Armando Salguero

Haden to Steelers, Miami Dolphins’ plan for OL heading into the final preseason game and roster cuts

Richie Incognito was the best, longest-running answer at the trouble left guard spot the Dolphins have had since 2000.
Richie Incognito was the best, longest-running answer at the trouble left guard spot the Dolphins have had since 2000. Miami Herald Staff

Fifth in a series

We interrupted our in-depth, long-planned, expertly reported series on the Miami Dolphins roster cuts to tell you about the team’s flirtation with Joe Haden. But as this train stops for no one, especially a former Browns cornerback who has signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers this afternoon, let us continue to provide information you can get only everywhere on the Internet.

It wasn’t that long ago, it seems, when the Dolphins didn’t have any issues at the guard position. The year was 2000 when left guard Mark Dixon and right guard Kevin Donnalley both stayed relatively healthy and both performed at a relatively high level and there was relative calm around the planet because of Miami’s guards.

And then the new millennium kicked into gear and the Dolphins have been suffering guard issues ever since.

These problems have existed despite the team’s best efforts to address them.

There have been draft picks such as Seth McKinney, Taylor Whitley, Rex Hadnot, John Jerry, Donald Thomas, Dallas Thomas, Jamil Douglas and Billy Turner brought in to address the problem. There have been free agents such as Justin Smiley, Richie Incognito, Shelley Smith and Daryn Colledge brought in to address the problem.

And, outside of a few very good years with Incognito before that thing with Jonathan Martin happened in 2013, everything and everyone the Dolphins have turned to have mostly not solved the issue for any considerable length of time.

This year the Dolphins continue to play plug-in-the-guard and they continue to have to manage what seems to be a landscape lined with trouble.

That trouble?

Well some of it is not of the Dolphins’ making. It’s not their fault salaries for free agent guards suddenly skyrocketed last spring. Guards are making $8-$10 million a year now. Some are making $12 million, which is ridiculous.

But as the Dolphins rightly didn’t want to spend in that orbit they settled on Ted Larsen who got $5.65 million -- for three years.

And that was going pretty well for a while. Larsen was working as the starting left guard.

But in the same practice that quarterback Ryan Tannehill tore the ACL in his left knee, Larsen tore his right biceps. And so he’s destined to go on the injured reserve list in the next few days when the Dolphins make their roster decisions. The team hopes he can return after the eighth game of the season.

Well, that thrust Kraig Urbik into the starting left guard job. Except Urbik was injured most of camp. Oh, he practiced, but his back hurt and his knee was sore and not surprisingly, he didn’t perform very well.

So he got checked out and it turns out he needed knee surgery. And so he was released with an injury waiver. So he’s gone, at least for now.

That means the Dolphins are going to be playing a left guard they had slotted as a third-stringer while veteran Jermon Bushrod locks down the right guard spot as he did last season.

Miami Dolphins rookie DE and first round draft pick Charles Harris has some advice for the next round of rookies, "don't think", during practice.

Obviously that has roster implications as the team makes decisions on its 14 offensive linemen left on the roster.

The team will keep its starting offensive line: Center Mike Pouncey, right guard Jermon Bushrod, right tackle Ja’Wuan James, left tackle Laremy Tunsil and left guard .... um, left guard ...

So it’s either going to be Jesse Davis or Anthony Steen. And regardless of which one wins the coveted left guard job that has swallowed tens of careers the past dozen or so years, both will make the roster. Davis is a good prospect who should be better with honing and development and experience. And Steen, a grinder, offers the versatility of playing guard or center.

So that’s six offensive linemen. Shall we get to nine?

Sam Young makes it as the backup swing tackle. Coach Adam Gase, days ago asked about Young’s inconsistent preseason, seemed indignant and answered he’s not worried about Young. So Young is seven.

Rookie Isaac Asiata is a project and he would be a practice squad candidate except if the Dolphins cut him, someone will likely claim him. He is a work-in-progress. He had a solid game a couple of weeks ago and followed it with a good week of practice. (He’d not been too good previously and the proof is his name never came up when the left guard spot opened up).

But on sheer potential, ability to improve his strength, and perhaps his desire and want-to, Asiata makes it. That’s eight.

And we’re good!

No, we’re not. I put rookie offensive tackle Eric Smith on the team. He’s another project. He hasn’t really shown enough to be on the 53 if everything played to plan. But everything didn’t play to plan. The Dolphins lost two offensive linemen to injury this summer.

So Smith, who would otherwise be a very good addition to the practice squad, seems worth protecting on the 53-man roster -- in my humble opinion.

Obviously this means the Dolphins -- the empire of doing the opposite of what Fake GM Mando says -- will kick Smith off the team immediately upon reading this and make him hitch a ride home from Minnesota.

Sorry, Eric.

Anyway, that’s nine offensive linemen.

So why no Jake Brendel or some of the other guys you have never heard of? Released and then practice squad possibilities.

And remember Urbik, who is expected to get healthy eventually, will be out there lurking, maybe awaiting a return to the team.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

The Miami Dolphins defeated the Atlanta Falcons to mark the start of the preseason schedule on Thurs., Aug. 10, 2017.