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The curious whirlwind that is the Dolphins O line

Four years. That is how long its taken the Dolphins to build their offensive line.

Four years. That is how long its taken to set what is supposed to be a foundation, a building block to the team.

And we're probably not truly, surely, securely set yet.

Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland have got to be scratching their heads about this one. Building the offensive line has been a priority for the Dolphins since Ireland and Sparano were brought to Miami by Bill Parcells. Parcells believed you lay that foundation with burly, agile, strong, smart, angry linemen and the rest of the team will grow around them.

But this will be the fourth season of this current administration and the line today still comes with serious questions. Yes, still. Despite much free agent cash and draft pick resources and stirring of the roster, and searching for answers. The offensive line which should be an exclamation point remains something of a question mark.

Why?

I guess this one goes under the heading of best laid plans not going exactly as planned.

Oh, Jake Long has been excellent. He is a Pro Bowl player every time he steps on the field. He is a rock. But right now the Dolphins are hoping the rock has no cracks. Long will not play in Friday night's preseason opener against Atlanta. He is currently on the physically unable to perform list with what seeems to be a left leg injury. (The team does not have to specify injuries in the preseason and therefore doesn't). Long is rehabilitating that injury daily. But he obviously has not practiced this training camp.

Sparano told me last week the plan with Long is to have him ready for the regular-season opener versus New England. He might even be ready a bit before then, the coach said. That is good news. Even if Long doesn't get a full camp under his belt, even if he is freshly recovered from injury and not fully versed in camp hitting, he'll still be pretty good. Maybe he won't be Pro Bowl caliber until after the bye week, but he'll be good enough.

Jake Long is not the problem as long as he can eventually find his way back onto the field.

So what is the problem?

Let's begin on the other side of the line. The Dolphins have Marc Colombo as their starting right tackle and he isn't being challenged for his job at this point. One supposes Colombo, a former first-round pick of the Chicago Bears, is fully prepared to play well this season because he has Sparano's endorsement.

When a reporter asked the coach about Colombo's struggles in 2010 while with Dallas, Sparano would hear none of it. "I watched the tape," the coach said confidently.

We have a difference of opinion, obviously, because the Cowboys watched the same tape and terminated Colombo's contract.

The tape, according to several metrics websites including ProFootball Focus, show Colombo giving up between seven and nine sacks a season ago, depending on the source.

Maybe there are mitigating reasons for the many sacks. Maybe Colombo was playing hurt. Maybe the Cowboys are making a mistake in letting Colombo leave. But one cannot dismiss the idea that maybe the Dolphins are making a mistake in letting Colombo arrive.

We shall see. That's not the point. The point is this is not a exclamation point solution. There are questions here. We don't know what the answers will be and neither do the Dolphins. For now we have questions at right tackle.

The right guard position is similarly a question mark. The team moved Vernon Carey to right guard because, well, because John Jerry is not living up to expectations right now. If Jerry were a player, he'd be the starter. That's how it's supposed to work when a team uses a third-round pick (73rd overall) on a player they coached in the Senior Bowl.

Let that marinate for a second.

The Dolphins didn't just scout Jerry. They didn't just watch tape of Jerry. They didn't just look at his measurables and talk to him at the Combine. They coached the kid for a week at the Senior Bowl in January of 2010 and really, really liked him. They believed he'd be a player.

He's not a player right now. He's in a fight to make the team.

And he might lose.

And so the Dolphins had to find a Plan B to play right guard. That would be Vernon Carey. I reject the notion Carey was the first option because, as I've written before, GM Jeff Ireland said very specifically at the draft, the team had no intention then to move Carey to guard. I remember this because I asked the question.

But something happened between that answer and training camp's fourth day because the Dolphins felt compelled to move Carey over to cover the void left by Jerry's inability to play well. So now Carey returns to the guard spot where he began his college career -- Carey played guard at the University of Miami.

Moving Carey to guard meant the Dolphins had to basically admit signing him to that six-year, $42 million contract after 2008 was not a terribly sound move. That contract at the time made Carey one of the highest paid right tackles in the NFL. And yes, Carey started at the spot the past two years while under that contract.

