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So many people seem concerned about the offensive line these days. Listen to talk radio. Read the papers. Check out the tweets. You hear questions and you hear more questions.
What’s going to happen at left tackle? Where is the continuity? Why so much shuffling? Where is the depth? Who is going to start at right guard? When will they settle on a starting five?
It didn’t help matters that the line gave up a sack on the first play of the Jacksonville game.
Well, center Mike Pouncey has heard the criticism and he has a message to all of those who have already drawn a line through the line.
“My message to the fans,” said Pouncey, “is to wait until the regular season starts. Then judge us. Until then, just let us get ready for the season.”
How do I look at this? On one hand, the concern is understandable. Left tackle Jonathan Martin hasn’t exactly been tearing it up, though he did show improvement against Jacksonville.
The inability to come up with five solid starters at this point in the summer is somewhat alarming and it didn’t help any when guard John Jerry went down with an injury early in training camp. Of all the positions on this team, I probably feel most insecure about the offensive line.
On the other hand, cut this group a little slack. Martin is still learning his craft and it isn’t as if he’s a human turnstile. The shuffling of starters has a lot to do with auditions and flexibility more than uncertainty among the coaches. While it would be great to be seeing a polished unit coming together at this point, check around the league. How many offensive lines are in midseason form?
So what I’m saying is this: Your concern is justified. But don’t form any lasting conclusions just yet. It is far too early for that.
“This is training camp,” said Pouncey. “It is a time to experiment. I know the guys on this line. I know the personnel. I know what they are capable of doing. Hey, I’m not where I want to be yet. We have young guys. We have veterans. We just have to jell at the same time.”
So with three preseason games left, this is how I view the offensive line:
Center: Pouncey is the least of my concerns. Entering his third season, he is among the top handful of centers in the league and could reach Pro Bowl status this season. He is clearly both the anchor and the leader and there always should be a feeling of comfort with him in the game.
Left tackle: The Dolphins took a gamble letting Jake Long go. It remains to be seen whether that was a prudent gamble. Yes, he has struggled against Dion Jordan and Olivier Vernon in training camp. But I’m pretty sure many left tackles are going to struggle against those two. One thing, though, is clear: Martin better step up or this offense will have to figure out ways to protect him. There is no viable alternative waiting behind him.
“Does he have a ways to go?” asked offensive coordinator Mike Sherman about Martin. “Yes. But he’ll be a fine left tackle in this league, if not a really good one.”
Left guard: Richie Incognito is a savvy veteran who should be able to help Martin on the left side. Entering his ninth season, he is smart, tough and rarely makes glaring mistakes. “We do have a lot of moving parts,” Incognito says. “And we are experimenting. But we’ve got the makings of a real good offensive line.”
Right guard: The injury to Jerry was a setback. Second-year player Josh Samuda has been up and down and the versatile Nate Garner has been getting a lot of time at right guard as well. If Jerry returns in decent shape, he could win back his job. Or maybe veteran Lance Louis will be a factor. Too many variables at this point to form a conclusion, which clearly isn’t the ideal scenario.
Right tackle: Tyson Clabo was a huge find late in the offseason and gives the Dolphins a veteran player, and a productive one, on the right side. At a massive 6-6, 329 pounds, Clabo’s track record says he will be steady and reliable: two important attributes. Not much concern here.
Plenty of questions, not much time for answers. There is no disputing this is one of the most important areas of the team, and one of the greatest concerns as training camp begins to wind down.
But let’s see how it plays out before rushing to judgment or, as Pouncey so aptly put it, “Wait until the games really count.”
I for one don’t think that’s too much to ask.
On Thursday A.C. in the A.M. takes a look at one of the most unheralded Dolphins.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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