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Blocking the Miami Dolphins From Winning a Super Bowl

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

When Donald Trump said he wanted to build a wall, he was actually telling the Miami Dolphins how to build a championship contender.

You see, the real impenetrable wall that needs to be built is right in front of your franchise quarterback.

For years the Miami Dolphins have dealt with a myriad of offensive line combinations – most of which have failed mightily. It’s annually avoided by the front office, and every year it’s a pain-point for fans and starting quarterbacks alike.

As a friendly reminder, below are the offensive linemen who have started the most games at each position for the Miami Dolphins between 2015 and 2019:

Some prominent names show up on this list, but as we know, this line was never able to put it all together.

For years we watched Ryan Tannehill take a beating behind a line that, at one point, featured three first-round picks (Laremy Tunsil, Mike Pouncey and Ja’Wuan James). Sometimes, his lack of awareness or his broken internal clock caused him to take an unnecessary sack. Often times, he was brought down because one (or more) of his offensive linemen either blew their assignment or they were simply outmuscled on the play.

The Dolphins annually believed that they could get by with an average offensive line. They (mostly Adam Gase) believed their offensive gameplan was built so strategically that they could withstand a porous line. Their thinking was ‘you can’t sack the quarterback if he doesn’t have the ball’. And thus, the bubble screen purgatory we witnessed over the past three years was born.

Hard to convert a 3rd-and-long if your offensive line doesn’t give you an opportunity to complete a 10-yard pass.

Fans have begged and pleaded for the Dolphins to improve the worst aspect of their roster over the past decade, and their refusal to listen is a big reason why this team has participated in just one lousy playoff game over that time.

Big Men Win Big

Although fans have speculated that Miami’s offensive line is a reason for their mediocrity, there hasn’t been any evidence that shows how bad they really are. The eye test works wonderfully in this instance, but the Dolphins have been so bad for so long that we have come to dismiss poor play with a generic “that’s so Dolphins”.

I wanted to see if Miami’s offensive line has really held them back, or if we’re just using this as an excuse. Utilizing the past 5 seasons, I went back to see just how well teams with top offensive lines fared throughout the season.

Below is a breakdown of the Top-10 Offensive Lines* over the past 5 seasons:

*rankings courtesy of Football Outsiders*

A few takeaways from the numbers shown:

  • The average record is 9.06 – 5.86
  • Of the 50 teams shown, only 13 have losing records (with most occurring in 2015 and 2016)
  • Of the 40 teams (between 2015-2018), 22 of them (55%) made the playoffs.
    • Between 2017-2018, 70% of the teams listed made the playoffs.
  • Of the 25 unique teams listed, how many would you say have a legitimate franchise quarterback? Meaning, how many teams had a really good quarterback that you can argue “bailed-out” a poor offensive line?
    • Personally, I’d say 12. Taking into account the year in which some of these teams had top-10 OLs, I’d say the following teams had franchise quarterbacks behind their line: Atlanta, Carolina, Dallas, Green Bay, Kansas City, both Los Angeles teams, New England, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and San Francisco.
    • The Baltimore Ravens have had a top-10 OL each of the past 5 seasons, but Joe Flacco was predominantly the quarterback during that time, and I would not consider him a franchise quarterback.
    • You could argue that the Buffalo Bills have Josh Allen and he is a franchise quarterback, but I need to see a little bit more from Allen before I am fully convinced.

For comparisons’ sake, here’s where the Dolphins ranked the past 5 seasons:

Having a dominant offensive line does not guarantee a playoff spot, nor does it ensure a successful season, but it certainly does increase your chances of fielding a winning roster.

Teams that have had top-10 offensive lines but failed to accumulate much success were led by quarterbacks like Jay Cutler, Blake Bortles and Eli Manning. As long as your quarterback is competent, your team is (likely) looking at a 9-6 record and a trip to the postseason.

Now pair that productive offensive line with a real franchise quarterback and you have yourselves a perennial contender. And that’s based solely off of a handful of positions on your team.

You don’t need excellent wide receivers when your offensive line gives you a ton of time to throw, just look at the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers or the Green Bay Packers for example.