But Carey didn't always play up to the wage scale. Last year, offensive coordinator Dan Henning said Carey has the potential to be very good, and some days he is. And some days he's not very good at all. It was a revealing description of an inconsistent player rather than of one making elite player money.

The Dolphins have adjusted Carey's salary. The definition of adjust here means "cut."

So now Carey is cheaper and the Dolphins hope he plays at least to the level of his newly adjusted pay. Will he? I don't know. The Dolphins don't really know. They hope he will. They don't really know. It's a question mark.

Another one.

The Dolphins used their first round selection this season on an offensive lineman -- center Mike Pouncey. I must say, he looks the part. He's a beast. He seems smart so I expect he'll pick up the mental requirements of his position -- which is not easily or quickly done. He seems strong. He seems quick enough.

But lately, the thing that raised a flag about Pouncey in college has shown up during practices. The center snaps and exchange with quarterbacks have not been always clean, especially in recent practices. I don't know if those are on Pouncey or on the quarterback or both. But something questionable is going on. So we'll have to monitor the situation to see if this question gets answered or if it becomes a larger concern. And until the answer comes, what do we have here?

A question mark.

The reason the Dolphins felt compelled to go for a center with their 2011 first round pick? Jake Grove was a high-price free agent bust. The club paid Grove $14 million guaranteed as part of a five-year, $29.5 million contract before the 2009 season.  

Grove came to the Dolphins with an extensive history for getting injured. It was the first thing after the contract details the South Florida media noted when Grove signed. And then Grove came to Miami and kept getting injured. SMH!

Grove was cut in September of 2010. He played a grand total of 12 games for Miami with 10 starts. Amazing, $14 million for 10 starts. Must be nice. Glad it's not my money.

Grove is out of the NFL now. So is Justin Smiley. He retired earlier this week after spending a couple of days in the Oakland Raiders training camp.

Oh, don't worry about Smiley, either. He's not hurting financially because the Dolphins paid him $9 million guaranteed before the 2008 season as part of a five-year, $25 million contract.

Like Grove, Smiley came to the Dolphins with an injury history. And, sure enough, he got injured plenty with the Dolphins. He missed the final four games of 2008 with an injury and then missed four more in 2009 with a problem to the shoulder that had been surgically repaired in 2007.

I reported last year that Smiley told friends he knew that 2007 surgery had not gone quite right because he lost strength in the shoulder he was never really able to regain. The Dolphins traded him to Jacksonville for a box of sneakers and a roll of rusty pennies before last season. Another free agency bust.

The Dolphins signed their offensive line to $154 million in total deals before the 2009 season. Obviously only the guaranteed portion of those deals actually cost ownership out of pocket. But the money spent pales compared to the wasted energy and time invested on solving a problem over and over and over.

At center, Samson Satele, Jake Grove and Joe Berger have not been the answer.

At right tackle, Vernon Carey and Lydon Murtha have not been the answer.

At right guard, John Jerry, Pat McQuistan, DonaldThomas, Nate Garner, nor Ikechuku Ndukwe have been the answer.

At left guard, Justin Smiley, Andy Aleman, Garner, and McQuistan have not been the answer.

Draft picks Shawn Murphy and Andrew Gardner also didn't help and are no longer with the team.

When you really think about it, the best move the Dolphins have made on the offensive line -- all things considered including price paid, or draft compensation invested -- has been Richie Incognito.

He came to the Dolphins last year after washing out of a couple of college programs because of anger issues. He came after washing out in St. Louis and Buffalo. He came as a free agent so he cost no draft compensation. He played for near minimum salary last year on a one-year tryout.

He started all 16 games, with 15 of those at left guard and one at center. He played well enough to earn a new contract for this season and beyond and he's anchored as the starter at left guard again. Because he's played center, I'm assuming he'll help Pouncey.

Think about this, NFL: Richie Incognito is the most stabilizing force on the Dolphins offensive line right now.

Talk about plans not going as they had been laid.

[Blog note: There will be a live blog of the Dolphins versus Atlanta preseason opener Friday night. Please come here for that. Also, kindly follow me on twitter.]

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so why the hell arent they at least looking at Bryant Mckinnie,Leonard Davis,Carl Nicks,etc.?

