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Dolphins OL must meet great force with greater force

The NFL does nothing in a vacuum and so today when the Buffalo Bills introduce Rex Ryan as their new head coach it will have ripple effects.

In South Florida the ripples have the potential of looking like waves crashing against quarterback Ryan Tannehill. That's because Buffalo's new coach, as most of you understand, is a very good defensive coach. Regardless of what you think of him or his head coaching ability, there can be little dispute he knows defense. His teams may often stink but his defense consistently troubles with multiple schemes and confusing blitzes and innovative wrinkles.

And now Ryan takes over the Bills defense.

Let me see ... Buffalo's defense finished the 2014 season No. 4 in the NFL in points allowed. They were No. 3 in the NFL with 30 takeaways. They led the NFL with 54 sacks. They sent three defensive linemen -- Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams -- to the Pro Bowl.

They are expected to get outstanding young linebacker Kiko Alsonso back after he missed all of 2014 with a knee injury.

And Rex Ryan is going to coach them. On Tuesday, Ryan released a statement thanking former Buffalo defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz for his service to the organization and releasing him to find other opportunities. Part of that statement read, "our plan is for our defense to continue to play well and be a dominating force.”

Which part of all that makes a Dolphins fan feel good?

Ryan stays in a division that already boasts defensive wizard Bill Belichick. In New York, the Jets Tuesday hired former Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, another budding defensive guru based on his work with Cardinals the past two years.

It is enough to make one feel, I'll say it, queasy.

So how does this affect your Miami Dolphins? Must I spell it out?

The only way an answer force in the NFL is with superior force (great, I sound like Patton now). If the Bills are going to have a great, attacking, "dominating" defense that has three Pro Bowl players on the defensive line, then the Dolphins need to do work on their offensive line.

Winning the AFC East is impossible without a great offensive line. Simple as that.

The Dolphins have the nucleus for a very good offensive line. Assuming left tackle Branden Albert returns to form (so far, so good) and stays healthy, and Mike Pouncey can go back to the center spot he has told the team he prefers, the Dolphins have a good start.

Ja'Wuan James can then go back to right tackle and this offseason must work to improve a body that is a little soft, to be frank, so that next year his run blocking can catch up with his solid pass protection.

That's three chips.

GM Salguero re-signs free agent Samson Satele as a backup center. That does not mean he is the plan at starting guard if GM Salguero fails to get a guard, because GM Salguero will find a superior guard barring something akin to a Biblical flood. Satele is simply a fallback at center should Pouncey struggle with health. Period.

As to the guard situation. Daryn Colledge is a free agent. Wish him well. He filled a void in 2014 (more or less) but he is not the answer for a team needing OL upgrade.

Indeed, let's address this right here: Cheap, off the scrap heap, stopgaps, projects and back of the draft guys are not too often the answer. The Dolphins last year had a chance to spend in free agency to upgrade at guard but chose instead to be thrifty -- signing Colledge and Shelley Smith fairly cheaply.

They got what they paid for. Neither guy is a blue chip. Yet combined they cost $4.5 million worth of cap space that could have more wisely been used on one better player such as Jon Asamoah or Zane Beadles. No, those guys aren't awesome but they were pretty good both of them, Asamoah in particular.

Note to Dennis Hickey: The Patriots have Belichick. Buffalo is coming at you with a Saks-type defensive line. The Jets have a front seven from Neiman Marcus. 

Stop shopping at Target.

So this offseason I'm looking at pending San Francisco 49ers free agent guard Mike Iupati. Loyal readers of this blog will remember I advocated drafting Iupati in the first round in 2010. The Dolphins instead got Jared Odrick, who is good but never stamped the defense with his game or audacious personality.

Iupati can help stamp the offensive line with a physical, no-nonsense approach that makes total sense. Will he be expensive? Sure, he will. But again, you buy a $500 pair of English or Italian shoes in 2015, you'll still be wearing them in 2020. You buy a cheap Chinese-made pair in 2015, you'll be barefoot in 2016.

The next issue I tackle centers around 2014 third-round draft pick Billy Turner.

Turner played left tackle at It's Very Cold Up There University. He is not an NFL left tackle and plus the Dolphins have one. The Dolphins also didn't draft him to play right tackle because that was the vision for James.

So the vision was to play Turner at guard, preferably left guard.

Then life got in the way. Turner injured a foot in training camp and that derailed his season because this coaching staff simply cannot get guys who fall behind in camp caught up for whatever reason. It happened last year with Dallas Thomas and Dion Jordan and the Jamar Taylor and Willie Davis. It happened this year with Turner.

"It was a little tough because I got injured right away and it cost me six or seven weeks so that changed the process for me," Turner told me recently. "I faced a little adversity there. But coming back from the injury and talking to the coaches they said they wanted me to focus on my technique and whatnot and from the point I came back to where I was at the end of the season.

"I thought my technique got 100 times better than it was. On a personal level, I know my technique got much better and that's going to make me that much better and much more capable to play when I do get my shot."

Great. But here's the issue: The coaching staff used Turner as a guard when he got healthy because that was the original vision but that changed to tackle once Branden Albert went down with an injury. When Nate Garner then went down with his migraines, coaches worked Turner at both guard and tackle in practice.

Turner, a rookie, never settled in anywhere. And I get it because once the season threatens difficult issues they need to be resolved somehow.

But this offseason offers a fresh start. Pick a side for Billy Turner and slot him in at guard on that side. No, Dallas Thomas is not better. No, Shelley Smith shouldn't be ahead of him. No, Garner isn't going to be your answer there, either.

Turner is a third-round pick. Count on that pick to pan out. Tell Turner, who is currently unsure what he's going to play, that he is a guard. Let him start getting his mind right to play guard.

And then play Billy Turner at guard.

"Who wouldn't like to settle into a position but at the same time, who knows where you're going to end up," Turner told me.

No. Wrong.

The Dolphins should know. And they should let Turner know.

And, by the way, I'm not awarding the spot to Turner. He starts out as the starter in January. But he needs to get stronger and change that body this offseason. He knows that. He also needs competition.

Draft, please.

I hear there aren't a lot of great interior offensive line prospects at guard. But the plan should definitely call for the Dolphins adding a guard if one is available relatively early in the draft.

Again, the Bills are going to come at this team with a high-priced defense and a newly minted defense-minded coach. Belichick is king of the division. And the Jets front seven merits respect.

Your quarterback Ryan Tannehill has endured more sacks the past two seasons than any other NFL quarterback. You need to make a franchise defining decision on Tannehill after the 2015 season. So put him in the best position to maximize his talents by protecting him.

It is quite fundamental, really.

Don't allow yourself to be sitting in the same position next year where people are having to project how good Tannehill is or is not based on the fact he had to work under the most adverse circumstances -- no protection -- in the NFL.

Address the offensive line.

Meet Rex Ryan's force (not to mention Bill Belichick's and Todd Bowles') ... with greater force.