It should go without saying, but successful offensive lines open up wider running lanes for your running backs. Look at Kalen Ballage‘s 75-yard touchdown run last season; any running back could have made it through that lane.

By addressing a handful of positions you’re able to open up the playbook and make your offense that much more versatile. You can take advantage of Mike Wallace streaking down the sideline when your quarterback has enough time to let the play develop. It’s no wonder Miami’s best duo over the past 10 years is Brian Hartline and Davone Bess; possession receivers who ran pristine routes, but were never meant to catch a pass more than 10 yards down the field.

This article isn’t intended to shift priority away from a quarterback and on to a dominant offensive line. The correct answer is always the quarterback. They are, without a doubt, the one position you need to get right in order to win a Super Bowl. I think Jake Long and Matt Ryan proved that back in 2008.

But it should become increasingly evident that the next piece of the puzzle is right above the hands of your starting quarterback.

Top Players, Bottom Results

Though there is nothing sexy about selecting offensive linemen in the draft, their ass is going to be more important than most of the guys on your roster.

Most Dolphins fans are suddenly enamored with the option of selecting Ohio State defensive end Chase Young with the team’s top pick in the 2020 draft. If you’ll recall, at one point Miami had two future Hall of Famers playing side by side (Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake), and the best they could accomplish was 10-6.

Miami doubled, tripled and quadrupled down on the defensive line when they selected Charles Harris in the first round of the draft, signed Andre Branch to a (terrible) extension, and traded for Robert Quinn. How well did those Dolphins teams fare?

The Dolphins previously splurged on players like Mike Wallace and Brandon Marshall and yet, how well did those Dolphins teams do?

Miami once drafted Ronnie Brown with the #2 overall pick, traded for another #2-overall pick in Reggie Bush, signed a future hall of fame running back in Frank Gore, traded their future for Ricky Williams, and what have they been able to accomplish with all of them?

Former Pro Bowl tight ends Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron provided no relief for this offense during their minimal stints.

So which position has yet to be properly addressed?

You can argue that the Dolphins have invested heavily in their offensive line at various times, and it just hasn’t worked out.

Like we mentioned earlier, there were three 1st-round picks on this offensive line at one point; with Josh Sitton and Daniel Kilgore rounding out the other spots. Between draft picks and money, the Dolphins easily allocated more than any other team in the league and they still failed miserably that season.

Other than that one year when health crumbled a valuable resource, when has Miami really tried to solve this problem?

Don’t let this team’s new franchise quarterback fall victim to the same miscalculations of yesteryear. Maybe Tannehill and Josh Rosen were never meant to be the guys, but they certainly had no chance to prove themselves when their biggest concern was surviving each play.

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Daniel Meehan

    November 25, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    Jason, great article on offensive line. The key is to draft right lineman. We have people on social media , that just want to draft offensive linemen. We need lineman that fit O Shea,s offense.

  2. Avatar

    Papapickett

    November 25, 2019 at 9:24 pm

    I like the article and although it uses a heavily biased lense regarding wins to Oline play, I still agree with the base premise. Get good blocking and it elevates the entire offense. Could not agree more. I am hoping we pick 3rd because I believe if Young is there when we pick they will take him. I think he is a great prospect but Id rather have Andrew Thomas and picking 3rd instead of 2nd increases the odds of that. Pass rushers can be found in FA. Hell look at the Packers in just one offseason. And there are always older vets out there like Clay Matthews, Peppers, Cam Wake, Terrell Suggs, that can still play but arent all pros anymore. You cant do that with Tackles. By the time a Tackle walks away from a team he is toast. Tackles are harder to get and should carry a premium. Thats why I hated the Tunsil trade. It is impossible to know what it will cost in return to replace him.

    I dont feel the need to win next year but I want roots setting in on our Oline. If we cant find someone through an entire offseason I will be very disappointed.

