BK0VmrZIGSI

DyingBreed @ 12:43 PM

What are you even talking about? Who said I want to take a high risk just to take one?

What you said is nonsensical. Those QB's HAVE potential. You're taking a risk because sometimes the reward is greater. I think getting a franchise QB is worth the risk of 1 1st round draft pick.

Secondly, I have clearly stated that I understand the pick. It was a need & he is a good player. I'm saying, this team won't improve from 7-9 with Pouncey. Until this team gets a QB, it'll be .500 or less.

If you're gonna be 7-9 with him or without him, risk it on a qb! Even if you miss, you're still 7-9!!!

Craig- Clausen was a bad idea the minute they got him. Leinart and Clausen interchangeable guys who who can't compete for a job. It was all entitlement. NO on him, not even for a 7th. That said, Ireland will trade his 3rd for him prob. ;)

i'm going to enjoy the titan's fans misery with locker as their qb.

Joe,

Your argument above makes NO sense. Are you saying the Bills are better than us because they beat us better at home? OK, using YOUR logic we must be better than the Jets because we beat them in New York....makes no sense bud.

No risk/no reward was your argument....I'm saying taking Pat White in the second was a risk. You want us to get ballsy and take a guy ahead of where they are listed. You commend the Titans and Vikings for doing that and 'who cares of they are wrong...at least they took a chance'. So apparently it's Ok for them to WASTE a first round pick but it's NOT Ok for us to waste a second round pick. Your logic makes no sense.

Joe, do me a favour and leave me alone....we're not going to agree on this. You're pi88sed at the regime for not getting your 'playmaker' and you want to try and take it out on me. Find someone else to talk to please....I have plenty of other people on here who I'm happier talking to....thanks.

Is it too late to bring back Don Shula? He wasn't affraid to draft a QB that everyone else passed on.


0x80...Thanks for the heads up on Jimmy Wilson. He was at the Dolphin camp the same day as Tawain Jones...That must have been fun(rivals) If you are around later I can tell you everything you want to know about him. I think he has a good chance to go in round 7. I wish Lex, or Carpenter could comment on his behalf. They were all teamates. Wilson was considered the top prospect on that team.

Agreed Armando. I like moving Jerry to LG - it's where several draftniks had him projected when the Fins took him. Incognito has always been more of a RG than a LG (although I stand by my thinking that Pouncey is a better G than C - but what the heck do I know?). So, if Pouncey can get the job done at C then I like your lineup and I agree with sticking to it (barring injury, of course). Sparano HAS to stop the mixing and matching. Of all people, he should know better.

3 - DeMarco Murray RB
4 - Virgil Green TE
5 - Denarius Moore WR
6 - BPA
7s - BPAs

craig,
regardless of record, miami is better than the jets.

I doubt they will let go of Palmer, dr. roberts, when they drafted that very good wide receiver.

no one goes to a game to watch a center play,
no one owns a jersey with a centers name on it,
no one turns on the highlights to see a center

in todays game teams are scoring 35+ points per game with average o-line play because of quick
strike offensive schemes and star power, skill
position players. aaron rodgers and big ben win
with ok or average lines. why not take a chance
on a play maker that could usher in a new era
of success or at least put fans in the seats with higher expectations. Pouncey may be a future hall of fame player but he wont grace the cover of madden or or change the mood in
a depressed fin nation.The face of our franchise
ia a left tackle! Dont get me wrong, Jake is a beast, but when your offense's only perenial
pro bowler is a left tackle something is wrong.

No offense to anybody but I new it would be Pouncey, what strikes me as B.S. is the fact that teams like Atlanta traded up for there player. I know the thinking, Miami needs to build so they can`t trade away future picks but wouldn`t we be better served with a Julio Jones ? We not only went with the safe pick but we went with the pick that keeps jobs !!!!!! CAN THEM ALL I SAY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This just in....

DOLPHIN FANS ON STRIKE!!

dm1dolphan,

I think that's your heart talking...LOL. I'd prefer to have the team that makes it to the AFC Championship game two years in a row...LOL.

Hey, did I detect some negativity from you earlier today...that's not like you. What was up with that?

I dunno, Oscar. Palmer seems VERY intent on getting out of there (can't fault him for that) and my understanding is that he's financially secure enough to either force the issue or (temporarily) 'retire.'

See what Cincy does this evening. I think it's very possible they go QB next. If so, that could get the ball rolling.

That said, while I think Palmer would be a decided upgrade I'd only want it to happen at the right price.

Not saying I disagree but wtf...lighten up mando...this was the longest post you've written in years and it could have been cut in half...want to hear more about what the phins will do tonight for crying out loud!

fin4life,

I got to disagree with you bud. The Pouncey pick was a good building block pick and I think it will help Miami long term. I have to commend Ireland and company for doing what is best for the franchise rather than just grabbing the guy who will help the most allowing them to keep their jobs. That's what you want from your GM. I gotta think Ireland must feel pretty secure about his future to make a pick lik that.

Sparano is flat out idiot.

Let's not compare to him to a scientist, that offends me.

Joe Shmoe,

@1:09 PM I agree. Know exactly where youre at on this debate. Also agree with your 1:02 PM to CraigM. This forum isnt about who's right or wrong. I get hung up in that myself at times.

It's not about trying to sell others on our point of view. It's like beating our heads against the wall. You're right, sometimes we gotta give others the right to be right or wrong.

At the end of the day we all just wanna see our team win. In the heat of who's right or wrong we all lose sight of this! LOL.........


This just in....

DOLPHIN FANS ON STRIKE!!

Posted by: Roly | April 29, 2011 at 01:17 PM

------------------------------

That's certainly your right but please don't include me.

Frustrated with the team? Sure. But I remain a fan regardless and won't stop.

Joe, Roly, et al, who dont like the pick. What would you have done? Obviously there were no trade partners to move down. What would be your solution? Who would you have taken at 15?

I keep hearing we need explosive, big time, exciting playmakers. There weren't any left. Who you gonna take there? Ingram? He might be a solid back, but he couldnt win a footrace with Ricky Williams.

Still got no clue why this regime continues to build a team to standards set in 1975. It won't make a blind but of difference how good or bad the o-line is when it's got Henne behind it throwing checkdowns and pick 6s in large quantities.

A bad o-line won't hamper a good QB that much (please see the Saints, Colts, Packers and Steelers line play for proof - running games have been incidental in the last 3 Super Bowls for goodness sake), whereas a bad QB massively affects the entire offense. Did the o-line cost us any of those 9 defeats last year? Did it heck as like.

This timewarp that seems to exist in the Dolphins facility needs removing. Steve Ross best do something about it soon or he won't be making any money, whether the new CBA gives the players 80% of the revenue share or 10%.

Worryingly I don't think we've reached the bottom of the curve yet.

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