By: Ron Hiatt
It is a, “what have you done lately,” world that we live in and lately the offensive line of the Dolphins laid a big egg in Denver vs the Broncos. An obvious trap game in my eyes and I was interested in seeing how this young rebuilding team would respond. The line struggled in the run game as it has all season, but also struggled in the passing game, failing to protect their young quarterback leading to 6 sacks and 18 pressures. Lately that equals 10 sacks on Tua in 4 games opposed to 10 sacks on Ryan Fitzpatrick in 7 games.
It’s one game and it’s a vast improvement overall compared to last year’s group, so it’s too early to hit the panic button. It will be easy to point at three rookies playing significant time as to why the line struggled. The film though shows it’s not that simple.
Flores has pointed at the veteran leadership on this line in Ereck Flowers, Ted Karras, and Jesse Davis. Those veterans struggled with communication in this game and it showed. It didn’t help any having to shuffle the lineup on the line due to injury.
The game started with left tackle Austin Jackson, left guard Erik Flowers, center Ted Karras, right guard Solomon Kindley, and right tackle Jesse Davis. From the first drive on it was not going to be the day for the line as the pressures came early. Kindley left the game, re-injuring his foot, early in the first half.
Davis was moved to right guard with Hunt coming in of the bench at right tackle. Jackson, Flowers, Karras, and Davis were 100% snap players with Kindley 31 of 62 snaps and Hunt with 34 of 62 possible snaps. Kindley surrendered 2 hurries, Hunt 2 hurries, Jackson 9 hurries, Davis 2 hurries 1 QB hit, Flowers 3 hurries, and Karras with 0 hurries.
It’s hard to pick on the three-rookie offensive lineman when the veterans meant to mentor them are struggling as well. The Broncos used stunts, and twists to confuse the protections. The confusion made it difficult to throw the ball and to call plays.
The Dolphins in 2020 have been much better at picking them up the stunts and twists but not last week in Denver. The reason to not panic is the coaching and accountability is different compared to previous seasons. Flores will use this trap game as a teaching moment for his young team.
Even with this offensive performance by the Dolphins offensive line the improvement from last in 2019, to middle of the pack with 4 new starters on the line is a positive. The trap was in this 3 game stretch vs Broncos, Jets, and Bengals so now that it happened in the first game of this stretch I look for Flores to pull this team together and refocus them to not overlook any opponent.
T/G Jesse Davis is off the Covid IR list yet with the uncertainty of the injury to Kindley, the line could see another lineup combination. OT Julién Davenport could play right tackle and moving Hunt to right guard. Second option could see Adam Pankey or Michael Deiter at right guard allowing for only one change.
The future of this offensive line is pointed in the right direction, but holes still remain. Karras is a likely one-year rental at center. While efficient, Karras is a middle to bottom road starting center. Left guard Flowers will have no guaranteed money and could be cut in 2021. I would use one of our two early selections in the 2021 draft and my target would be Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey to anchor the line. I would also target another OT to compete at right tackle to complete the rebuild of this offensive line unit.
On to the Jets fins up.
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