  3. Avatar

    Rick

    November 25, 2019 at 9:31 pm

    Great article! I’d like to see a break down of top 10 QBs and win loss records over the same period of time. Imo, drafting a franchise QB is pure luck. In 2016 we made the playoffs once Gase realized that running the ball (as well as resting Wake) was our strength. Tannehill is an above average play action QB (I’d out him above Goff) and that formula worked until injuries killed that team. I agree with your assemssents about our drafting lineman but I challenge the fact that those players weren’t always healthy. Pouncey was an on paper 16 game pro bowler. Dolphin’s fans remember all of the missed games (,key games too). Also, imo Miami over the past 5 years has had a below average receiving core. Jarvis Landry was our ONLY threat but he was never a deep threat. The Gase era was a perfect storm of injury, overrated receivers and overrated defense beset with injury. This pattern has continued this year Bottom line we need HEALTHY playmakers.

  4. Avatar

    SS

    November 26, 2019 at 4:03 pm

    Was very glad that you clearly stated “the correct answer is always the quarterback”. That said, I very much agree that, after the right QB, OL is the unit I think most supports overall success. This is seemingly supported by the net-2 additional wins/team/season after 2016 – there seems to be a tighter pairing of highly-ranked OL with great QB.

    It would be interesting to see an article that springboards off of this one and proposes how to build a strong OL. As you mentioned above, we had a line, in 2016, that included 4 1st-rounders (though Pouncey was hurt much of 2016 and didn’t play the most games @ C for us that year). Dallas has a line featuring almost exclusively 1st-round talent (though Collins’ legal issue kept him from being drafted in the 1st round). New England, I believe, only has 1 low 1st-rounder starting on their OL and at least one undrafted. GB has a 1st, 2nd, 3rd (originally a Phin), 4th & 5th. The Raiders only have 2 that they drafted originally. The point is there seems to be a lot of ways to skin the cat. With all the moving parts involved in getting the right 5 guys together, it seems like it has more to do with organizational stability and consistency, which then enables the team to know what they’re looking for in “raw material”…how to develop each individual player to fit within the unit…how to coordinate it all so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    Given all that, how would you propose we go about investing in the OL within the context of our resources and competing needs?

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

One of the longest-tenured players on the team may very well be a Miami Dolphin for life.

According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Miami Dolphins have extended DeVante Parker through the 2023 season.

All of the details are still being flushed out, but the deal is a 4-year, $40m extension, with an $8m signing bonus (which is guaranteed).

According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Parker will earn $4.5m guaranteed in 2020, and $7.7m guaranteed in 2021.

Parker signs this extension in the middle of a career year. His 55 catches are 1 shy of his career-high (56, 2016), his 882 receiving yards surpass his prior career-high by 138 yards (2016), and his 6 touchdowns are only 3 less than his career total coming into the 2019 season.

Whether it’s Chad O’Shea‘s offense, a shift in Quarterback mentality, or the receiver finally coming into his own, Parker has shown that he can be a #1 receiver in this offense. Though some fans may be hoping for DeAndre Hopkins or Odell Beckham Jr. “elite”, the truth is, Parker isn’t that far behind.

His extension is in line with his production, and it’s fair to say that Parker’s potential still hasn’t been tapped. It’ll be interesting to see how much Parker builds off of his career-year, especially if the Dolphins can solidify their offensive line and give their receivers a chance to get open (more often).

Parker joins Ryan Tannehill and Mike Pouncey as the only other 1st-round picks drafted this decade to have signed an extension with the team.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins roster move round-up: Week 15 sees several more changes

Shawn Digity

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Miami Dolphins Linden Stephens
Linden Stephens defending Los Angeles Rams tight end Johnny Mundt

MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – Miami Dolphins continue to change up the roster

The Miami Dolphins have continued their roster churning in Week 15, leading up to their prizefight against the New York Giants on December 15.

While it’s been a mainstay strategy for the Dolphins this year, to comb over the waiver wire and the free agency market, there was a significant uptick in waiver wire awards last, totaling four new players being claimed.

Last week’s claimed players included Trevor Davis, Mack Hollins, Zach Zenner, and Zach Sieler. Zenner’s Miami stint was short-lived; he was waived on Tuesday, December 10 to make room for the newest wave of Dolphins signees.

Along with Zenner’s release, the Miami Dolphins added cornerbacks Ken Webster and Ryan Lewis to the Injured Reserve list.