Sometimes I get weary of the questioning (doubting) of every single move the Dolphins front office makes. This piece, though, is right on the money. It's crazy that the line isn't solidified by now. And in my mind its a much bigger deal than who our deep threat receiver is and which Chad Henne is going to show up at practice. Good work, Mando.

Think Mankins would have been worth 2 1st rounders? Would have added a rock next to Long and hopefully/promisingly Pouncy at center, 3 staples wouldn't have been bad.

I hope I am not right but back before the draft I have been saying Miami should draft a OT because Carey is declining fast and OT would be the best need to value pick they could make. I also felt with the plethora of OGs that would be available in free agency they could simply pick up a guard, move Incognito to center and leave the remaining guard spot for Jerry. That would have left one of the guard spots the only position that would needed to be fixed. But then again I am no GM.

They could still move Incognito to center and Pouncy to guard which could solve part of the problem.

seriously armando,


dont u think u or the other reporters need to jump in and put the Coach on the hot seat by asking him the simple ? of how the hell could your strength be an O-line coach in dallas where u supposedly excelled in, and yet have so many question marks on the o-line of this team since then???.....just sayin!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CJFoOSX1ok Ive got some secret video from the Dolphins practices this week. Please watch before deleting. I love Benny Hill films lol. Anyway I am looking forward to tonights scrimmage. Im not a psychic but I predict Chadden Henne showing promise, then throwing game ending interception at end of 4th quarter. It is up to his new skills he learned this year, If he lights it up all will be forgotten quicker than Mike Vicks dead dogs.

Ray Lewis in all likelihood killed a dude, and yet he’s a beloved football player. Ben Roethlisberger in all likelihood raped a woman, yet you can find his balls residing in Cris Collinsworth’s mouth during his Sunday Night Football telecasts. Lawrence Taylor is the biggest azshole on the planet, but is still worshipped by football fans to this day.

Donte Stallworth killed a man entering Miami Beach under the influence of Marijuana and intoxicated goes to jail for 30 days and quietly resumes his career like it never happened but if your Braylon Edwards you get busted for a DUI in Manhattan while publicly wanting out of Cleveland (I`ll bet nobody really wants to be there) and get labeled a malcontent delinquent who everybody considers a cancer. Anybody else see something wrong with this picture ? We could have used him and had our biggest vertical threat since Duper turned his nose into a vacuum cleaner in the late 80`s ?

This oline debacle is the ruination of a good franchise.

I don't see how this team can survive even one more injury (more or less) and be remotely competitive.

I feel sorry for Chad, because he's got borderline extremes, but will be smothered under oppossing defense thanks to the oline.

Poor Reggie Bush.

I wish, and wish...

MANDO. you r my favorite sports writer and this piece is solid! Nice work. I can't help but think that either Parcells really blew it or something still stinks with Ireland and Sparano. Nice work!!

We're going to miss Jim "Mad Dog" Mandich this year! Those of us that listened to South Florida radio that is....

Mando, your article encourages thought

Getting cut off again

"The chain is as strong as it's weakest link," Henne! VY would have been the best pick and competition!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8bzZEtOcb8 I have to post this for pp who have not seen it. Chad needs to use this video to get motivated. The funny thing in the NFL is they say it's best to be ranked low so u can surprise em. Phins doing that for sure this year. Sorry chad but I still have this song on my I-phone.

10/10 for this article mando,

it CERTAINLY can't be bad luck - its down to bad judgement in an area they're supposed to be strong, and as gulf says having a weak o-line doesn't help a developing qb

i'd love to know how much bp was involved with the fa signings and drafts, but we never will, its the only potential exonerating factor for ts and ji

imo the fo does do some things well, but this is a seriously dark stain of their record

Sorry but its obvious to me still, after watching ryan mallett's debut that he should have been our second round pick and our quarterback of the future. we could of picked up bradshaw in free agency or other possibilites. Mallet is strong armed, accurate and cocky confident. Sounds like a guy I used to watch for the dolphins. This regime without a doubt has made multiple, repeated mistakes in player evaluations....thats a fact.

Sporano and Ireland both suck!!!!

Th tri-fecta should be renamed the tri-dummies!!!!

cavemanna,

Good Post 4:45 am.

