Miami Dolphins’ offensive line welcomes new starter Jonathan Martin

With Jake Long missing the final four games of the season, rookie Jonathan Martin will fill the void at left tackle.

12/06/2012 12:01 AM

12/06/2012 12:42 AM

For the first time this season, the Dolphins offensive line is facing adversity. As far as its personnel goes, anyway.

Miami had started the same five for the first 12 games of the season but will add a new member Sunday in San Francisco after Jake Long was injured in the opening quarter of last Sunday’s loss to the Patriots.

Long was officially placed on the injured reserve Tuesday with a torn tricep in his left arm. As was the case last year when he sustained a shoulder injury, Long will miss the final four games of the season.

“I think the one thing we have benefited from has been the cohesiveness of that group,’’ offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. “We haven’t had a whole lot of injuries there, so it’s been one group, so they all kind of mesh together.’’

When the Dolphins returned to practice Wednesday, rookie Jonathan Martin was back at left tackle as he was after sliding over to replace Long against the Patriots. Veteran Nate Garner was back at right tackle.

“We have to make it work. We’re going to go out there and compete. Whatever happens, happens,’’ said Garner, who has made nine starts in the past three seasons with the Dolphins.

“I’m just trying to compete everyday at practice and see what happens. I’m practicing like it was any other day. There’s no reason to change anything now.’’

Martin, the 42nd overall pick by Miami in 2012, mostly played left tackle at Stanford before being switched to the right side when he joined the Dolphins.

Having 12 starts, and a past at left tackle, should help him, Martin reasoned after Wednesday’s workout.

“It’s all about being comfortable again,’’ Martin said. “These couple of days of practice will help. But I feel good. I played the position in college, so I feel good about it.’’

Although Martin already ran into his old Cardinal quarterback when Miami faced Andrew Luck and the Colts last month, this will be the first time he faces 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh since he left Stanford for the NFL not long after the 2011 Orange Bowl game.

San Francisco offensive line coach Tim Drevno and offensive coordinator Greg Roman were also with Martin at Stanford.

“It will be fun going against those guys,’’ Martin said. “I know a couple of the coaches on the staff, so that will be fun.’’

Sliding over to the left side of the line could be a problem for Martin and the Dolphins as it is the most difficult position up front.

Martin, however, feels the training he got facing Cameron Wake every day in practice since training camp will help him along in the transition.

“At first [moving to right] was tough, especially when you have to go against Cam Wake,’’ Martin said. “But I caught on fast.

“I felt as good at right as I did before at left. Every offensive tackle wants to play left. It’ll be fun. It’s unfortunate the situation that led me to the position, but I’m going to make the most of it.’’

When asked if Martin could be a left tackle in the NFL, Harbaugh didn’t hesitate in saying yes.

“He’s done a fine job coming in as a rookie player,’’ Harbaugh said Wednesday. “He’s very smart, a very astute young man. It’s important to him. He’s been blessed with some physical strength and has done a great job.’’

And although Long wasn’t having as good a year as he has had in earning four Pro Bowl selections with the Dolphins, he will be missed.

Long, running back Reggie Bush said, is “priceless.’’

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill said the loss of Long “is huge. You can’t replace a guy like Jake. He’s a leader, and we will miss him.’’

Fellow lineman Richie Incognito said he was confident Martin will be able to fill the void.

“He stepped in and did one hell of a job on Sunday,’’ Incognito said.

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