Tyson Clabo earned the unfortunate distinction of being the only Dolphins starter benched because of poor play earlier this season.
But since returning to the starting lineup in the wake of Jonathan Martin’s departure from the team, Clabo has shown signs he could be ready to recover his old form.
“He’s paid a little more attention to his technique and fundamentals,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “He did some more self-scouting and looking at things he can do to [perform] better. He has been a little more detailed in his play, and I think that’s helped.”
Clabo, one of the investments the Dolphins made in the offseason in the hopes of boosting their offense, has shown he is capable of recovering from a bad start.
The one-time Pro Bowl right tackle gave up five sacks in his first four regular-season games with the Atlanta Falcons last season but didn’t yield a sack during the final 12 or in the team’s two playoff games.
Clabo allowed eight sacks in the first six games this season, resulting in his benching after the team’s loss to Buffalo on Oct. 20. After sitting out the following week against New England, Clabo returned Oct.31 against the Bengals after Martin left the team and has allowed only two sacks in four games.
ProFootballFocus rates Clabo 69th among 79 starting tackles in the league and lists that Clabo has allowed more sacks this season than any other lineman in the NFL.
The Dolphins signed veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie in an effort to solve their pass-protection troubles. But McKinnie has given up three sacks in the past two games.
“Tyson is a great player. It’s just sometimes being an offensive lineman you’re facing some great players week in and week out,” said Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes, who also was a teammate of Clabo’s in Atlanta. “You can make one bad play or have a bad game and people start thinking you’re horrible. I never doubted in what he was doing. He’s done this for a long time in this league, and that’s what he’s doing now.”
Consistency from Clabo during the final five games of what has already been a tumultuous season for Dolphins offensive linemen would be a welcome sight for a team that has allowed a league-worst 44 sacks.
“I’m just continuing to work on the little things every week and trying to get into a groove and slow the game down,” Clabo said. “I’m still doing the same things I’ve been doing. It’s just ebbs and flows of the season.”
The Dolphins need a boost from Clabo as well as center Mike Pouncey, who should return to the starting lineup this week against an aggressive Jets defense that’s leading the NFL in run defense (allowing 72.6 yards per game) and yards allowed per carry (2.9) and has 32 sacks. Miami has the seventh-worst running game in the NFL, averaging 85.4 yards per game.
If Pouncey plays, it’s likely Nate Garner would shift back to left guard.
“They [Jets defense] are fundamentally sound,” Clabo said. “Everyone has a job to do, and they do it well. You definitely have to handle things you don’t expect. Their front seven is big and strong, and their linebackers can run side to side. They can give us multiple looks. They do so many things with the same people that every snap is a different look.”