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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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Did I just have a civilized exchange with Sam?

That felt STRANGE!

Posted by: odinseye

Agreed! :-)

Odinseye-
I was thinking the same thing!

SAM- are you on your meds today? what gives?

I know Sparano released a depth chart but wonder if it was set in stone, have been looking for the starting line ups tonight and can`t find anything?? I guess he made up his mind during Sunday`s scrimmage. I for one could have waited till after the 2nd Pre-Season game before naming the line ups we won`t be game planning before then and you get 3 weeks of reps with the group you go with before the start of the Season, just saying.

Got two hottie twins coming by tonight! Going to pounce them both, Laura and Ralph.

Your Mom didn't give me a Mustang either, but I wish she would've.

Ooooooouch!!!!

"SAM- are you on your meds today? what gives?"

Posted by: finsfan72

Why you low-down, evil little....

depth charts change throughout the preason, they are required to submit something, nothing set in stone.

Your Mom didn't give me a Mustang either, but I wish she would've.

Ooooooouch!!!!

Posted by: odinseye


Very nice! LOL...hope you plan on starting with the girl...lol!

Odinseye-
You saying your closet door opens both ways? Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Ralph?

Sam-
that was a compliment....sorta

Sparano is not going to stop playing with the line for one reason. Like I said yesterday, they think they are genius and know it all. They don't get the concept that a unit needs to play together to gel and build that chemistry!


Got two hottie twins coming by tonight! Going to pounce them both, Laura and Ralph.

Posted by: odinseye | August 12, 2011 at 03:14 PM

Fake Odinseye by L-aura and R-alph I'm assuming you mean L-efty and R-ighty? Ha ha, very funny!

While I am ambidextrous, there'll be no need. I got a sure thing going tonight. She's coming over to bake me some Peanut Butter Cookies.

I love Peanut Butter Cookies!!!!

If you invite me, please stay with Ralph.

"that was a compliment....sorta"

Posted by: finsfan72

That's how it was received...almost

It is absolutely inconceivable and unacceptable at this juncture that we still don't have a properly-functioning O Line. As the O Line goes, so does the entire team. He needs to be fired, period.

I love PB cookies too. My fave!


Marino had all the tools and intangibles.

Still, I think his mind may have been his greatest attribute.

That's where he got the Calm Cool Headed Confidence!

You could not rattle the guy and with him, the game TRULY wasn't over until it was over!

odinseye | August 12, 2011 at 03:03 PM

Ahhh, those were the days!

..............................................................................................
We drafted one after Woodley took us to a Super Bowl and the rest is history. Would the Dolphins have drafted him if they'd actually WON SB XVII?

Posted by: Seminole Sam | August 12, 2011 at 03:04 PM

Probably not Shula loved his security blanket Strock to much and while up and down Woodley did just enough. We really needed CB`s that year because D.McNiel was always dinged and Gerald Small was on his last legs. You guys know who went to Wash. with pick 28 behind Marino. The best Corner in the draft Darrell Green. The Cleveland Browns have said many times they had a deal in place with the Baltimore Colts to move into the first pck of Rd.2 to grab Marino. The deal falls thru when Shula unexpectedly grabs him, more than likely still suffering from a SB hang-over after watching the turd Woodley laid on the field in a game were we held the lead until the final 4 minutes.


No, I don't swing both ways.

It's not that I have a problem with Homosexuality or anything like that.

It's just that I've never been able to look at another man's fat hairy ass and think-Giggity Giggity!

Truth can be stranger than fiction.......but ah......not in this case!

Bottoms U.........ah...........I'll just close this one with:

ValHalla!!!!

All Queers and Lesbians are ambi-dextrous.

We have an offensive foul on oscar...lol!

I know, I had tis chick, well,Armando has supressed some of my Stories....but I know. YesIdo.

@ 3:24

and odinseye.

Richie Incognito should be playing center and Pouncey left guard. Besides that. Keep these 5 guys playing together to establish a solid relationship. People like to blame Henne but the constant changes on the o-line has been killer for a running game.

Joke franchise.

This all started on the wrong foot when they were too cheap to get Ravens' free agent center & they got Grove instead. All i had to do was Google Grove & see the glee with which Raider fans expressed their joy that the injury plagues, underachieving Grove was gone to know the Parcells era was doomed. Woulda been better off keeping Satele.

Four years inand STILL NO O-LINE!!! SHAMEFUL>

I'd like to see the Dolphins get Mike Nolen under a long term deal. Pay Him Well! The D will be strong for a long time. I'd look for Jimmy Wilson to move to Safety. I have a feeling about this kid.