My exact feelings. The ownership and all the way down the line are pathetic. We have talent on this team and i know that. But look how bad they screwed this thing up. FACT.

I've said it all along.... We need a QB, we need a QB! Also you are correct about Lewis, LT, ect... Edwards would have been a great fit opposite BM...but noooooo Ross and company says no! Our FO sucks bad. Get rid of Ross, Tony, and Jeff

Mando,

This is one of the best reporting you have done all year. This should be an article so the coaching can see and read how ridiculous their personnel moves have been the last four; years when it comes to the O-Line. They waste a lot of time recruiting has beens and/or aging players. No offense; just sayin. In the NFL you have to play bigger then what you actually are and that should be the litmus test.

Parcells was right but the tri-ineffecta could not find a solid line if their life depended on it.

Long and definitely Incognito are great lineman. they are both mean, nasty and smart. Carey has always looked late. As for the rest of the guys they looked biker tough. Mean mustaches and soft. That worked in the 70's, not today.

I think the offense lacked rythum all season last year. Hopefully we have and OC that won't stop drives with dumb play calling.

It really is pretty simple. find a weak spot and keep kicking it until they give up.

guess we need to draft more first round OL. lol

People always talk about how Parcells was inflexible as far as the type of people he signed, but, in reality, he was too flexible at times. He hated injured players yet thought he could cure Grove and Smiley...bad call.

At other times, he signed/drafted prototypical guys like Gardner and Alleman and Murphy. Sure, those guys looked the part on the program, but somebody forgot to watch the tape.

Then you get guys like Jerry and Thomas who like the lifestyle of the NFL more than the work you have to put in to be successful. Sometimes you simply can't tell who will and who will not get lazy after getting some money in their pocket.

OL was supposed to be Sparano's forte...enough said...
Our first offseason move (= resigning Sparano) was also the worst.
Bad head coach + average QB is not a winning combo.
I hope we'll finally clean the house after a 3rd 7-9 season in a row.

What am I missing here folks. Everyone complaining about the front office and this year is the first year without Parcells. We here how controlling he was. So how much did Iteland and Sparano play in previous drafts and player personnel moves??
So is not this draft their first pass at this?? If so not only does it look good, and how long will it take to see how good the draft was??
Good move not biting on evans, too many unanswered questions.

JUST READ JEFF'S REPORT AND SPARANO SAID THE TEAM DIDN'T HAVE ENOUGH PRACTICE.

NON OF THE TEAMS DID.

WIN OR GO HOME.

The problem is they all THINK they are smarter than the game. In a few cases you can find a gem that was discarded by another team just because the player didn't fit the system. 9 times out 10 thses guys go after old, slower players that they feel they can get another 2 or 3 years from.

Unfortunately, the good Teams don't need that much practice.

No Itcdolphin, i thought they had a great draft and being without Parcells has helped. The players and game have changed even since he coached. You are right in the fact that they did well and should contiue to do so but I feel that they are going to pay for Billy being in the front office and if this team doesn't workout this year they both will be gone!

You got any good news , a struggling QB and a weak O line, are we in trouble?

Our playbook is 30 inches thick. No way to install that by the opener. We didn't have enough practice to prepare for Atlanta. I want my mommy.

Hurting by the Ryan Mallet move but had to be done.

It is amazing these guys could not put together a good line in this amount of time, that and the inability to either recognize that we need a QB or just going out and getting one, Henne was one of the worst QBS in the league last year unless you think 15 tds and 17 ints compare to mannings numbers or brady's like it was suggested by Tony in one of your columns.

We have a much better Team this year but that lockout killed us.

We don't really need a line. We have Lex Hilliard. He's never been tackled by anyone. Of course we haven't played him yet either so we'll see.

As the future ex coach of the Miami Dolphins, I can tell you this team has a tremendous opportunity, and those types of things.

Our best chance to be ready is to forfeit all the games before the bye week. This way we can get our playbook installed. I'm confident we can make up the 4 losses and win the division, and those types of things.

Still, 9-7.

