Two high draft picks. Tens of millions spent in free agency. A new position coach.
And yet, the Dolphins’ offensive line still allowed 46 sacks this year.
The unit struggled against New York Jets coach Rex Ryan’s blitz-happy front Sunday, allowing Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill to be sacked seven times and triggering flashbacks to the bleakest days of the 2013 season.
This season probably ends at a good time for Tannehill’s health; the worst hit he took was a helmet-to-helmet shot from Sheldon Richardson that actually knocked Richardson from the game.
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“We have to do better,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “It turned into a one-dimensional game. They kind of turned their blitz package loose a little bit. Got a lot of one-on-ones, got to our quarterback and happened to get the ball down the field a little bit, too, when you get into a 10-point game. Again, that got us out of whack a little bit, out of balance.”
The culprit Sunday, as has been the case all season, was injuries.
Here’s how bad it was: Jason Fox, buried on the bench all season, played both right and left tackle Sunday. Fox started on the right side, and then switched over to the left when Ja’Wuan James left the game with a stinger.
James ultimately returned, but during the time he was sidelined, Billy Turner saw his first NFL snaps from scrimmage. Turner filled in at offensive tackle, which was his position in college.
“It went well,” Turner said. “Obviously, I’ve got to do better. It was my first NFL action. It was fun, to say the least.”
As for Fox — starting in place of an injured Dallas Thomas — he had a rough go of it early. He was flagged for tripping and a false start on the same first-quarter drive.
And the only reason any of them saw the field this year is because left tackle Branden Albert injured his knee midway through the year, derailing a potential Pro Bowl season.
“You hate to use excuses,” center-turned-guard Mike Pouncey said. “At the end of the day, everyone on that offensive line is professional, so if a guy goes down, they have to go out and fill in that guy’s [shoes], but losing Branden Albert was a big loss to our football team. Hopefully, we can get him back as healthy as possible, and he’ll be ready to go next year.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Safety Walt Aikens was inactive Sunday for an unspecified violation of team rules that involved the Sunrise Police Department.
▪ Because of Aikens’ suspension and an injury to Cortland Finnegan, there were stretches of the game that backup defenisve backs R.J. Stanford and Jordan Kovacs were on the field at the same time.
▪ The full list of Dolphins inactives: Aikens, Thomas, wide receiver Rishard Matthews, running back LaMichael James, defensive tackle Deandre Coleman, center Sam Brenner and wide receiver Matt Hazel.
▪ Caleb Sturgis’ 37-yard field goal in the first quarter moved him past Pete Stoyanovich for the second-most points in a season in franchise history. Sturgis finished the season with 128 points, although he made just 29 of his 37 field-goal attempts.
▪ Dion Jordan started from scrimmage for the first time in his career, lining up at outside linebacker on the game’s first play. Jordan finished with three tackles.
▪ Brian Hartline led the team with 94 yards on five catches.
▪ With five catches Sunday, Jarvis Landry finished the season with 84 receptions — the fourth-most in Dolphins history.
▪ The Dolphins’ average attendance this year was 70,035 — up 22 percent from 2012.
▪ The Dolphins on Sunday presented the City of Miami Gardens a check for $50,000 to renovate Lester Brown Park and Brentwood Pool.