There's two types of guys who feel the need to constantly mask their insecurities by boasting of sexual conquests:

Douchebags and 14-year-olds.

Posted by: Sane | August 12, 2011 at 03:24 PM


I'm not a 14 year, but I have been called a Douschebag quite often.

Guys that constantly comment on others guys Sexually conquests only need two things:

Lefty and Righty

That's because their insecurities frighten them much to get out there and get some!

Dolphin "depth" chart:

Two fathoms deep & sinking fast.

Oscar,

Are you coming on to me?

Well if you are thanks, I'm very flattered.

But I done told ya TWICE I don't swing that way. Don't make me tell ya A'gin!

I had a Douschedane once.


Dolphin "depth" chart:

Two fathoms deep & sinking fast.

Posted by: Oswald Danes | August 12, 2011 at 03:40 PM


CLASSIC-ROTFLMAO!!!!

I'm ready for some FOOTBALL!

Keep the talk related to football, ladies!

What's the first play of tonight's Fins game going to be?

A kickoff? A Punt? What?

keep it strictly PG here odin......*lol* or at least wait till after the game

Keep a watch on the O-line tonight. Once Long is cleared to regain his Left Tackle spot, Murtha (depending on his performance in the pre-season) may be moving to Right Tackle with Colombo as back-up. That makes the most sense to me. Colombo has seen his better days as a starter and can't hold up for a whole game. Which is why the Cowboys let him go. Lack of stamina.

Keep the talk related to football, ladies!

What's the first play of tonight's Fins game going to be?

A kickoff? A Punt? What?

Posted by: Fred Snickers | August 12, 2011 at 03:50 PM

WTF??? how can the first play be a punt??
What r u trying to say here?? is this some sort of dead henning joke...explain!!!!


Woodley was terrible in that game but don't forget our vaunted 'Killer B's' gave up 276 yards rushing that day as well. An equally putrid performance although fans tend to forget that part.

Also, Washington took their first lead (on that infamous Riggins run) with nearly 11 minutes left---not four.

Jim | August 12, 2011 at 03:36 PM

Don`t remember there actually being that much time but the bend but don`t break B`s were on the field a whole lot do to an ineffectve Woodley. Once it became evident that they couldn`t get Andrea Franklin rolling Shula pulled the switch and maybe a little later than he should have but I`ll bet the Fulton Walker kick return played a part in his thinking going into the 2nd half. It`s also worth noting that if Bokamper holds on to that batted pass by Betters he walks into the endzone and we would have won the game, maybe altering the thinking on what was needed in 83 when Shula weighed Marino vs. Green

fin4life @03:26

I've posed that question to friends before and they all seem to agree that the Dolphins would not have drafted Marino if they'd won the SB.

wow, things must be dire indeed if fans are starting to talk about the draft of 83' all over again....


keep it strictly PG here odin......*lol* or at least wait till after the game

Posted by: superPHIN | August 12, 2011 at 03:51 PM

Now I'm going to sound like a 14 years old Douschebag:

They started it. They said worse things than I did, whaaaaaaaaaa.

LOL :)

I know it's only Pre -Season but I can't help it. This off season seemed so long and then having to wonder if even would be a season.

I'm PUMPED!!!!

I done told ya many times that the way I'm now I will take even Gloria.

Of course it's going to be a Run.


I've posed that question to friends before and they all seem to agree that the Dolphins would not have drafted Marino if they'd won the SB.

Posted by: Seminole Sam | August 12, 2011 at 03:55 PM


Right, like I'm sure your friends really would know. Shula has said in interviews he was so surprised Marino was still on the board and ignored his chart and snatched him. Leads me to think he'd have taken Marino either way. Woodley was also kind of a weirdo nobody understood.

I just keep wondering why is it that we select players that don't bring us what we expected-another team takes them and they become much better players and we look like we don't know how to eval talent. Over and over this has been happening. The only conclusion I come up with is that the front office is clueless-Ireland and Sparano have this season to make a difference...and it needs to be a big difference not just another extra win or two. We need to see smart play, aggressive play and hopefully an offensive scheme that makes all that come together. Been a Fin fan for way too long that I care to admit and it's become painful to see a great team and org. go in a downward spiral. Why, why why didn't we go after Mallett?

