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Long back, suddenly OL is much better

Jake Long, who was not able to pass his physical at the start of training camp because he was still nursing an undisclosed left leg injury, passed over the weekend and is back on the field.

Great timing by him.

Long's return coincides with a game in which reserve left tackle Lydon Murtha, who generally did fine filling in, struggled somewhat with three penalties against Carolina. Murtha wasn't bad at his assignments or anything like that. It's just that those penalties, especially the pre-snap ones, kill drives and he is simply not as good as Long.

So Long returned to practice Saturday and today gets the day off,  along with the rest of Miami's players. Long will be able to assess his physical condition and conditioning following his first dose of practice.

"It feels real good, getting back there with the guys and finally put the helmet on, jersey, run around out there, get to practicing, it felt good,” Long said after practice.

Dolphins coaches might not use Long in the preseason. He is expected to practice every day possible and that work against Jason Taylor, sometimes against Cameron Wake, and against Miami's burly defensive ends, should be good enough to get Long in football shape. The risk versus the reward of having Long crash helmets with another team's defensive linemen in the preseason seems to tip the scales toward risk.

Think about it:

Long worked all of last year next to Richie Incognito so it's not like the two of them need to learn each other. Yes, the offense is new, but I estimate the Dolphins will work between 40-50 team periods in which the first team offense faces the first team defense the next couple of weeks. On the week before the season-opener against the Patriots, and maybe even two weeks before, Long will also get snaps against a scout team.

So why are we worrying about getting him hit in a preseason game again?

"Whatever," Long said laughing. "Whenever coach puts me in there and expects me to play, I will be ready to play."

And with that, it seems the Dolphins starting offensive line is set. Long at left tackle, Incognito at left guard, Mike Pouncey at center, Vernon Carey at right guard and Marc Colombo at right tackle.

The biggest worry of all these for me? Not Long, coming off the injury. Not Pouncey playing as a rookie. Not Carey shifting to a new position at guard.


He has some ugly, ugly moments at times. The other night there was a pass play in which he let a blitzer run right past him untouched and in against Henne. Henne avoided the blitzer by scrambling away and then was hurried by another lineman that ran past Colombo. When that play was done, Colombo had gotten a chance to block two guys and really didn't lay a finger on either. Made me scratch my head.

Can he run-block well? Yes. Pass-block well? Not sure.

{Update: The Rams have released offensive lineman Tyler Donahue, an undrafted rookie out of Bowling Green. Why do you care? Because the Dolphins showed interest in Donahue earlier this year and will be among the teams wanting to add him to their roster. In fact, Donahue had a workout scheduled with the Dolphins Sunday. Donahue is a 6-6 and 300-pound offensive tackle.]