The Miami Dolphins still have an offensive line problem because the quarterback is getting sacked and the Pro Bowl center is still not playing (probably back by the Sept. 28 game vs. Oakland in London) and the running game has been hit and miss.
So football being a team sport and the offensive line being one unit, everyone says the Dolphins still have an offensive line problem.
But that is not entirely accurate.
The Dolphins do not have an offensive tackle problem right now.
Yes, the OTs are part of the unit and so they get lumped in with everyone else. But not here. Here I try to be a little more nuanced and, as the blog name says, in depth.
And left tackle Branden Albert and right tackle Ja'Wuan James are so far playing well. How well?
The Dolphins have played two games. Both men have gotten positive grades internally within the organization for both games.
And in understanding that you must have perspective on the depth (there goes the blog name again) of the problem these two guys are so far solving.
Remember 2013? Yeah, forgettable especially for the offensive line because of 58 sacks and blowup dolls and trays being thrown on the lunchroom floor and people going AWOL and the harassment scandal and the running game so inconsistent that third-and-one was a passing down.
Well, the truth is a lot of the line's on-field problems happened at the tackle positions. Indeed, a majority of the on-field issues happened at tackle.
The team did give up 58 sacks and the three tackles gave up 27 of those -- with Tyson Clabo yielding 13, Bryant McKinnie giving up seven and Jonathan Martin giving up seven in his shortened stint.
The Baltimore loss? Clabo. He gave up two sacks on consecutive plays late in the game that forced Miami to punt the ball away. The Ravens then drove for the winning field goal and afterward Clabo blamed himself for the loss.
The Buffalo loss at home? Clabo again. Mario Williams won consecutive one-on-one matchups against Clabo to record two sacks, including a strip sack that set up the Bills for their eventual game-winning field goal.
So It was on the tackles a lot last year.
And that's the reason the Dolphins poured so many resources into the position this year. General Manager Dennis Hickey paid Branden Albert $46 million over five years with $25 million guaranteed to sign as a free agent.
And so far, Albert has lived up to the contract. He has not allowed a sack this season. Not in the preseason. Not in the first two games of the regular season. That's why he's highly rated by metrics services and anyone with eyes.
"That’s cool," Albert said, "but, I’ve still got to do better to help this team. So I’m going to keep striving to do that. I’m not worried about what people think of me. I’m going to worry about what my teammates, coaches and fan base think of how I’m playing. So that’s all I worry about."
(Newsflash: Players, coaches and the fanbase are people, too).
Anyway, Hickey also invested his first round draft pick on Ja"Wuan James. And James got the requisite four-year deal worth $8.4 million with $4.45 as a signing bonus. Worth every penny so far.
James has started at right tackle from day one and has only given up one sack this season. But ... The sack came Sunday against Buffalo when Mario Williams got to Tannehill. But if you look at the play, the problem started when Shelley Smith lost the one-on-one match with his man who then wrapped himself around Tannehill. The Miami quarterback shed that attempted sack and stumbled straight into Williams who was still locked up with James.
Williams gets the sack. James gives up the sack. But not really.
“I would say he spent a fair amount of time one-on-one against him," coach Joe Philbin said of James matching up against Williams. "I thought he played well. I think in both games he’s played pretty well. He’s got a lot of things to work on and improve, but again I think if you are going to play offensive tackle in the National Football League, at some point in time, you have to demonstrate the ability you can block a defensive end one-on-one. He certainly wasn’t perfect. He’s got a long way to go, but there are some good pictures on film if you study the tape of him blocking whoever lines up against him. It was encouraging."
Considering last year, absolutely.
Perhaps it is too early to declare the Dolphins' offensive tackle problems solved. But so far so good.
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