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Miami offensive line not built with division rivals in mind

The Miami Dolphins play in the AFC East and have been there for years and years. This is not news to the organization or anyone else. And so it stands to reason they should know that the teams they have to match up against, first and foremost, are their AFC East rivals.

They play those rivals six times every single season.

And if they cannot beat those rivals, they cannot matter in the postseason scheme of things.

This season the Dolphins have not won even one game against Buffalo, New England or the New York Jets. They are 0-4 against those teams with Sunday's rematch at New York up next.

I'm making these points because it stands to reason that someone within the Dolphins organization knows all this, and recognizes they probably should configure their team, in part, to cause their chief rivals a problem. It stands to reason but in one regard it has not happened.

Coach Dan Campbell, during his day-after-game press conference on Monday, matter of factly spoke about how the Miami offensive line isn't very big in a relative sense. The Miami offensive line isn't overpowering in a relative sense. And against defensive fronts that are bigger and more about holding ground rather than charging upfield with quickness, the Dolphins line struggles.

“I think that all of these teams in our division have a pretty good defensive line," Campbell said. "And I think a lot of these teams they’ve got a big front, big long guys, really two-gap guys, other than Buffalo which is a little bit more penetration. They’re trying to do some of that two-gap stuff that they have enough penetration between (Marcell) Dareus is a big guy in the middle.

"So I just think that they make life a little bit harder to try to run inside for us. We’re not the biggest line up front but we can certainly, there’s things in the run game we can do to get these guys moving. When you play these bigger lines that are shock, lock out, two-gap, shed, look for the ball, then you got to get them moving. You have to get them running. If they don’t ever have to turn their hips and run then you’re going to struggle in the run game."


So you play in a division in which two teams (New York and New England) play two-gap, 3-4 fronts while the remaining team (Buffalo) plays a multiple front that includes 3-4 looks and that's what you sometimes struggle against because your line is built to be more athletic and mobile as opposed to being a steamroller?

And do not be fooled, the Miami line is not a steamroller. It is indeed more about technique and movement and making the bigger defensive linemen "run," as Campbell said.

Mike Pouncey is that kind of player. Branden Albert is that kind of player. Ja'Wuan James is that kind of player. Dallas Thomas is that kind of player.

Billy Turner is not that kind of player. He's a steamroller. He's more physical.

But four of Miami's five starting linemen rely on being athletic and technique-sound and quick rather than being overpowering. And that kind of lineman can struggle against bigger defensive fronts -- like the Jets, and New England have.


This will be food for thought during Sunday's game and in the season finale with New England. But it really is something someone should have thought about the past couple of years as this line was being built around Mike Pouncey, who is the anchor and his been on the Dolphins since 2011.

Anyway, speaking of Billy Turner, he turned in a very good game on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, per my friends at ProFootballFocus.com.

Turner was the highest graded Miami offensive player and had the third-best grade of any guard in the NFL for the week.

Other players who performed well, per the metrics site, included defensive end Olivier Vernon and safety Reshad Jones.

Vernon has turned it on the past two weeks and against Dallas turned in the second-best grade of any 4-3 defensive end graded by PFF.

Jones had the best grade of any safety in the NFL.

And rookie defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who only played 17 snaps, had the fourth-best pass rush grade of any nose tackle/defensive tackle in Week 11.

So with all these great things happening, why didn't the Dolphins win?

Well, Jason Fox struggled. He had the worst grade of any Miami offensive player and was 56th of 64 tackles in the league in Week 11.

Rishard Matthews caught one pass for 15 yards but had a drop.

Jarvis Landry had a drop.

Rookie linebacker Neville Hewitt struggled badly in his run defense to the point he finished 31st out of 31 outside backers graded for the week.

And, yes, Ryan Tannehill ranked 23rd among quarterbacks graded. He was particularly bad when the  Cowboys did not pressure him. His grade against pressure was actually higher than it was when there was no pressure.