For a player who is undefeated as a Dolphin, Tyson Clabo has spent far too much of his time in Miami grieving.
“Giving up a sack is like death,” Clabo said this week. “The worst feeling in the world is giving up a sack.”
Through two games, Ryan Tannehill has been sacked nine times — second-most in the NFL behind injured Brandon Weeden of Cleveland.
And Clabo, the right tackle who signed with the Dolphins after eight years in Atlanta, has been on the hook for three of those busted pass plays.
That means Clabo’s first two games with Miami, which is off to its best start since 2010, have churned up some seriously mixed emotions.
“Well, it’s kind of like torture,” said Clabo, who quickly has become one of the most candid members of the Dolphins’ locker room. “You’re supposed to be excited about winning, but deep down, you know you didn’t live up to your end of the bargain.
“You kind of feel like your team won in spite of you. You don’t ever want to be that guy or that player. When you don’t play well. it’s hard to deal with it.”
There’s no magic elixir to make things right, either. Clabo only knows one way to get out of his funk: buckle in and get back to work.
He does appear to catch a break, however. After he was beaten twice by the Colts’ Robert Mathis on Sunday, the task should get a little easier this week — physically, if not emotionally.
Clabo will go up against his old team, the Falcons, who will be down two defensive starters and have recorded just two sacks thus far in the season.
And on the offensive line, the Falcons have been no better off without Clabo.
His replacement — Lamar Holmes — has given up a quarterback hurry once every 15 snaps he has been on the field, and is ranked by Pro Football Focus as the fourth-worst starting right tackle in football.
Speaking to Miami reporters Wednesday, Falcons coach Mike Smith alluded to “economics” when asked about the franchise cutting Clabo in April. The move cleared up about $4.5 million in savings for a salary-cap-strapped team.
Smith had nothing but praise for his old lineman, calling him an “integral [player] to the success we’ve had here in Atlanta.”
Smith added: “Tyson was a stalwart at the right tackle for us for all five years [I had him as a player]. I think the thing he brings is a toughness to the game. He plays with a lot of toughness.”
Clabo started all but one game in his past five years in Atlanta, and got to the playoffs four times in that span.
He was on the field for all 67 offensive snaps of the Falcons’ 28-24 loss to San Francisco in January’s NFC Championship Game.
“Never, ever thought about it one time,” Clabo said, tongue firmly planted in his cheek. “It’s a difficult thing, for sure.”
How did he move past the disappointment? “I got a new team and went to work. I had to move my family. I didn’t have time to think about all that.”
But Clabo will be lucky if none of those old emotions bubbles up this weekend, when he will be directly confronted with his past.
He downplayed the idea that he has any unique insight into beating the Falcons, saying teams change every year.
As for knowing the tendencies of some of his old teammates, he added: “If they’re veterans, their habits are usually good. They’ve got some talented veterans over there.”
And although he hopes not to get beaten again this season, Clabo knows the reality of his position.
“If you play in the NFL long enough, you’re going to give up sacks,” he said. “Those guys are good at football. They get paid to get there, and I get paid to keep them from getting there. At some point, something’s got to give.
“If I never gave up a sack, I’d be playing left tackle and I’d be making like $12 million.”