If Ryan Tannehill is the player whose performance this season is most tied to the Dolphins’ success, Jonathan Martin might be No. 2.
In shifting from right to left tackle to replace Jake Long, Martin will be responsible for protecting Tannehill’s blind side, often against the premier pass rusher on the opposing team, as well as helping open holes in the run game.
This much is clear: If Martin again leads the league in most quarterback hurries allowed, as he did last season with 47, that would be quite problematic.
But the Dolphins believe Martin will be more effective back at left tackle, where he played at Stanford, especially after adding 15 pounds to boost his weight above 312.
“That [weight gain] will help a lot,” Martin said after Monday’s practice. “You have a better anchor, more power in the run game. I’ve felt really good so far. I played there in college, feel really comfortable there. Confident what I can do.”
The Dolphins decided to shift Martin to left tackle in May after Bryant McKinnie rejected their offer in free agency. Though it’s difficult to judge offensive line play when the players aren’t in pads, Martin has been decent — but hardly perfect — early in camp. Olivier Vernon beat him with a nifty inside move during a drill on Monday.
After Long sustained a season-ending injury, Martin’s play at left tackle was rocky during his five games at left tackle.
The Dolphins were pleased with his work against Jacksonville, but he had difficulties in two games against New England (allowing one sack and four hurries in one of them, six hurries in the other) and against San Francisco (one sack, four hurries while often matched up against Aldon Smith, who had 19.5 sacks last season).
Martin played very well for stretches at left tackle against Buffalo but also had a role in allowing two quarterback hits, according to Pro Football Focus.
Martin said he watched all of his games at left tackle “a bunch of times.” He admitted becoming angry while reviewing tape of the 49ers and Patriots games. “I definitely paid a lot more attention to what I did wrong than right,” he said.
Including his 11 games on the right side, Pro Football Focus rated Martin 76th among 80 tackles last season, with six sacks allowed.
“I played solid at times, not so good other times,” he said. “It’s about being consistent.”
Left guard Richie Incognito, who will play alongside Martin, said Martin is “at his best” when he is given a challenge.
Even without hearing Incognito say that, Martin expressed the same sentiment.
“I like having the pressure on myself. It makes me perform better,” he said. “It’s something I wanted my entire life — to play left tackle in the NFL.”
With Long moving on to St. Louis, Incognito said: “I’m the vet on the O-line, the vet on offense. It’s my time to lead, my time to pick people up. … I’m in charge of tempo and hard work and making sure we’re on track.”
• Coach Joe Philbin said second-year running back Lamar Miller “appears a lot more comfortable in what he’s doing. There doesn’t appear to be much indecision in his play.”
And Incognito said Miller “has got a great feel for the zone game. I’m excited to block for him.”
Philbin on Monday also offered praise for quarterback Matt Moore, cornerback Brent Grimes (“very quick”), rookie tight end Dion Sims and receiver Brandon Gibson (“very good instincts” in his route-running).
Receiver Brian Hartline said Gibson is suited to play in the slot because “he has a lot of body control, which you need a lot of times inside. He’s smart and can feel coverage.”
• In the ongoing kicking competition, Caleb Sturgis followed Dan Carpenter’s excellent work Sunday by hitting two of three field goals. He missed a 47-yarder but made a 48-yarder.