The Dolphins offensive line has been the center of many worries during the offseason, training camp and preseason. And those worries are the logical result of a couple of basic issues.
Issue No. 1: The offensive line last year was terrible, yielding 58 sacks, and so those guys got blown out and new guys are now in. But in bringing in five new guys, the Dolphins, like it or not, made the offensive line a big story. It's on everyone's lips.
Colledge, something of an old school guy who is used to the offensive line being anonymous, wants this unit to play so well, you don't really hear from them again.
“Well, I think we’re just anxious to stop the criticism," Colledge said Thursday. "We obviously have a shadow over the top of us from what happened last year and we’ve got four new guys here, five for this game that weren’t a part of that offensive line. We know what happened and we know that the pressure is on us, but we hope to kind of quiet that criticism over the next three weeks and really take the attention on the guys who deserve it, guys like our wide outs or our running backs and (Ryan) Tannehill, the guys that are going to be special playmakers for us.”
Issue No. 2: The Dolphins offensive line is new from tackle to tackle. Have you heard that before? It is the first time in team history the Dolphins replace every single linemen from the season before. And that obviously is not a good thing.
But Colledge argues that is somewhat overblown because this new offensive line, he says, is not all that new.
"That’s the thing, a lot of people are talking about starting five new offensive linemen, we’re not trying to start five rookies," he said. "We’re trying to start five guys that played in the league. We’ve got one guy, Ja’Wuan (James) who’s coming out of college and he’s a first round draft pick and we expect him to do something really good for us.
"The rest of us, we’ve played games. We’ve been out there. We’ve played in the NFL. We know what it’s like to start. We know what to expect out of a team like the Patriots and we know what it’s going to take to win games on Sunday. So we’re going to go out there and play as a unit, and hopefully take a step forward from what we did against Dallas.”
This is uplifting stuff. Colledge is obviously pretty confident in what we're about to see.
And I agree with him, sort of.
I believe general manager Dennis Hickey has indeed remedied the tackle problem on the offensive line. Branden Albert at left tackle and Ja'Wuan James at right tackle have been everything the Dolphins expected so far. So I believe they are an upgrade over last year's guys.
But I have concerns about the interior guys.
I remind you Samson Satele was on the street as late as August 1. The Dolphins signed him because they couldn't find someone who could snap the football. And although Satele has resolved that issue and brought stability to the center job while Mike Pouncey gets healthy from his hip surgery, no one should confuse Satele for a Pro Bowl player.
He's a guy no other team had signed before August.
Colledge, 32, was signed June 30 after he was released by Arizona in March. And while Colledge has been steady (in his ability) and dependable (in his durability) throughout his career, he has never been confused for Larry Allen. He's solid.
My eye-opening moment on Colledge so far this preseason was when Joe Philbin said he had "no clarity" at who was going to start at left guard after Colledge had played the position with the starting unit every single practice since training camp had begun. Obviously Colledge won the job. But also, obviously, the coach wanted more from the position. We'll see.
Finally, the right guard spot is a question mark. Dallas Thomas was something of a flop and Shelley Smith, who started training camp at center then went into the left guard competition then moved to right guard, finally won the job.
Shelley Smith has come a good long way in the past month. But he's still a work in progress. We'll see.
Indeed, that's how I feel about this offensive line, particularly the interior three guys until Pouncey returns. We'll see.