Miami Dolphins' John Benton tasked with improving offensive line’s play — and behavior
05/29/2014 12:01 AM
05/29/2014 1:25 AM
Jim Turner is no longer the Miami Dolphins’ offensive line coach for any number of reasons, but this alone might have sealed his fate:
Ted Wells determined Turner was not only aware of inappropriate behavior in his meeting room, but also at times participated in it.
Now, three months after Wells’ damning report was made public, Turner’s replacement — longtime NFL assistant John Benton — has two major responsibilities:
1. Fix an offensive line that couldn’t pass-protect or run-block particularly well last season.
And 2. Help fix a culture that contributed to Jonathan Martin leaving the team. That begins in the very classroom that Benton now leads.
Benton, speaking to reporters Tuesday after his first Organized Team Activity (OTA) practice with the Dolphins, said the idea of respect has been stressed “not just in our meeting room, but [to] the whole team.”
As for how Benton has delivered that message: “It’s been flat-out said. Other than that, it’s just an attitude. Obviously, I wasn’t here before. I don’t know if it’s been any different or what it is from what it was before. But it’s stressed around here, consistently, in actions and in words.”
Benton, a career coach hired in January, said every position group deals with certain dynamics. Some explode, some don’t. The Dolphins obviously want the latter. Improving interpersonal civility has been been a top priority since last season’s bullying scandal, an edict from owner Stephen Ross and coach Joe Philbin.
But Benton wants to move beyond all of last season’s failures — both on the field and in the locker room. He inherits a group that allowed a franchise-worst 58 sacks a year ago, but said he hasn’t made it a point to watch extensive tape of last year’s lowlights.
“Our scheme’s different now, there are so many new players,” he said. “There was no reason to go do that.”
Some have questioned how a line with four new starters (Mike Pouncey is the only returning starter) can coalesce in just one offseason. In a way, Benton said, it’s not that big of a deal. By and large, these players would be new to him as a first-year coach either way.
And with a long college career, he’s used to turnover.
Benton coached Colorado State’s offensive line for nearly two decades before finally getting a shot in the NFL. He has had stints with the Rams and, for the previous eight seasons, the Texans.
He oversaw Gary Kubiak’s famed zone-blocking scheme in Houston, elements of which the Dolphins will use in 2014.
The Texans’ trademark was their ability to run the ball behind versatile, athletic offensive linemen. Benton wants the Dolphins to do the same this fall. He also wants them to play fast and attack — both in pass- and run-blocking.
“John’s a teacher first and foremost and I think when you watch his film the techniques and the fundamentals that he teaches show up on tape,” Philbin said. “And oftentimes I’ve told the players a lot, it’s not what I can tell you I know at the podium or on the chalk board or in the classroom but really my résumé and John’s résumé is the film.
“When you turn the film on how do the offensive linemen play, I’m confident he’s going to do an excellent job.” Philbin added.• Anthony Gaitor is back where his football career started. The cornerback from Miami Northwestern High and FIU signed with the Dolphins on Wednesday. Gaitor, who spent his first three pro years with the Buccaneers, missed the entire 2013 season after tearing his ACL in training camp. The Dolphins also waived running back Cameron Marshall.
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