Those three transactions allowed the Dolphins to scoop a player from the New England Patriots’ practice squad, defensive back Nate Brooks, a second player from the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad, linebacker Jamal Davis II, and a third player, offensive lineman Adam Pankey, who was waived by the Green Bay Packers.

Nate Brooks is a rookie defensive back that played at North Texas and has spent time with the Patriots and Arizona Cardinals.

Jamal Davis II is also a rookie. He entered the league from Akron. As mentioned above, he spent time with the Titans earlier this year before the Miami Dolphins signed him.

Adam Pankey is the most traveled player the Dolphins have added. Pankey went undrafted in 2017 out of West Virginia and has had two runs with the Packers and a short one with the Titans.

On December 7, cornerback Linden Stephens was added to the roster in a last-minute shuffle before the Dolphins-Jets game. Cornerback Chris Lammons was released to make room for Stephens on the squad, per Adam Beasley.

Stephens has had tenures with the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. He formerly played at Cincinnati in college.

In practice squad news, cornerback Rashard Causey was added to the group on December 12, per Safid Deen. Causey played college ball at UCF and has spent time with the Denver Broncos.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Giants Week 15 Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins set to run it back in New York

Who: Dolphins (3-10) @ Giants (2-11)
When: Sunday December 15, 1:00 East
Where: MetLife Stadium — East Rutherford, NJ
Weather: 35 degrees, partly cloudy
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +3

DolphinsGiants

The Miami Dolphins did not equip Brian Flores with a competitive roster for the 2019 season. Despite taking a path traveled by nobody else in the league, Miami sits with a better record than three teams in the league, and Sunday will pit the Fins up against one of those teams.

The Giants thought they were constructing a playoff roster that could run the football behind former number-two overall pick Saquon Barkley, and disrupt both the run and pass with an influx of high resources spent on the defensive line.

Even with half the cash payroll of the next lowest team on that notorious list, and 11 of its original opening day starters gone for one reason or another, Miami enter a week-15 road game as mere three-point dogs.

Still, with three or four new bodies working into the rotation every week, Brian Flores’ Dolphins have won three games since the bye week, and been within a score in the fourth quarter for all nine games.

Does either team want to win this game? Of course the players and coaches will want to be rewarded for a long, arduous work week, but what good does a victory do in the grand scheme of things? Flores has proven that he can coach his ass off, while Pat Shurmur is assured to lose his job whatever happens these final three weeks.

The cost, for the Giants, could be Chase Young. For Miami, perhaps even more severe as the best quarterback prospect of the last several years could suddenly be available because of medical concerns, should the team land in the top five.

A victory Sunday will likely remove Miami from that perch as the Lions and Cardinals are both underdogs, and would each jump the Dolphins with a one-game difference in the standings.

The Scheme:

Offense:

Mike Shula’s scheme is as 11-personnel heavy as any in the league, but things have changed due to injuries. Without Evan Ingram to provide the ultimate flexibility between 11 and 12-personnel packages, the Giants have lacked much variety in his absence. Using 81% one back, one tight end (3rdmost in football), Miami will be afforded the opportunity to get creative on defense altering its pre-snap look from the same package.

The Giants are successful on just 41% of their plays from this personnel grouping, including 12 interceptions, 31 sacks and just 6.6 yards per passing play. New York only runs one other package (12-personnel) and also doesn’t have a lot of success out of that grouping. Adhering to old school principles, the Giants don’t throw from run formations, and the predictability has the Giants averaging just 5.7 YPA from 12-personnel.

The Giants rank 26th in total offense, 22nd in passing, 26th in rushing and 25th in scoring.

Defense:

James Bettcher is a fan of sending pressure, and he will certainly try to heat up Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday. Fitzpatrick might have the last laugh with his ability to get the ball hot to the interior receivers working in behind the linebackers and winning one-on-one matchups with a young defensive backfield.

The Giants base is a 3-4 look, but elements of that defense are always sparingly used because of the nature of modern day football. Bettcher wants to get pressure out of his outside backers in Markus Golden, Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter, using his interior backers in a more traditional, off-ball sense.

