The Miami Dolphins' offensive line has been the epicenter of so many things that have gone wrong with team the past decade.
That patch of turf from right to left tackle and everywhere in between has been ground zero for getting quarterbacks sacked at a record pace, blowing resources of cap space and draft picks and season-busting injuries.
The Miami offensive line brought scandal to the organization amid a bullying investigation that eventually got the assistant coach fired, a tackle traded and a guard suspended. And then last season, in classic hold-my-beer fashion, the offensive line coach added more infamy to the unit when he snorted cocaine while in his office — an act caught on a video leaked to the entire Earth.
But out of that dumpster fire of bad years and bad news we have today's headline of grand possibilities:
The 2018 Miami Dolphins offensive line is the unit many within the organization insist will be the strength of the team, if not its heart and soul.
You read correctly.
The Dolphins think that line that has suffered multiple nuclear winters is blossoming nicely this promising spring because this offensive line could be a stabilizing force off the field and bonkers-good on the field.
“It’s a special group," newly acquired center Daniel Kilgore said. "Coming in, I knew right away just by the makeup of the room that you got a bunch of really good guys led by two really good coaches that care about their players.
"Getting to know them on and off the field, we’ve got some players who’ve played a lot of ball and we’ve got some young guys who are able to step up and play. I think the offensive line room is in a good spot right now. There’s obviously a lot to learn early in OTAs, but we’re in a good situation right now.”
And the proof of how good things seem is the starting unit is already decided. Finished. Complete.
Ja'Wuan James is the starting right tackle.
Jesse Davis is the starting right guard.
Kilgore, acquired in trade from San Francisco and replacing Mike Pouncey, is the starting center.
Josh Sitton, signed as a free agent, is the starting left guard.
And 2016 first-round pick Laremy Tunsil is the starting left tackle.
The Dolphins' 2018 starting offensive line.
And now I ask you to consider the calendar. The NFL season doesn't start for three months. And unlike past years when coaches wanted to cross-train players at different positions and experiment with different lineups, acting like they were mixing drinks instead of building a wall, this starting line is set.
Coach Adam Gase says the starting unit is written more in pencil than ink. But who is he kidding? Who is he going to bench before the regular season begins?
Only an injury or someone completely failing will change the lineup.
Even Davis, the least accomplished of the group because he's only in his second NFL season, met with new offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn weeks ago and was given this stunning and welcome news:
"It was Day One of OTAs when coach Washburn called me up and said, 'Hey we haven't told you yet, and I figured it would come out somewhere, but you're going to get the right guard spot,' " Davis said Tuesday. "He said he thinks I earned it and they like what they see so far.”
Davis started games at left guard, right guard and right tackle last season. Some of that was out of necessity to cover for injuries. But this year rather than concentrating on being a jack of all trades, he is tasked with being a master at the one spot.
That will have a positive impact on Davis.
"It's definitely a lot easier focusing on one spot," he said. "I finished the season out at guard so I’m not shocked to be there; but it’s a lot better to be there rather than switching from left to right or vice versa.”
Obviously someone learned from past mistakes. The Dolphins have been mixing and matching offensive linemen for years — seeking chemistry that rarely materialized while professing the need to prepare for unexpected injuries.
But the beauty of this offensive line is all the forced mixing and matching isn't necessary.
The Dolphins don't need to prepare Davis to play tackle after he earned the right guard job because they have backup tackles who can start. If the team needs a backup tackle to step up this year, Sam Young is available and has experience as a starter. And the team has high hopes and confidence in Eric Smith or Zach Sterup.
If Sitton is injured (better hope not) Davis isn't necessarily going to move to the left side. The Dolphins have Ted Larsen in reserve and he started at left guard last season.
If Kilgore isn't available Jake Brendel and Larsen can play center.
So the depth of the line is allowing coaches to make commitments to starters while also having alternate plans if they have to adjust.
"I think it's going to be really good," Davis said. "Getting Sitton and Kilgore, they're really good players, tough players, tons of games under their belts, can teach the room a lot. We're kind of relatively young in the room. And getting those two older guys in there will help a lot, it'll be crucial."
Obviously, this is a time no NFL team has had even one padded, contact practice. This is all planning done in the abstract.
But the Dolphins know Sitton is physical. They know Kilgore is a winning-caliber center. They know Tunsil struggled in his first year at left tackle but seemed to improve his professionalism late in the season and that improved his game.
There is tangible knowledge behind Miami's approach that suggests this offensive line can be different than past disaster area Miami lines.
Amazing right? The epicenter of what has been wrong for so long has been addressed and perhaps finally corrected.