It's so silly. In this day and age he can just come out and not be ashamed. Hottie is just too feminine for me. I prefer to be called Rambo.

three runs, punt likely despite maybe an itching for henne for a dump off pattern to bess for 6 yrds but sparano becomes angry becuase we're not supposed to give away our gameplans to other teams....

and Odin you best be FIST PUMPED and ready to go!!!*lol*

Matt Moore, in film, doesn't look like a suckie QB, just not good enough for what we want, I think.

MiamiD20,

Let me make this perfectly clear: There is NO WAY IN HELL, we give the Pats (2) 1st Rounders for ANYBOdY. For what, so that they can turn them into (5) 2nd Rounders to come back and KILL US?????..NO WAY. Mankins is NOT worth (2) 1st Rounders. Let the Pats get draft picks from other dumb teams, like the Raiders!!!!

That is so darned true, 305.

crap man,

dont give away our secrets, let fans enjoy something to look forward to this year...


There's always hope......and then theres more hope after that

Another thing about that Dolphins D was that it was one of the 1st if not the 1st to successfully play a 3/4 scheme. Remember when Arnsbarger started toying with it he used Bokamper originally at OLB with Brunzinski (trade LA Rams) opposite him and Duhe with Larry Gordon (after Rusty Chambers died) manning the middle.

The DL 3 were Betters with Bomhower in the middle and Vern Den Herder and they applied good pressure and masked our older and slower DB`s who essentialy played a zone scheme with responsability to an area instead of player and the Blackwood Bro`s at S were a cannon shot of the line of scrimmage a full 20 yards back but they seemed to work well in the scheme, Arnsbarger was innovative and truely new how to use the talent at hand.

Then in 81 he has to tinker with it again when Den Herder retired and moving Bokamper to DL with Chares Bowser taking his spot at OLB proved a bad move because Bokamper was to undersized and got pushed around in the run game which happened in that SB and thru those seasons teams ran right at him. Also the death of Larry Gordon was a blow prompting the trade for an over the hill Ernie Rohne.


and Odin you best be FIST PUMPED and ready to go!!!*lol*

Posted by: superPHIN | August 12, 2011 at 04:09 PM

Oh Geez, now superPHIN's coming on to me.

See what you started Fake Odinseye?

dont flatter urself too much odin....wouldnt want u to go out on a limb and Insinuate something that isnt there....maybe the whole homophopic syndrome has pushed u over the edge...just sayin!!!


Right, like I'm sure your friends really would know. Shula has said in interviews he was so surprised Marino was still on the board and ignored his chart and snatched him. Leads me to think he'd have taken Marino either way. Woodley was also kind of a weirdo nobody understood.

odins secret boytoy | August 12, 2011 at 04:06 PM

What the HELL was he going to say after it was all said and done, kind of a dumb remark. That reminds me of Reagan saying he new the arms race was going to bankrupt the USSR before us. Like everything in life it`s a 50/50 guess based on a gut feeling.

Wow Mando, great article. I have been noticing great articles from you as of late. Last season you was so much on Chad Henne/Dolphins bandwagon that you refuse to hold this team accountable.

Maybe.

Depressing article, Mando...but right on the money!

its all about the blog hits*lol*

Right mando?!:)

Armando Salguero, Do you mean that the FO does not even know what it is doing? And I've been only worried about their apparent terrible starting quarterback pick until this point? If Parcel's had any strengths at all, it was suppose to be in building both offensive and defensive front lines. Now, I'm learning that Tony Sparano, who I have been blaming for over-mangaging our Offensive Front Line is not even good enough to do that much and that is what he was as a coach! Ouch! That's a scarry thought!


MiamiD20,

Let me make this perfectly clear: There is NO WAY IN HELL, we give the Pats (2) 1st Rounders for ANYBOdY. For what, so that they can turn them into (5) 2nd Rounders to come back and KILL US?????..NO WAY. Mankins is NOT worth (2) 1st Rounders. Let the Pats get draft picks from other dumb teams, like the Raiders!!!!

Jesse | August 12, 2011 at 04:13 PM


Speilman actually trading Welker to the Pats before the 07 Season is enough of that stupidity to last us another 20 Seasons!!!


dont flatter urself too much odin....wouldnt want u to go out on a limb and Insinuate something that isnt there....maybe the whole homophopic syndrome has pushed u over the edge...just sayin!!!

Posted by: superPHIN | August 12, 2011 at 04:23 PM


Oops, ah, My Bad. I apologize. The "terminology" scared me for second though.

I've been out on a limb and right up to the edge..........never over-LOL!

Go Clyde Gates!!!!

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