New York blitzes 28.7% of the time — exactly the middle of the pack at 16th— but it’s safe to assume they’ll turn that number up on Sunday. The G-Men are in the middle of the pack in hurry rate, knockdown rate and pressure rate. The Giants 94 missed tackles are 13th most in the league.

The Giants rank 27th in total defense 26th in passing, 20th in rushing and 28th in scoring defense.

The Players:

Offense:

Eli Manning is Eli Manning. The Giants hung onto him for three years too long, and his storied career appears to be coming to an end in three weeks. Filling in for the injured Daniel Jones gives the Miami defense a chance to tee off on a quarterback for the first time since the home win over Sam Darnold and the New York Jets.

Manning can’t move, he can’t drive the ball, and there’s really no reason for him to be on a roster at this point. The Dolphins will hit him, turn him over, and dominate the Giants offense is he plays.

New York funneled a lot of resources into its offensive line, and it’s still one of the worst in football. Miami lacks true pass rushers, so it’ll be up to the stunts and games up front to get pressure. Expect Flores to blitz Manning relentlessly, likely with a lot of zero looks.

Holding Saquon Barkley has been easier for opponents this year. A lot of the Giants running game gets Barkley going horizontally, and he’s been able to make the big plays due to poor blocking and a nasty ankle sprain earlier in the year.

This game will be a big test for Taco Charlton, Vince Biegel, Andrew Van Ginkel, Charles Harris and the rest of the Miami edge players.

Defense:

Markus Golden stands to wreck this game for Miami. He’ll come down off the offense’s left edge, and that position has been an issue for the Dolphins all year long. Sliding protection and using a back or tight end to chip Golden is the only way Fitzpatrick will have any time to throw.

On the inside, the Giants offer the beef that Miami’s interior line struggles with the most. Dexter Lawrence is massive, and those are the kind of players that give Daniel Kilgore problems up front.

Alec Ogletree remains a focal point of the Giants defense, and that presents a lot of opportunities for the Dolphins. Look for Miami to empty out the backfield from 12 and 11-personnel, find Ogletree in coverage, and go to work.

The New York secondary is full of inexperience. Rookie DeAndre Baker has worn the rabbit hat (teams go after him) all year long while Janoris Jenkins appears to have past his prime.

This is a slow defense and I’d be surprised if Chad O’Shea doesn’t have his way with it in the passing game.

The Medical:

(Coming Friday)

The Opportunities:

If Devante Parker can go, there isn’t a player in the Giants defensive backfield that can handle his skill set. Regardless, Miami’s passing schemes will create opportunities for whichever players are healthy, especially Allen Hurns inside on mismatches from 12-personnel against linebackers. Patrick Laird should draw some favorable matchups in the passing game in his own right — expect a big day for The Intern.

If it’s Eli, expect a lot of pressure sent to overwhelm a bad Giants line and quarterback. If it’s Daniel Jones, expect Miami to play coverage and take the ball away from the rookie. Either way, this is the day the Dolphins defense gets healthy.

The Concerns:

The Giants skill players can make some noise. Darius Slayton’s speed is a problem, and he’s been producing regardless of who’s under center. The Dolphins added yet another pair of defensive backs to the injured reserve, and that’ll provide a challenge against Slayton, Golden Tate and Sterling Sheppard.

Miami haven’t been able to block many pass rushes, and they’ve created almost nothing by way of the ground game, so the Giants talented front is an issue. There will be one-on-one opportunities aplenty for Markus Golden, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams.

The Projected Outcome:

It doesn’t matter if it’s Daniel Jones or Eli Manning. Both are going to give the Dolphins defense opportunities to take the football away, and neither presents much fear to a unit that is full of undrafted free agents are largely unknowns. Manning doesn’t have the physical traits to scare anyone and Jones is on track for the most turnovers at the position per game of all time. If Jones plays, it will be on a tender ankle that robs the one trait he has — his mobility.

Miami beat the Jets in November in convincing fashion. Every other game since the bye week — with the exception of the Cleveland and Buffalo (home) games — have been white knuckle affairs. This game has the makeup of a blowout, but in favor of the road team.

A bitter, angry team off the loss last week responds to Brian Flores’ message and puts a beating on the Giants.

Dolphins 27
Giants 13

@WingfieldNFL

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