In My Opinion

Armando Salguero: Miami Dolphins’ problems start with offensive line’s lack of stability, communication

 
 
Protection breakdown: Chargers free safety Eric Weddle sacks Ryan Tannehill in the second quarter of Sunday’s game. Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said that having an offensive line that rarely changes can help to avoid sacks.
Protection breakdown: Chargers free safety Eric Weddle sacks Ryan Tannehill in the second quarter of Sunday’s game. Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said that having an offensive line that rarely changes can help to avoid sacks.
Joe Rimkus Jr. / Staff Photo

asalguero@miamiherald.com

Ask Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman what a good offensive line is and is not and the answer speaks volumes.

A good line is the foundation for the offense.

“An offensive line is really the building blocks of an offense and until that is in place you can’t run the ball and pass protect,” Sherman says. “Those guys have to be at the forefront of what you are going to build.”

A good offensive line needs to be a place of stability and good communication.

“Whenever you change that group up, there’s always struggles with communication,” Sherman says, “and to be with the same group of guys certainly helps a lot.”

A good offensive line is generally anonymous.

“They quietly go about their business and you don’t hear them when they’re having success but when you’re struggling, usually, a lot of times, it starts with those guys,” Sherman says.

Do we understand now why the Dolphins have been as troubled as they’ve been at times this season? The Dolphins line is neither anonymously excellent, nor a place of stability, nor a solid foundation for this team.

This offensive line is actually Miami’s San Andreas Fault and every tremor this team has endured in 2013 has run directly out of that unit.

Think of it:

It was an offensive lineman — center Mike Pouncey — that put on that “Free Aaron Hernandez” cap.

It was the offensive line that has mostly allowed quarterback Ryan Tannehill to be sacked more times than any other NFL quarterback. The Dolphins lead the NFL with 41 sacks and are ahead of projections to break the 53-sack record for most sacks allowed in franchise history.

It was an offensive lineman — tackle Jonathan Martin —- who went AWOL from the Dolphins.

It was that same offensive lineman who took a matter that typically gets handled man-to-man, or in the locker room, or within the organization if the problem must reach higher levels, and turned it into a scandal.

On the other hand, it was another offensive lineman — Richie Incognito — who allegedly mistreated and harassed his teammate and has already admitted to using racial epithets in a voicemail left with that teammate.

It was that same offensive lineman who was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. It was that same offensive lineman who filed a union grievance against the Dolphins that will be heard later this week — as the team is preparing for a game Sunday.

It was that same offensive lineman who, according to a National Football Post report, called offensive line “meetings” in a strip bar.

Really?

A Dolphins offensive lineman — Pouncey — was subpoenaed just outside the locker room after a game in connection to the Hernandez murder investigation.

When the Dolphins made a desperation trade last month, of course, they did so because of the offensive line.

The Dolphins have benched only one starter this season and, you guessed it, he was an offensive lineman — right tackle Tyson Clabo. Of course, the Dolphins have reinserted only one benched player into the starting lineup this season, and again, that was Clabo.

(Clabo handled the affair with grace and professionalism.)

The NFL investigation that moved from Ted Wells’ New York law office to the Dolphins training facility Monday will focus primarily on the offensive line — specifically Pouncey, Incognito and offensive line coach Jim Turner.

Are you getting the clue the Dolphins offensive line has this year been a hub for controversy?

Why is that?

The Dolphins offensive line of yesteryear was often where the team’s leaders and best players could be found. Men such as Jim Langer, Dwight Stephenson, Richmond Webb, Tim Ruddy, Bob Kuechenberg and Larry Little played on the Miami offensive line.

They were talented. They were honorable.

Yes, they had their moments like when an offensive lineman playfully carried a reporter into the showers for picking the opponent to win a game.

But harassment?

Leaks to the national media?

Forty-one sacks in 10 games?

Monte Clark and John Sandusky, God rest their souls, must be shaking their heads as they look down on their old team and the position group they coached.

The Dolphins have a storied history of fine offensive line coaches like Clark and Sandusky. Hudson Houck was excellent. So were Paul Boudreau and Larry Beightol.

Jim Turner, the offensive line coach today, simply is not in their company.

Turner is the man directly responsible for this offensive line. When they play well, as they did against San Diego, he deserves credit. But as the line often has mostly underperformed and members of the unit created a situation that’s reflect poorly on the franchise, that also is on Turner.

It is Turner’s job to keep his players in line and know when they are crossing lines that might embarrass the team. Ignorance of misdeeds is not innocence from the misdeeds.

Turner might disagree with this assessment. After all, he was overheard last week speaking of how “overblown” the Martin-NFL investigation story is even after team owner Stephen Ross said the story was “appalling” to him.

Turner has not discussed his offensive line’s misadventures since the beginning of the season. When the problem was merely giving up sacks Turner on numerous occasions declined to discuss the problem through the team’s media-relations office. Now, he is declining public comment about the NFL investigation that is closely scrutinizing him and several of his players.

None of that makes Turner a bad person.

But it does leave open to interpretation whether Turner is part of the solution or an extension of the problems the Dolphins are suffering this year because of the offensive line.

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