Did anyone see that Pats Jags game last night? 47 to 12, Gotta make you wonder if a team can only pratice for 14 days can put up 47 points I hate to see what they look like come sept 12th.

everyone in the country knew we needed a QB a year ago. ross promised big changes. truth is ireland/sparano arent talent evaluators! they only can play musical chairs with players;making moves but never getting better. they still think jerry and carey can play. when the bifecta leaves we get our dolphins back. cant wait!!!!!

I will be watching Pat Devlin, closely.

You people are crazy! We are the most improved team in our division. How did the Jets or Pats get better, huh? Can you tell me that? They didn't. You sissies are all going to run and hide and change your names when Miami wins the division. How many will admit you were wrong?

greg z.

But who will they hire for the next coach is the question? Another superstar coach that quits after two seasons? Ross will hire the wrong person. We need a new owner.

its kinda amusing when TS talks about how big his playbook is that he cant get the whole thing installed. seems like he only used about 8 plays out of it last year and they were easily defensed by opponents who "knew what was coming". the db's were telling marshall before the ball was snapped. incredible!

guido, agreed. i'm sure ross wants out however. buying the team was a big mistake for him. can he find a buyer in this economy?

CHINESE FOOD NO HAVE TO BE CLEAN.

The Dolphins need to go out and sign quality depth to the offensive line or trade to get it. Without a solid OL the offense and Henne will not be successful. Why not trade Hartline to a team that needs a WR and get a OL in exchange. Hartline isn't going to improve any more than he is now and Dolphins have depth at the position with players who have alot of room for growth.

Sabes, They took a OL man the last 2 years in the draft, They picked up some scrub players from Dallas, There HC was a Line coach for Dallas, Sooner or later you got to say "These guys have no Idea what there doing".

Maybe after final cuts we can get some OL backups. But cannot rule out a trade of one of those very good DE's we have.

Posted by Gregg Rosenthal on August 12, 2011, 8:28 AM EDT

Young’s performance Thursday night could remind the Eagles why they signed him.

Young completed 3-of-5 passes for 45 yards, including a 32-yard strike where Young broke free of two tacklers. (Yep, in the picture above.) Michael Vick was impressed.

I agree if the Dolphins don't improve this year and make the playoffs Sparano and Ireland are gone. Alot of games last year were close and could have gone either way. If more don't go Dolphins way and they lose more than maybe at least we can be towards the top of the draft next year and trade up for Andrew Luck.

But most of all, we need a QB.

Got a feeling 5 and 11 would be a good year for us.IMHO

Rob in OC.....

I liked your post from the last Blog....and Mallett should have been a no-brainer.....espcially in the 2nd....but oh well......

The only thing I take exception with in yout post is incuding DB as one of those trumpeting for Mallett......Hew blew his load on every player....lol......

I think Miami will have to run the football version of basketball's old 4-corners offense to beat the Pats.

Philly will do what they always do with QBs, bring them in, make them look great, then trade them away for draft picks. Dolphins fell for it with AJ Feely. Its the system and the Dolphins offensive system didn't work last year and the new system came from the Browns, which was even worse than ours last year. Doubtful that it will work. I still don't know why we didn't bring in Brad Childress to run the offense. Huge mistake that will cost Sparano his job. He had to bring in a guy he could micro manage instead.

Ryan Mallet 12-19 164yds 1TD for the Pat's! This guy is gonna be the Dolphins biggest mistake in the draft! The Pat's got him for a 3rd pick! I don't understand how Ireland moved up to to the 2nd RD toget Thomas and not move up to the 1st pick in the 3rd round to get Mallet, who by the fuc*ing is a QB! Steele by the way is still the Raider's starting center, and we got rid of him. He was a solid starter. We got a 6rd pick for him.

EL, More Evidence that makes me say"These guys dont know what there doing".

@ 08:40 AM

I will add, DB scoffed, mocked and belittled the Mallett bloggers for months until HE finally decided to blow his load for him. Then you get his well I did further research and came to a different conclusion, ok, but no apologies to those he laughed at like their were idiots.

Typical DB.

Miami's strength right now is its defense, so running the ball and keeping the football will allow the defense to rest. But we need a solid OL to do that, which we don't have, and NE knows that, so they will put 8-9 guys at the line and make Henne beat them, which I've never seen him do to any defense yet.

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