Barry Jackson

The Miami Dolphins’ problem that never gets solved

Miami Dolphins offensive linemen run drills during OTAs at the Miami Dolphins' traning facility in Davie, Florida, June 6, 2016.
Miami Dolphins offensive linemen run drills during OTAs at the Miami Dolphins' traning facility in Davie, Florida, June 6, 2016. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Like tile ants in your kitchen, it’s the perpetual problem that cannot be solved.

No matter how much money or how many draft picks are poured into the Dolphins’ offensive line, there is seemingly never a multiyear solution.

The “Dolphins have invested plenty in the o-line in terms of capital,” ESPN analyst and former NFL executive Louis Riddick tweeted during the 40-0 debacle in Baltimore, when Miami’s line was often manhandled by Baltimore’s defensive line.

Riddick is on target. Some perspective:

• In the past 10 years, the Dolphins have committed well over $250 million to offensive linemen, including $212 million to players who have had health issues (Mike Pouncey), declined before they expected (Branden Albert, Jake Long) or fell short of expectations (Justin Smiley, Jake Grove).

• Except for Albert, they’ve whiffed on most of their free agent line pickups, from Lance Louis to Tyson Clabo to Daryn Colledge to Jason Fox to Bryant McKinnie to Shelley Smith to turnstile Marc Colombo. Even one that worked for a time (Richie Incognito) blew up in the bullying scandal.

• They passed on Pro Bowler Kelechi Osemele to draft Jonathan Martin in the second round in 2012, bypassed now second-team All Pro tackle David Bakhtiari to draft Dallas Thomas in the third round in 2013 and eschewed UM standout Brandon Linder to select Billy Turner in the third round in 2014.

Considering Linder was in their backyard, there’s no excuse for the Dolphins not knowing that Linder – who received a $52 million extension from Jacksonville last season – would become a better offensive lineman than Turner.

Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey talks to the media after practice on Aug. 13, 2017.

• They’ve drafted 13 offensive linemen in the past 10 drafts – four in the first round (Long, Pouncey, Ja’Wuan James and Laremy Tunsil), one in the second (Martin), three in the third (John Jerry, Thomas, Turner), two in the fourth (Shawn Murphy and Jamil Douglas), one in the fifth (Isaac Asiata) and two in the sixth (Donald Thomas, Andrew Gardner).

What’s most hurtful is that none of the seven drafted between rounds two and five became a multiyear starter, because that’s where a lot of teams find their longterm starting guards.

Martin, Thomas, Turner, Murphy and Douglas were busts and Asiata hasn’t convinced coaches he will help even though he’s an old rookie (24) and playing a position where the Dolphins have been deficient.

Which all leads to one conclusion: This regime and the previous one seem shaky, at best, in their ability to evaluate offensive line talent.

It’s way too soon to judge Tunsil, but Miami’s conviction that he was ready to play at a very high level at left tackle hasn’t proved true. James hasn’t consistently played like a first rounder, and Pouncey – while very good in pass protection – has never blocked worse in the running game, per Pro Football Focus.

Guard play has been unwhelming and much now depends on how guard Ted Larsen plays -- he was placed on the 53-man roster on Saturday after missing seven games with a torn biceps.

At this point, the jury is out on the Dolphins’ new philosophy – implemented last spring – that they no longer should spend much money on guards.

“They don’t have the guys up front to protect on third down,” CBS’ Tony Romo said during the Baltimore game. “Those quarterbacks are being hit quickly.”

The Dolphins’ run blocking has been the worst in the league, according to ESPN’s Kc Joyner, who evaluates line play for every team on every running play. Miami is averaging 3.2 yards per run, which is 31st in the league. And the Dolphins have allowed 16 sacks, which is 19th.

“They are trying to do what they can,” Adam Gase said of his line. “They’re fighting. At times, I wish they would do things better. But at least I’m getting effort.”

But more than merely effort should be expected from a line with three first-round picks.

The Dolphins believe Larsen will help elevate this line. We’ll see.

Right guard Jermon Bushrod, rated 64th among 78 guards by Pro Football Focus, said Chris Kuper, who took over in part for disgraced/dismissed offensive line coach Chris Foerster, has made changes in technique and otherwise, including more this week.

“We’ve gradually worked our way into doing things differently [since Foerster’s departure],” Bushrod said. “There are some things we will do different.”

Here’s my post with thoughts, notes on UM’s win Saturday and Canes playoff scenarios.

Here’s my post on the Dolphins being asked for their Colin Kaepernick records.

And if you missed it, here’s my chat with NBC’s Al Michaels on the value of the Dolphins to the networks (and other topics) as Miami makes its first Sunday night appearance in seven years.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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